How to Get Set In Stains Out of (Almost) Anything

Find charts for successful stain removal, and the trick that saves my sanity and my kid’s clothes

Stains are a big deal at our house.  It seems that my kids are stain magnets. I know that just about everyone would say that their kids do their fair share of staining clothing. But my kids have a penchant for attracting stains of the gross and unusual kind—you know, the kind that no one really knows how to get out.

A while back, when we started fostering kids, I decided to go through my clothing storage and pull out the baby clothes just in case we got a small foster child. Much to my dismay, most of the baby clothes had yellowed and had huge brown spots on them.

 I was so sure that they didn’t look that horrible when I put them away! But time and heat (they had been in the garage last summer as we moved) had set in previously mild spit up and food stains.

I was determined to find a non-toxic way to get those set in stains out of those cute baby clothes, which is a daunting task, because, let’s face it, even the toxic cleaners don’t really get set in stains out.

This safe and natural stain remover gets the stains out of almost everything! It'll become your new go-to non-toxic stain remover in no time at all.

Then this past winter, we entered a time of a few months when the air was really dry. My children started getting nosebleeds. And about 99% of the time, of course, it would happen in the middle of the night while they were sleeping and no one would know the better until the next morning when the blood was dried all over the sheets.

This summer I have faced yet more frustrating stains. During the summer, we keep white sheets and a white quilt on our bed. All in the same day, my muddy dog decided to come inside and hop up on my bed, leaving the red Oklahoma clay mud stains all over my nice quilt; and my 3 year old daughter proved that she could open child proof caps by spilling a whole bottle of grape cough syrup all over my sheets. What is a mom to do?!

It seems that there are several good options for getting fresh stains out of clothes, and many of those have been highlighted on this website. But after much experimenting, I have found a very easy solution to getting really tough set in stains out of fabrics—powdered oxygen bleach.

I have found oxygen bleach to be highly effective in getting awful stains out of just about everything. Here’s how I use it:

  1. I simply fill a large tub (think trash can size) with hot water. I know hot water is contrary to everything you have heard about getting stains out of clothes. However, it helps the bleach dissolve better and thus, work better.
  2. Then I stir in the appropriate amount of powdered oxygen bleach.
  3. After that, I simply add in whatever clothes or bed linens need to be soaked. At that point, I leave it alone for up to a whole day.
  4. I will periodically check to see if the stains are fading.
  5. Once they appear to be gone, I then throw the soaked items into the washer to be cleaned as normal.

How to Get Set In Stains Out of (Almost) Anything

Photo credit: edwebproject

Is Oxygen Bleach Safe to Use?

There are many options out there for oxygen bleach. When shopping for a good product, you will want to find one that doesn’t have any fillers. Many of the more popular brands don’t work as well as they could because they are full of fillers.

If you are like me, you may be wondering what exactly oxygen bleach is and how it works. I was hesitant for quite some time to use it because when I hear the word “bleach,” I automatically think about chlorine bleach. But rest assured that oxygen bleach is a very different cleaner.

Oxygen bleach is made of two natural chemicals, sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate, and it is completely biodegradable. It doesn’t have any strong odor and, while I wouldn’t recommend soaking your skin in it, it is fine for normal contact with skin. It can be used to break down set in stains or fresh stains, and it can be used on organic and inorganic stains.

The one drawback to using oxygen bleach over using a commercial spray is that it takes time to work—sometimes it takes a lot of time. My muddy white quilt had to be soaked twice, each time for a whole day, before it came clean. But the good news is that on most kinds of fabric, the stains should come out completely.

So if you have a houseful of little stain magnet children, or even a naughty muddy dog or two that like to jump onto your bed, I highly recommend trying oxygen bleach. As you can imagine, oxygen bleach is definitely this mom’s favorite go-to product in my laundry room!

This safe and natural stain remover gets the stains out of almost everything! It'll become your new go-to non-toxic stain remover in no time at all.

Ok, mamas, how do you get out set in stains? Share your secrets!

Photo credit: chiots run

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  1. Oxygen bleach is my go-to for all stains colorful or dingy. However, for set-in grease stains, the only thing I’ve found that works well is Spray n Wash Stain Stick. I’ve tried a million natural alternatives. Any suggestions? I’m talking grease spots that have gone through the washer and dryer, b/c I never see them until then.

    1. @Erin,
      Kimberly at Raising Olives wrote a post here about using Dawn soap liquid to get the set-in grease stains out – see the comments, too. I’ve tried it, and it really works.

