The Science of Parenting

Chemistry Conquers Stubborn Stains

By January 3, 2019 No Comments

We’ve all been there … the white uniform polo that always manages to bring home streaks of blue, the soccer jersey that can’t seem to get over last week’s skids and grass stains, the tablecloth that caught a drip of your family’s favorite sweet and sour sauce. By embracing some simple Chemistry, you can join us in conquering those pesky, stubborn laundry stains to keep your family’s clothes and other fabrics fresh and clean.

The simplest way to remove stains is by dissolving them before washing. Soaking will allow the stain particles to lift away from the fabric fibers. That’s where Chemistry comes into play; determining which liquids will most effectively accomplish this.


Always test a small section of the fabric being treated with the soak solution to avoid damage; after testing, soak in the indicated liquid for 30 min, then rinse before washing for best results.

  • Salty or Sugary Stains? Hot Water!
  • Oily or Greasy Stains? Hot Water + Detergent + a hot cycle!
  • Coffee Shadow? Hot Water + a quick dab of Vinegar!
  • Dirt? diluted Detergent + a warm cycle!
  • Deodorant Marks? diluted White Vinegar!

Some stubborn stains require more specific spot treatments to effectively lift away stain particles.


Always test a small section of the fabric being treated with the soak solution to avoid damage.

  • Grass Stains? soak in dish soap + hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes; scrub with a toothbrush and rinse with hot water before washing!
  • Lipstick/Ink? cover the stain with a washcloth and flip over, dab back side with diluted rubbing alcohol and repeat until stain is released before washing!

So, how is this Chemistry?

  • Protein stains (blood, grass, sweat, etc.) require stain-digesting enzymes to be broken down; when using a store-bought treatment, look for products containing proteases.
  • Non-protein stains (tea, coffee, red wine, etc.) require a class of chemicals known as oxidants to be broken down; products containing bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or borax will be especially effective! Be sure to patch test them on an inconspicuous area first, as these concentrated products can remove color from some fabrics.

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