Summertime means spending more time outdoors. For your buyers and sellers, it’s also high season for dirt, grime, spills, spots and stains. Tackling the toughest ones, from coffee to wine and mustard to cooking oil, often depends on what you use and when you use it.
Turning to the experts at Consumer Reports, which offers “The Ultimate Stain-Removal Guide,” here’s a recap on what governs getting rid of some of the most persistent spots and spills so your clients can keep the stains at bay.
Removal ground rules
The best stain removal advice begins with a few general guidelines:
1. Act fast: Stains have one thing in common. Successful removal requires you to move quickly. Don't let a stain dry if you can avoid it. Instead, catch it as soon after it happens as possible.
2. Blot first: The first place to start with many stains is to blot. It's best to use clean white paper towels or a cotton rag to try and soak it up. You won't want to blot stains that would spread if you did, such as mustard.
3. Blot correctly: Start from the edges of the stain and move to the center. This keeps the spot from spreading.
4. Less water: When trying to remove a stain on fabric, it’s best to use water sparingly to avoid creating a water ring. You certainly don’t want another stain.
5. Read the labels: If the item says "Dry Clean Only," it's likely that washing it will ruin it, so this is a stain for the dry cleaners to handle.
6. Take a test: Sometimes, colorfastness can be an issue when using a spot removal cleaner. The safest approach is to find a corner or unexposed area of the fabric and use a cotton swab to test.
7. Go soft on hard surfaces: Using anything abrasive – from cleaners to sponges – to remove a stain or spotting on a hard surface may leave scratches. Ensure the cleaning supplies you use on a hard stained surface are truly non-abrasive.
8. Avoid the heat: Heat is not your friend with a stain. It can lock it in permanently. That means you must have patience, often repeating steps, before throwing the item into the dryer.
Same stain, different approaches
Removing the same stain is not the same for all surfaces and materials. A great example: when you spill coffee, tea or wine on a blouse, experts recommend dousing the stain with cold water, then using a pre-wash stain removal spray. Finally, rub in a little liquid detergent. But for an upholstery, aggressively blot, use a bit of carbonated water, then rub in some liquid detergent. For carpet, you also should blot aggressively, but use a mix of vinegar (1/4 cup), a tablespoon of dish soap, and 4 cups of water to work into the fresh stain with a clean cloth, continuing to blot.
Other stains, like mustard, can be removed similarly from fabrics, upholstery, and carpet. Scrape it off first. Mix one teaspoon of liquid detergent to 1 cup of warm water, work it in, and if you can, dry in the sun. Curcumin, which gives mustard its yellow hue, bleaches in sunlight. No sun? Blotting with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide could help.
Tools of the trade
You don't have to rely on harsh professional chemicals to remove spots and stains successfully. Instead, everyday household items and simple mixes can often do the trick.
Here are a few items to keep handy to remove tricky stains:
Nail polish remover: The acetone acts as a solvent to remove makeup and super glue. But don’t use it on any delicate or synthetic fabrics.
Detergent solution: Mix 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, such as Dawn Pure Essentials or Free & Clear, with 1 cup of warm water. Do not include bleach.
Baking soda or cornstarch: These are terrific at absorbing a greasy spill. For recent pet stains, a thin layer of baking soda, dried overnight, then vacuumed and repeated, often works.
White paper towels and cleaning cloths: Since blotting almost always is the first step, soaking up the spill using a white cloth or paper towel removes the worry that a dye or color will leak into the stain.
Vinegar: Vinegar, often diluted and used in moderation, makes a great stain removal tool. It can help clean up coffee, tea, grass, gum, and juice stains.
These tools and tactics are great ways to protect clothes, carpets and upholstery from brutal summer stains.
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