      A long time ago I saw the “Queen of Clean” on a show using WD-40 to “rejuvenate” dried grease spots, then she would use Fels Naphtha soap and Mule Team Boras scrubbed in. I tried that on a few things, but it was smelly, and labor-intensive. However, I’ve never forgotten it, and am going to try Biokleen’s Soy Solvent on some spots. A solution of that works so well on my stoves, that I think it just may work on clothing – I also used it to get some paint off a vinyl sofa.

      I also LOVE oxygen bleach – I’m about to soak one of my girls’ beautiful white church dresses that had grape juice spilled down the entire length of it… I’ve successfully used that on dried blood, and berry stains, too.

    2. @Erin,

      Norwex cleaning paste works great on set in grease stains. I just use a damp Norwex Antibac Envirocloth, rub it in the container of cleaning paste and rub on the stain. Only one time did I have to do that twice to get out a very old stain (all other stains came out after one application). I usually let it sit for at least a 1/2 hour and then wash as normal.

    3. @Erin, I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s sal suds. It does contain SLS, although I didn’t find out until I ordered it and it arrived, but it does say on the bottle that due to other ingredients added, its safe as they used it. I have also tried dish soap, natural kinds, and find they work half the time, but the sals suds do every time. The rest of the ingredients in the sals suds are good, so for now I am using it up and seeing if I can find something else, but if not, its at least better than most things, and it works. I just rub a drop onto the stain (even dryer set ones) and rewash, and its gone, most of the time. I’ve only not had it work once.

    4. We use spray n wash stain stick as well. I have found it good for grease stains which you really don’t notice until you’re folding the clean laundry and notice it has grease stains on it. I also have found it to be the best thing to get out tomato based stains, such as spaghetti sauce, chili, etc. I let it set in the stain for a few days before I wash it otherwise it doesn’t seem to come out right away. The only down side is that I don’t think spray n wash stain stick is still made. I purchased a box online from ebay. Don’t know what I’ll do when we run out….

  2. I have recently discovered the wonders of Rockin’ Green laundry soap! Just a few days ago, my husband had a dress shirt that must have been laying up against something in the laundry basket that had coffee, or the like, on it because it had two palm-sized brown stains on it. But, and this is a big but, I had not realized this when I washed AND dried it and even hung it up in the closet (I guess 3 children 4 years and younger is distracting). First, I tried Bac-Out to go the natural route…no go. Then I threw natural out the window and sprayed the heck out of it with Shout…no go. Then I remembered I could use my Rockin’ Green for clothes (I bought it for my cloth diapers). I ‘Rocked the Soak’ (let it soak in RG overnight) and after washing it could not believe that the stain was out…completely! I even took it outside in the sunlight cause I was so shocked. RG is natural AND it did the job! I’d recommend it to anyone…and, no, I am not getting paid by, or affiliated with, RG in any way. 🙂

    1. @Diana, I use Soap Works “safe bleach” its a Canadian product. However I have also used Ecover’s (US) and Nature Cleans (also Canadian). I found that they all worked fine for me, Soap Works has the best price for me. Basically its a white powder that has to dissolve into the hot water. I have used Oxy clean in the past and its sort of like that I guess, as I think I remember it also containing hydrogen peroxide…but a lot of other fillers too. I also remember having a chemical allergy to it (I am sensitive) and I don’t get that with the other ones I mentioned, which are all reputable natural companies. Also, Oxy clean’s powder did NOT work on the baby clothes I was trying to get clean, but the Soap works safe bleach did! So either of those 3 is what I have used and would recommend.

  3. We’ve been using Shout, which I know isn’t all natural but lately, even that has been failing us. I don’t even remember what the kids were eating with their BRAND NEW clothes on…just that it’s red and still there 🙁

  4. I use this method a lot for set-in stains – just opened my bins of baby clothes too : ) I followed my sister’s advice though and will let the clothes soak in baby oxy-clean for up to a week! Haven’t had anything fall apart yet!

  5. This is my method exactly, and it got out those yellowed baby stains that had been set in (by just normal storage over 3 years since I had had a baby). I, too, had put the clothes away clean…I thought. It did take several soakings, about 4 total for those stains (adding new hot water and oxygen bleach each time)But most everything else takes 1 soaking, or maybe 2. I always have something soaking around here! I do add a little (like a few tsp) of my natural laundry detergent to the soak as well. I’ve used soap work’s “safe bleach”, ecover’s, and nature clean’s, which all seemed to work well, but I find soap works the best price.

    1. Hi, I can’t find how much ecover powder to add??? I know this thread is fairly old but have a mound of baby clothes full of stains once pulled out of storage totes :/ please help! The container only has amounts for waching machines?

