How to Remove Stains

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

Photo by Craig Cutler

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.