27 Brilliant Laundry Hacks That Start with Stuff from Your Kitchen

published Sep 10, 2019
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Credit: Brittany Purlee

Dealing with laundry stains sometimes feels like doing a chemistry experiment blind and on faith: science-y but uninformed. We know vaguely that there’s probably something particular we’re supposed to use on ketchup stains, but we don’t bother to look it up and instead spray the spot extra well with the expensive and, fingers-crossed, all-purpose stain spray and hope for the best.

But there is another way! It’s possible to successfully remove those stains that we’d normally give up on as soon as they happen. And you don’t even need a collection of specialized laundry sprays. You just need stuff that’s already in your kitchen. And this handy post, which you should promptly pin or bookmark! 

Here’s how to remove specific stains with items that are already in your kitchen. 

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

1. Remove sweat stains with lemon juice.

Lemon is a natural bleaching agent and addresses the discoloration caused by sweat stains. After spot treating with detergent, apply lemon juice to the stain and let it sit a bit before laundering as usual. Or try adding it directly into your washing machine along with your load of whites.

2. Or treat sweat stains with white vinegar.

Sweat stains are caused by deodorant ingredients mixing with the salt in your perspiration. Removing them involves addressing both discoloration and bacteria. Acids work to remove the discoloration caused by sweat stains. White vinegar, a natural and readily available acid, can be poured directly on the stain. 

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Sweat Stain Removal at Apartment Therapy

Credit: Linda Xiao

3. Remove stubborn berry stains with white vinegar.

Berry stains can be persistent. For stubborn stains, soak the garment in white vinegar for an hour or more and then hang in the sun. 

4. Or flush berry stains with boiling water.

If you can get to the stain ASAP, blot it gently while you boil some water in a tea kettle. Turn your garment inside out and place the part with the stain taut over an empty bowl using a rubber band. Pour the boiling water through the stain and then hang your clothing in the sun. 

5. Or treat berry stains with lemon juice.

Squeeze lemon juice directly onto a berry stain for a quick fix. 

6. Lift mildew stains with a vinegar solution and salt.

If you have mildew spots on your clothes (or they smell musty), make a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and then add some salt. Soak your garment in this mixture and mildew stains should lift away. 

Credit: Lauren Volo

7. Use salt and a napkin to remove butter stains.

Spilled some popcorn on your blouse during movie night? Wet the corner of a napkin and cover it with salt. Then press this to the butter stain with another napkin on the other side of the stain. The salt will absorb the grease from the butter. 

8. Erase tomato sauce stains with ice, vinegar, and dish soap.

In a test, ice, vinegar, and dish soap performed best against tomato stains. Apply dish soap to the stain, rub it in with ice, and then apply vinegar and blot with a towel or rag before laundering as usual. 

9. Remove cherry stains with vinegar or lemon juice.

Cherry stains are notoriously difficult to get out. Do your best to treat the stain when it’s fresh. First, run it under cold water, from the inside out, to try to force the stain through the fibers of the fabric. 

10. Remove ink marks with milk and vinegar.

Place your garment in a large bowl and cover the stain with two parts whole milk and one part white vinegar. Soak, and then wash as usual. 

11. Treat blood stains with vinegar.

Pour white vinegar over the stain as soon as you can and allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes before rinsing with cool water. Repeat as necessary and launder immediately. 

12. Or treat dried blood stains with meat tenderizer.

Meat tenderizer works by breaking down the proteins in meat and will likewise breakdown the proteins found in blood stains. Make a paste out of unflavored meat tenderizer and water and apply to the stain. Let it sit for a couple hours and rinse clean. 

13. Use baking soda and vinegar to remove gasoline stains and odors from clothing.

Every once in a while, you’ll get a splash of gasoline on your clothes while you’re filling up the car. The liquid is clear, but it stains — and smells! To treat gasoline stains, blot up excess with paper towels and then sprinkle with baking soda, which soaks up grease and oil stains. A vinegar soak can help dispel any lingering odors. Important: Make sure all gasoline is removed from the article of clothing before putting it in the dryer to avoid the risk of combustion. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

14. Treat rust stains with cream of tartar and salt.

Mix equal parts salt and cream of tartar with hot water and rub the mixture into the stain with a soft brush or cloth. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before laundering. 