  6. I use my husbands “goop”. It’s a hand cleaner to get the grease off. I just rub it into the stain and wash in the warmest water allowed. The best part is it only costs a little over a dollar.

  7. Hooray for oxygen bleach! I discovered it on my own after I had my first child and was dealing with stains on a whole new level (though I use it just as much for my own clothes – I’m a stain magnet, too, for some reason!). I use very hot water and soak for as long as it takes – sometimes days at a time if necessary. I use either Oxo-brite or Sun brand – no additives (and the latter is only $1.99 at Walmart).

    I’m going to try Dawn for grease stain removal. Grease stains make me crazy and I have yet to find a foolproof solution for those.

  8. I have a couple of vintage baby dresses that were my mothers that had yellowed around the (white) collars. These stains had been there for 50 years… talk about set in! I really didn’t want to use anything that would damage them, and after much research, what I came up with was to mix up a paste of table salt and white vinegar (no measuring required-just use enough vinegar to hold the mixture together somewhat) which I spread on the collars of the dresses. I then laid them out in direct sunlight for a bit while the paste dried, brushed it off and then washed them by hand with a mild soap. Worked like a charm! The sun is actually pretty amazing at bleaching out stains. I hang my cloth diapers out when I get a chance, and they always look a bit better afterwards:)

  9. Is it safe on colors? You mentioned whites alot but my son stains colors just as bad!

    1. yes it is safe for colors too,just make sure they don’t fade if you have several items.

  10. How do I get heavy cooking grease stains out of white cotton chefs jakcets? Mine are really turning. I’ve tried clorx-style bleach and the oxy stuff but nothing seems to get the filmy grease off. What to do?

  11. The best thing I found to get tough stains out of clothing. Is my mom’s creation. Put the garment under hot water take a peroxide, baking soda, and hairspray yes hairspray! Take a tooth brush and start scrubbing it actually works!

  12. Useful and informative article house wife or even washer man of a big Laundry.

  13. To get my whites whiter I use iodized table salt & hot water, let soak over nite & wash the next day, you will be surprised!!

  14. So if i had a sweatshirt that was kind of white (it’s like a gray-ish white) could I still get the stain out and the color would still be alright or am I pretty much out of luck??

  15. my son had a chocolate stain in his shirt I used a rag and bleach on it and now there is a yellow stain and I need it out!

  16. Hello. Where can I purchase oxygen bleach “soap works bleach safe” ?? I have a pair of white linnen pants, that i don’t know how got stained on the back with this black thing (is not too black but you can tell because of the shadows of the stain). I need to get the stains out. Thank you

  17. Do you think this would be safe on velour!? I have velour pants that happened to get stained on Thanksgiving, from yam juice, the first day I wore them!! I used water immediately but the stain was relentless! Now I’m waiting for theTide To-Go stick to set in but am very anxious!

  18. Hey all if you want a simple, easy way to get almost any stain out of clothes and other fabrics let me know. I have a detergent I made that works better than anything I have ever tried. Any one I have had try it also love it. you can email me for more info. But as long as the stain has not completely set it will get it out. or look me up on face book pratt kerry. If you want to try a free sample that is fine too. The detergent is hypoallergenic and 100% made in the USA too:)

    1. My friend told me she uses equal parts blue dawn dish soap, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. She mixes them together and uses an old toothbrush to scrub on the stains. Takes a little elbow grease. Then toss in the washer as usual.

  19. I have tried everything to get out set in stains made from my two year old! Even his old stains from when he was on formula I can’t get it. To be honest it’s upsetting me because they look bad and want him to be able to wear the one that still fit him 🙁 I am going to try this method since it seems I work so well for you. Hope it works because I’m tired of trying so many things!

  20. Okay so I recently bought a used coach purse for $40! It was totally worth it. The only problem is that there are stains on the fabric strap! I have literally searched high and low of the Internet and I can’t find ANYTHING that will get these brown set in stains out! I need help! The strap is a cream color, I was originally planning on simply washing/scrubbing the entire strap but I have no idea what to use 🙁 I have already tried dishwasher soap and warm water, worked on the rest of the fabric bag, but not the dang strap! Please help me fellow bloggers 🙁

    1. Coach makes a cleaner that works wonders. It’s $10 (I think) at the Coach store and it got sriracha out of my Coach bag.

  21. I baught a dress for prom that was used and it has like purplish blue stains on it and its black with white stripes running down the sides . What do I do?!?

  22. What a great blog! I have just discovered your site. What great formulas and strategies for cleaning almost everything!

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