Exceptional Cleaning Tips for Hard-to-Clean Spots, Spills and Stains

Spots, spills and stains happen. Whether it's chewing gum, oil, ink, blood or candle wax, some stains are just a pain. What you need are some exceptional cleaning tips to make those hard-to-clean nightmares a thing of the past. As always, it's best to test any products on an inconspicuous part of the fabric before applying to a more visible area.

1. Act fast

Modern detergents may claim to remove dried-in stains, but with most spills, the sooner you act, the easier the job will be. Rubbing a spill will only make matters worse. Flushing with cold water and dabbing at the area will be more effective. Exceptions include heavy mud splatters, candle wax and chewing gum, which will flake off when dry.

2. Avoid heat

Applying heat to a protein-based stain like grass, food or blood will only fuse the protein to the fabric. Never wash in hot water, tumble dry or iron until you are sure this kind of stain is gone.

3. Use acids or alkalis

Distilled white vinegar is a weak acid that will break down protein enzymes in stains without damaging fabrics, though it should never be used on marble or other alkaline surfaces because it will damage them. If flushing with water is ineffective, try flushing with vinegar instead. Alternatively, soak stained garments in a large bowl or bucket of water with a cup of vinegar for a few hours. For surfaces, mix a paste of white vinegar with equal parts of baking soda and salt or sugar to the desired consistency. The baking soda is an alkali that will react with the acid in the vinegar and lift stains, and the salt or sugar functions as a gentle abrasive.

4. Freeze

While mud should dry sufficiently to flake off without freezing, chewing gum and candle wax may remain difficult to remove at room temperature. Freeze them by placing the garment in the freezer for a few hours or by rubbing ice cubes over them, then scrape the stain off with a blunt knife. Remove stubborn traces by adding dishwashing liquid to the stain. Sprinkle on salt and rub against the grain with another piece of cloth before rinsing and washing normally.

5. Absorb oils

Oil-based stains are a pain because fabrics tend to absorb them. If you can, add talcum powder to the spill while it is still wet, and leave it overnight. The powder will take up most of the oil. Brush off the powder. If some heavy residue remains, flush with lighter fluid from your grill. Finally, treat the stain with dishwashing liquid or Lysol before washing as usual.

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