15. Or treat rust stains with lemon juice and salt.

Don’t have any cream of tartar? Rub a lemon wedge over the stain and sprinkle it with salt. Set the garment out in the sun for a few hours and then launder as usual. 

16. Or use rhubarb juice to get rid of rust stains.

If you happen to have rhubarb in the house when someone gets a rust stain on their clothes, you’re in luck. Boil rhubarb stalks in a large pot for 20 minutes, remove the stalks, and soak the entire garment in the rhubarb water for a couple of hours. Don’t worry — the rhubarb won’t stain your fabric. This method is especially useful if your garment has multiple rust marks. 

Credit: Maxwell Ryan

17. Treat a red wine stain with cold water and a dab of dish soap.

Spill some red wine on yourself? Run the stain under cold water, rub with a dab of dish soap, then flush again until the stain is gone. For dry-clean-only items, blot as best you can with paper towels or a dish cloth, then get to the dry cleaner ASAP.

Credit: Erika Tracy

18. Remove grease stains and splatters with a bit of dish soap.

Shirts with grease and oil splatters aren’t doomed! Dish soap can dissolve grease out of fabric, just like it does with your cookware. Dot each spot with dish soap, let it soak in for a bit, and launder in the hottest water possible. 

Credit: Dana Velden

19. Treat chocolate stains with a butter knife and dish soap.

To remove chocolate stains from clothing, scrape off the excess chocolate with a butter knife, flush the stain with cold water from the back of the stain, saturate the stain in dish soap, and soak for 15 minutes in cold water, rubbing the stain every few minutes. 

20. Use undiluted white vinegar on a mustard stain.

Mustard stains are also notoriously tricky to get out. Soak them with undiluted white vinegar before laundering. 

Credit: Leela Cyd

21. Treat coffee stains with vinegar and water.

To banish coffee or tea stains, prepare a solution of one third of a cup of vinegar to two thirds of a cup of water and apply it to the stain. Hang the garment outside in the sun to dry. 

22. Address grass stains with baking soda and vinegar.

A soak in undiluted white vinegar can help lift grass stains. Soak the clothes for 30 minutes and launder as usual. If stains remain, make a paste of baking soda and vinegar and scrub in with an old toothbrush before washing again. 

23. Remove crayon marks on clothes with vinegar.

The acetic acid in vinegar works on both the pigment and the wax found in crayon stains. Soak your crayon-marked clothes in undiluted vinegar and then launder. 

24. Remove vomit stains with baking soda and lemon juice or vinegar.

Sickness, whether from animals or people, can leave behind some nasty stains. Treat them with baking soda to absorb smells and help lift the stain. Next, apply vinegar or lemon juice and rub it in with your fingers or a toothbrush. Rinse and machine wash as usual. Make sure the stain is gone before putting the clothing in the dryer.   

Credit: Cat Meschia

25. Scrub sticker residue off clothing with vinegar.

Stickers that go through the washer and dryer on clothes can leave behind a seemingly impossible mess. But hope isn’t lost. Saturate the residue with white vinegar and use a toothbrush to gently work the vinegar into the fabric. The adhesive should start to ball up and roll off the fabric. Repeat until the residue is gone. 

26. Remove paint stains with dish soap mixed with hand soap.

If you get paint on your clothes, you may have luck removing it with a solution made from half dish soap and half hand soap. Apply the solution to the stain with a sponge and rinse in warm water, repeating until the paint is gone. 

Credit: Leela Cyd

27. Treat yogurt stains with lemon juice.

If your yogurt was loaded with fruit, you’re dealing with a plant-based stain, which responds best to acids like vinegar or lemon juice. Pat the stain with a cloth dipped in lemon juice and wash it right away.

Have any other laundry hacks to share? Leave them in the comments below!