How to Remove Stains

Tricks and techniques for winning the battle against those splotches, splatters, and specks.

  • Natalie Ermann Russell

Mix Some Magic.
The recipe for diluted dish soap (a remedy for so many spills) is ¼ teaspoon dish soap to 1 cup warm water. Use a clear or white soap with no dyes, which can discolor fabrics and carpet fibers. Keep the mix in an olive-oil cruet under the sink so you're always prepared.

Don't Rub It In.
When blotting, coax the edges of a spill inward. If you work from the inside out, you could spread the stain even farther.

Absorb the Impact.
Whenever a rug is wet from stain removal, dry the spot by folding several paper towels and weighing them down with something heavy. Change to fresh paper towels after 5 minutes, then let sit for a few hours or until dry.

Duck the Dryer.
Check very carefully to make sure that a stain is gone before putting something into the clothes dryer. The heat could set the spot for good.

Know When to Say "Uncle."
Refrain from working on a stain to the point of damaging the fabric. If you're heartbroken over a spot on your sofa or rug that just won't budge, there are pros standing by. Find help at

Have a troublesome spot? Get specific cleaning guidlines in our ultimate guide to stain removal.