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A home cleaning pro’s stain busting secrets

Here’s my A-Z of stain removal tips - but don’t forget one of the most important tip of all is never rub a stain or mark. Only dab, because eventually the stain will go. I learned that tip the hard way. Here are the rest:

Ballpoint ink
Dab off with a white cloth soaked in methylated spirit.

Beetroot juice
Rinse with cold water. Soak coloureds in a borax solution for 15 minutes. For whites, sprinkle borax on the fabric and wash off with hot water. Then wash the fabric with a biological detergent.

Bird droppings
Scrape off the excess. Sponge with a borax solution or biological detergent. If the stain persists, soak whites in chlorine bleach or coloureds/synthetics but not nylon in hydrogen peroxide.

Soak stains in heavily salted water or detergent.

Blu Tac
Get more blue tac and dab it on the mark you want to remove.

Candle wax
Scrape off any excess. Place a paper kitchen towel over the remnants and press with a barely warm iron until the paper absorbs the wax.  Dab any persistent staining with methylated spirit.

Chewing gum
Get a bag of ice and freeze the gum hard, then scrape the gum away with a knife.

Coffee and tea
Flush with cold water and spot clean with a solution of detergent but not soap. If the stain persists, soak in a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water or a borax solution.

Contact adhesive and glue
Dab with nail polish remover.

Cooking fat
Spread a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water over the stain. Leave for 30 minutes and wash in a biological detergent.

Scrape away excess before dabbing with methylated spirits.

Dried fruit
Place the garment stain side down on a kitchen towel and dampen with lemon juice. Dab with hot water and wash.

Fresh fruit
Dip in a borax solution for 15 minutes and then wash, or cover the stain with salt and wash.

Detergent will remove most grass stains. Dab any remaining staining with methylated spirit.

Ink on coloured fabric
Soak immediately in slightly warm milk then wash

Ink and felt tip pen
Dab with an absorbent cloth dipped in methylated spirit.


Rub fabric against fabric with soap or a little washing up liquid then wash. Dab with methylated spirit if the fabric is not washable.

Mildew on different materials requires differing treatments:
Dried mildew - Rub with damp salt or lemon and leave in the sun for 12 hours
Mildew on shower curtains - Sponge or soak in diluted bleach and machine wash with detergent.
Mildew on white cotton or linen - Soak in diluted bleach then thoroughly rinse and wash.
Mildew on white synthetics - Soak in one part of hydrogen peroxide to nine parts water. Rinse and wash.


Emulsion or water based - Sponge immediately with warm water.             
Dried paint can be scraped or picked off, but is difficult to wash away.
Gloss or solvent based - Dab with white spirit.

Dab with white vinegar or lemon juice.

Lift away the pollen with sticky tape or a vacuum cleaner, but don’t rub.

Red wine
Dab with bicarbonate of soda or soda water and wash. Don’t pour white wine over a red wine stain; you’ll probably do more harm than good.

Shoe polish
Dab with white spirit and wash.

Turning on the waterworks

Water contains minerals depending on the geology of where your water supply originates.

Brown or black stains - your water has traces of manganese and calcium that form lime scale.
Treatments include:
Applying a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide.
A solution of one teaspoon of water softener to a gallon of water.
Applying a paste of white vinegar and baking soda.

Green or blue stains - these stains come from copper or acid in your water. The tell tale sign is green or blue stains around your plumbing fittings.
Remove with a proprietary acid cleaner or treat with white vinegar or lemon juice.
These stains on enamel baths come from dripping taps. Change the tap washer to solve the problem, then clean the stain away.

Red or brown stains - iron in your water causes these stains, which are effectively rust. Different treatments work in different areas, depending on the proportion of iron in the water. Try:
A paste of lemon juice and borax powder left to dry on the stain then rinsed off.
Oxalic acid is a rust remover. A solution of one part oxalic acid to 10 parts water is recommended.
A paste of scouring powder, cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide takes about 30 minutes to clear the staining.

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