Emily McClure

Emily McClure

My husband often tells me I am a messy eater, and he is not wrong.

Most days I end up with some kind of food stain on my clothing. During the holidays it is even worse because in my family we eat multiple times all containing different casseroles it seems like. So this article is as much for me as it is for all the other messy eaters out there.

First let us learn some vocabulary.

Presoak – This is usually done with a presoak product that is applied to the garment before the regular wash cycle. This presoak contains enzymes that help break down protein stains like grass, blood or baby formula. A presoak is needed when garments are heavily soiled or stained with oil, protein or tannin (ex. coffee, tea) stains.

Oxygen Bleach versus Chlorine Bleach – Chlorine bleach is meant for white garments while oxygen bleach is a gentler bleach that can be used for colored fabrics as well as whites. Once exposed to water the release of oxygen lifts the stain or dirt from the item.

Now how to get out those stubborn food and beverage stains. According to the University of Missouri Extension you should follow these steps.

Soak for 15 minutes in mixture of one-quart lukewarm water, one-half teaspoon liquid hand dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon white vinegar. Rinse.

Sponge with alcohol, using light motions from center to edge of stain.

Soak for 30 minutes in one-quart warm water with one tablespoon enzyme presoak products.

If color stain remains, launder in chlorine bleach if safe for fabric, or in oxygen bleach.

However, if you have an oil based food stain your approach is going to be a little different. Follow these steps to remove greasy food stains.

Saturate area with pretreatment laundry stain remover (aerosol-types work better on greasy stains). Wait one minute for product to penetrate the stain. For stubborn stains, rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Launder immediately.

If color stain remains, soak/wash in chlorine bleach if safe for fabric, or in oxygen bleach.

For extra heavy stains, apply dry cleaning fluid to back of stain over absorbent paper towels. Let dry, rinse. Proceed as above.

There are some stains that require extra care. These special problem stains include foods like cherries, blueberries, mustard and Kool-Aid.

Pretreat the stain with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Rinse. Soak fabric in dilute solution of all-fabric powdered bleach. If stain persists and garment is white or colorfast, soak entire garment in dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. Chlorine bleach may change the color of the garment or cause irreversible damage. Check for bleach tolerance on a hidden seam. If stain does not come out in 15 minutes of bleaching, it cannot be removed by bleaching.

If bleaching is not safe or does not work, use a commercial color remover according to package directions. Note that color remover will take out the fabric color as well as the stain. Do not exceed 160 degrees Fahrenheit water with any synthetic fabrics. Launder.

If you have any other questions about treating fabric call the Jackson County Cooperative Extension at 586-4009 and ask to speak with me or email ekmcclure@ncat.edu.

Emily McClure is the family and consumer science agent for the Jackson County Cooperative Extension.