By Lowell and Kaye Christie, F47246
Focus on basic solutions for removing nasty stains from fabrics.
Everyone knows the difficulty of dealing with tough stains from blood, grass, mud, etc. on clothing. As travelers, we also face the challenge of finding enough storage space to carry all the specialized cleaning products that are available. Consider your traveling lifestyle and select your spot-removal products to match. Some travelers always camp at parks with laundry machines, but we remember times when we’ve dry-camped 50 to 100 miles from the nearest laundry facility. You need to address stains as quickly as possible, because the longer they sit in fabrics, the harder they are to remove.
1. Which Type Of Stain Remover For Clothing?
These products come under many names and in many forms, and they are used at different times. Prewash stain removers are applied full strength on stains before the clothes go into the washer. These are especially useful when the nearest laundry is far away. In-the-wash stain removers are more generalized. Instead of applying the solution directly to the stained area, you simply pour it in along with the detergent. This gives extra cleaning power to the full load of laundry.
2. Stain Removal Supplies
Here are some generic items to consider for your traveling stain-removal kit: ammonia, white vinegar, baking soda, bar soap (without deodorant), bleach, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (both liquid and powder), dry-cleaning spot remover, prewash products, a sponge, and old towels.
3. Too Many Stain Products?
We were amused to overhear a frustrated shopper in the cleaning supply aisle of a supermarket say, “There are a lot more kinds of stains than there are stain removers to zap them.” We tend to grumble that there are more specialized cleaning products than anyone has room for. Look for products that have multiple uses, take up little space, and fall into specific categories. Stain removers in stick form are great for travelers. They allow you to apply the cleaner to a stained area, rather than the entire garment. But it also helps to have along a spray-on stain remover that penetrates deep stains. Liquid stain removers are easy to use either in the wash or applied directly to a stain. Finally, stain remover wipes are great for treating a stain while you’re still wearing the garment. We think of them as the ultimate “oops” doctor.
4. Read The Directions
Although it may be a hassle to read the information panels on every cleaner, you need to read the directions carefully before you pack the item in your coach. That’s the only way you’ll know what items it is specifically designed to clean; how to clean them; and whether to open the motorhome windows first. Leave the product in its original packaging so the directions are included. The directions tell you how to use the product for satisfactory results, including information about how much cleaner should be used, what soils and stains it addresses, what fabrics it should and shouldn’t be used on, and the appropriate water temperature and wash cycles. The directions should always take precedence over what you know or what we say.
5. Colorfast Test
Before using a stain remover on a washable fabric, always test for colorfastness. That means the fabric color won’t fade or run when it’s washed. Apply the stain remover directly to an unseen part of the garment, such as an inside seam. Wait for five to 10 minutes and then rinse with water. The stain remover should be safe for the garment if the fabric color doesn’t fade or bleed. Most stain removers can be used on colorfast washables such as cotton, polyester, polyester blends, and other synthetic fabrics.
6. Be Careful When Using Bleach. When using bleach, do not apply it to just one area; bleach the entire article (after testing) to prevent uneven color removal. Never mix chlorine bleach with other products, particularly those containing ammonia. The safest rule is to never mix any cleaning products unless you are following directions from the original container. Now, on to some specific stain-treating examples.
7. Beverage Stains
Stains from coffee, tea, soft drinks, and alcohol should be treated by first soaking the stain in cool water. Rinse, then pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of powdered detergent and water.
8. Blood Stains
Start by soaking the freshly stained fabric in cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse well, and then rub detergent into the remaining stain, if any. Rinse again, and launder. If the stain remains, try soaking it with hydrogen peroxide.
9. Grease Stains. Whether you’re talking about grease stains from under the hood of the coach, from salad oil, or from margarine, you’ll want to take action immediately. Light stains can be pretreated with a spray stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent. Here’s another tip: you will find that sprinkling ordinary table salt on particularly greasy stains right after they happen can greatly reduce the chances of the stain setting in.
10. Mildew Stains
Mildew needs to be killed as well as removed, so launder stained items using chlorine bleach if it is safe to use on that fabric. Otherwise, soak in an all-fabric bleach and hot water, and then launder. If some stain remains, sponge it with hydrogen peroxide; rinse; and relaunder. Since the sun’s rays work against molds, dry the article in sunlight. Badly mildewed fabrics may be damaged beyond repair.
11. Mud Stains
First let the fabric dry and then brush off as much dirt as you can. Next, wash off as much dirt as possible and soak in clean water overnight if any mud remains. Now you’re ready to pretreat it with a paste of dry detergent and water (give it 30 minutes or so) and then launder. Repeat if needed.
12. Perspiration Stains
Treat with a prewash stain remover, or dampen the stain and rub it with a bar of soap. If the fabric color has changed slightly, apply ammonia to a fresh stain or white vinegar to an old stain, and rinse. Launder in the hottest water that’s safe for that fabric. Stubborn stains that have an organic base may respond to pretreating with an enzyme digester cleaner, but check directions, as this is not appropriate for some fabrics. Then launder using an all-fabric bleach.
13. Yellowing Of White Cottons Or Linens
Fill the washer with hot water. Add twice the normal amount of detergent. Place the items in the washer and agitate for four minutes on regular cycle. Stop the washer and soak the clothes for 15 minutes. Restart the washer and agitate another 15 minutes. Complete the wash cycle. Repeat this process if needed. Now, if stained or yellowed handkerchiefs are the only problem, soak them in a pan with very hot water and double detergent. Let them soak until the water is cool. Rinse well, and they’re ready for the ordinary laundry routine.