Ink, oil, and grease stains are no match for these stain-fighting solutions.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated August 20, 2020
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Over the past 20 years, Real Simple's editors have figured out how to tackle every single type of stain imaginable. Whether you need to know how to remove ink stains from your favorite blouse or how to remove coffee stains from a scarf, we've tested out multiple methods to find the best solution. Here, we're compiling all of our tried-and-true stain solutions, using basic supplies you likely already have around the house, such as white vinegar, dish soap, and detergent. Follow the tips below, then consult our ultimate stain removal chart for the step-by-step plan. It’ll be like that spill, smudge, or splatter never happened—promise.

How to Remove Stains from Clothes

  • Act fast! Deal with stains when they happen. The longer you wait, the more the stain will set into the fibers.
  • Treat the stained spot using the specific solutions below, then wash the item as instructed on the care label.
  • Start with the mildest stain solution first, then work your way up to harsher or more involved methods.
  • Never dry the garment until the stain is fully removed, or else the heat could set the stain.

Assemble a Stain-Fighting Kit

Keep these essential ingredients in your cleaning cabinet, so you'll always be ready for a red wine spill on the carpet or a sauce splatter on the tablecloth. Safety note: just as when cleaning anything, there are some dangerous chemical combos you should avoid when mixing up stain fighters. Never combine bleach and ammonia, as it can create a toxic gas.

  • Dish soap
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • White vinegar
  • Table salt
  • Detergent
  • Cornstarch
  • Color-safe bleach
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Ammonia
  • Stain removal spray (such as Shout, $13, amazon.com)
Credit: Graphic designed by Katie Field; illustrations by Eight Hour Day

Have a spill? Find the best solutions for stubborn stains on carpets. And check out more helpful stain removal tips and tricks here.