How to Remove Stains – A Father’s Guide to Stain Management

The easiest stain to remove is one that never happens. Fathers face challenges far and above those of mortal men: Children. While the scope of this article will deal primarily with common household stains for the stay-at-home Mr. Mom, single father and father with a significant other scenarios, the principles are equally applicable to bachelors or childless men – whether never having raised a child or in their empty-nest years.

Stains fall into time-based three categories: Before the potential stain event, immediately after the occurrence of the stain, and after the stain has dried or set. Stains are also classified by type and degree of severity; the material the stain is on; and, the source or cause of the stain.

Stain removal is dependant on a combination of factors, however, the first-responder to virtually every common household stain is the application of cold water and blotting or lifting the offending chemical from the material. A special case of stain is the stain which is not a stain, such as bubble gum in the carpet or cleaning spills from the far-too-convenient built-in DVD sippy-cup holder in your computer.

Preventing stains is a nuisance, however, compared to the time, effort and expense of removing a stain, it is worthy of attention. Protection involves placing a barrier between the potential source of stains and the material being protected. A bib is a classic physical barrier familiar to every father. A bib is specifically designed to intercept, absorb, and resist staining. When it gets stained, a bit of pre-soaking with an over-the-counter enzyme-enhanced pre-wash treatment and a cold-water wash cycle will take care of most issues. If the bib is treated with a chemical barrier, such as ScotchGard or similar product, clean-up at the moment of occurrence can be done with a sponge and cold water. Heat sets stains, avoid using hot water and resist the temptation to over-dry the material. Plastic bibs can be problematic, as plastic will prevent a stain from the material directly behind it, but liquids tend to slither off and stain other material below, or as dictated by gravity.

When a stain happens, don’t panic. There are usually several seconds in which to act, unless the stain is caused by a harsh chemical such as bleach. Chemically-reactive stains are best avoided by the simple expedient of keeping chemicals away from the material. For most materials, the immediate application of cold water will both dilute and dissolve common stains. Water is known as the universal solvent for a reason. Blotting or lifting the stain depends on the cause. If the source is blood, take care of the wound first! As long as the source of blood is not staunched and dressed, the stain will only get worse. Grape and other fruit juices, or any stain caused by a significant amount of spilled liquid has a similar procedure. Stop the source of the flow, then address the stain. It is usually the best policy to remove the garment before trying to treat the stain. In the case of a t-shirt, for example, taking the shirt off and going to the sink to rinse it is far more effective than trying to blot at it with a water-soaked sponge or cloth. The article can then be put into a pre-soak solution for washing.

Dealing with set-in stains, or stains which are resistant to water or blotting, requires some additional care. There are a number of products specifically designed for removing stains. Avoid the “one step universal” type of product. Short of water, there is no universal stain remover or spot-lifter. Blood, wine, ketchup and ink may all be red, but each has a different chemical reaction to treatment. While there are any number of “home solutions”, such as using whole milk or half-and-half to remove red wine stains, the best solution is to get an industrial-quality series of stain removers. Any well-stocked fabric and sewing supply store has the chemical stain removers used by professional garment makers. An example is the Carbona line of stain and adhesive material removers. This particular solution has nine different formulas which target specific stain causes by type of stain. While it is not recommended for carpet or upholstery, any washable material such as clothing can be quickly and effectively treated.

If a stain proves problematic, a quick search of the internet using the name of the material and the source of the stain in conjunction with the words “remove” and “stain” can generate dozens of possible solutions, some more effective than others, and none guaranteed to work.