Wouldn't it be great if your home never saw a spill on the carpet or a smudge on the sofa? And your clothes, wow, just imagine if they always had that brand new, just-off-the-rack look. Most homes quickly take on that "lived-in" look, which means, quite simply, that people actually live there -- and your clothes are just as telltale about the living that you do while wearing them.
That doesn't mean that you have to accept every misplaced drop of ketchup, spilled coffee, muddy footprint or messy pet accident. There are many products out there that will help you feel a little magical, and there seem to be even more homespun tricks for cleaning. But it is a sad fact that some stains will refuse to leave.
Each stain and each fabric is different. What works for one in the matter of stain removal may not work for another. There are a few things to keep in mind, though: Heat usually sets stains; the sooner you begin treating a stain the easier it is to remove; and you need to handle stains gently for the best results. Blot, don't rub, as much of the offending substance from the fabric as possible. When you are using a stain-removal product, make sure you test it first on an inconspicuous spot to confirm that you won't be doing more damage than good.
There are many more stains than we can list, but here are some ideas for a few of the most common ones:
For blood, rinse with cool water to dilute the stain. Wash and soak with soap (preferably liquid), and then hang to dry. (Do not use a dryer.) Another popular method for removing bloodstains from white fabric is to treat them with hydrogen peroxide as soon as possible and until you can wash the fabric in cold water.
Brush grass and soil/dirt stains from the fabric. Treat for 20 minutes with a liquid soap or detergent, and then wash as usual in cold to tepid water.
Blot ink stains with rubbing alcohol. Treat with liquid detergent, and wash in warm water and detergent.
For crayon stains, Textile Industry Affairs passes along a recommendation from Crayola: "Place the stained surface down on a pad of paper towels, spray with WD-40, and let stand for a few minutes. Turn the fabric over, and spray the other side. Apply liquid dishwashing detergent, and work into the stained area. Replace towels as they absorb the stain. Wash in hot water with a laundry detergent and bleach for about 12 minutes (use 'heavy soiled' setting if there is no minute timer on your machine), and rinse in warm water."
Don't cut those tags off from your brand-new upholstered sofa or chair, as they often contain the best clues to removing stains from your furniture. Letters on the tag will let you know the manufacturer's recommended cleaning method for that type of fabric: "W" means spot clean with a water-based solution or mild detergent; "S" means spot clean with a solvent only; "SW" means spot clean with either solvent or water-based foam; "X" means vacuum only.
Clean grease stains from your carpet by blotting up the excess as quickly as possible. Dab at the stain with a moist white towel and a drop of dish detergent. Make sure not to get the carpet too wet. Dab the treated area with a dry white towel/cloth to soak up any moisture. Repeat these steps as necessary. Finally, dry the area with a fan blowing on it.
Remove carpet wine stains using a damp white cloth moistened with vinegar. Keep dabbing until no more stain comes up on the cloth. Next, sprinkle a few drops of dish detergent on the area. Work it in gently, and blot with a clean, dry cloth. Finally, sprinkle plain tap water on the area, and dab it dry with a dry towel. Dry quickly using a fan to prevent the stain from coming back.
Let your home look lived in -- not messed up.