Putting Summer Stain Cleaners to the Test

Steve Graham tests reputable methods of cleaning summer stains, with mixed results.

Posted by Steve Graham | Jun 18, 2011
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dnabil/stock.xchngSummer can get messy. The season is full of sloppy foods, fun and games. Thankfully, the Internet (and, probably, your grandma) is full of advice on cleaning up all those stains. We compiled nine of the most popular summer stain cleaners from reliable sources, including Good Housekeeping magazine and the cleaning expert Mrs. Meyer. Then we put them to the test, and found very mixed results.


1. Cleaning Grass Stains

Verdict: Success. I read that I could "Shout out" the grass stains on my jeans, with 15 minutes of treatment with Shout or other pre-wash cleaning treatment, as suggested by Real Simple magazine.  This was supposed to mow down the stain, and it may have worked on a fresher stain. However, we had to go three rounds with the long-stained left knee of some faded work jeans. The second step was to use a mix of two parts water and one part white vinegar, then rinse with cold water. Step three was a laundry wash in the hot cycle. After all that, there was just barely a trace of grass on my jeans.

As another option for grass stains, Good Housekeeping recommends putting enzyme-based laundry detergent into the stain and let it sit for five minutes. Then launder with bleach and hot water, as recommended on the clothing label.

2. Cleaning Mud Stains

Verdict: Significant improvement.  Some of the biggest summer stains are among the easiest to remove. I scrubbed mud-stained pants in cold water, then washed on the hot cycle, as recommended by Good Housekeeping. The result was pants that looked far less muddy, though I’m not sure they are clean enough for dinner with the in-laws. If this method doesn’t work, the stain may be caused by iron-heavy clay soils and should be treated like iron rust stains. Good Housekeeping recommends using a commercial rust remover for deep cleaning. These are harsh cleaners with toxic ingredients, so read and follow label directions carefully.

3. Ketchup Stains


Verdict: Some improvement.  For the sake of science, I intentionally wiped a ketchup “K” onto an old t-shirt, then tried to clean it off with hydrogen peroxide and a cold-water rinse, as recommended by Thelma Meyer, author of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home. By the end of the day, I still had a faint K on the shirt.

4. MustardStains

Verdict: Some improvement.  To test Mrs. Meyer’s other condiment cleaning suggestion, I squirted a spicy mustard “M” onto the same shirt. After trying to wash off the stain with the suggested solution of white vinegar, then cold water, I had a faint yellow M to match the red K.

5. Blueberry Stain Removal

Verdict: Failure.  I squashed a blueberry and ground the juice into the same t-shirt. Berry stains are notoriously tough to remove, but Good Housekeeping offered a solution. The idea: stretch the stained area over a bowl in the sink, then pour a kettle of boiling water over the stain from about a food above the shirt. This is supposed to make the stain disappear.

Thankfully, I never planned to wear the old, ratty t-shirt again. Along with the condiment stains on front, seemingly every molecule of blueberry juice remains on the back of the shirt, even after washing in the hot cycle.

6. Cleaning Red Wine Stains


Verdict: Complete success.  On the other hand, there is no trace of the red wine I smeared on the bottom of the shirt. Red wine is another notoriously tough stain, but on Real Simple's suggestion, I stretched the stain over the same bowl in the sink, then sprinkled salt on it. When I poured boiling water over the red spot from about one foot up, I literally watched the stain disappear.

7. Chocolate Ice Cream Stain

Verdict: Complete success.  I also ended up with no trace of the chocolate ice cream I smeared on the same stain-trashed t-shirt. Reversing this one was really simple, thanks to University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. I just pre-soaked with an enzyme-based laundry detergent (Seventh Generation high-efficiency detergent) for 30 minutes, then washed in the hot cycle.

8. Bike Chain Grease

Verdict: Significant improvement.  Most months, I put more miles on my bike than my car, so my hands, legs and clothes often go home with chain grease souvenirs. Mrs. Meyer offered an interesting solution: rub flour or corn meal on the spot to absorb grease. After letting it sit for a few minutes, I washed with liquid soap and rinsed with cold water, as suggested. It worked better than most methods I have tried, though my test rag ended up with a light chain grease stain.

9. Perspiration Stains


Verdict: Undetermined.  I am somewhat proud to say I couldn’t find any particularly ugly sweat stains on my shirts. I found a faint stain, but I can’t say with certainty that I made a significant difference in attempting to clean it with Good Housekeeping's three-step method: I scrubbed the stained area with vinegar, then rinsed in cold water. Next, I pre-treated the stain with Shout. Finally, I washed on the hot cycle. I might have an update by the end of the summer if I manage to more seriously stain my biking jerseys.

Steve Graham is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer.  Read more articles like this one - http://www.networx.com/article/putting-summer-stain-cleaners-to-the-tes - or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.

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