How to Remove Every Type of Stain, in One Simple Chart

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

Cleaning supplies on table
Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Over the 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 laundry 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—you won't see even a hint of that tea stain on your silk pillowcase.

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. For on-the-go spot treatment, use a laundry stain remover like Tide To Go pen.
  • 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 your favorite couch or a sauce splatter on the tablecloth. A carpet stain remover like OxiClean is a great one to have on hand. 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
Stain removal chart: how to remove all kinds of stains
Graphic designed by Katie Field; illustrations by Eight Hour Day

Graphic designed by Katie Field

Have a spill? Find the best solutions for stubborn stains on rugs and the carpet here.

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