How to remove common stains

From baby food to mud, poop to crayon, we've rounded up solutions for some of the most common stains kids get on their clothes.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Having kids means dealing with a lot of stains. When they’re babies, it’s poop and food, and as they get older, you can add grass stains and crayons to the mix. It’s key to get the stain out quickly—definitely before you launder and dry the clothing (at which point, that stained onesie is pretty much a write off). Here’s how to tackle some of the most common stains your kids will throw at you.

Baby food
Introducing solids to your wee one means introducing yourself to a whole new colourful range of stains on your baby’s clothing. When faced with a onesie smeared with the baby food du jour, start by scraping off as much baby food as you can with a spoon or the blunt side of a butter knife. Soak the fabric for 15 minutes in 4 cups of lukewarm water and 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing soap. (You can also add a tablespoon of ammonia, if you have it on hand). Rub the back gently to loosen the stain, and then let it soak for another 15 minutes. Rinse the clothing. For protein-based stains, soak in an enzyme product for at least 30 minutes. If the stain still isn’t out, wash it with chlorine bleach (if safe for the fabric) or with oxygen bleach.

Blood
Kids have accidents, and whether it’s a scraped knee or a nosebleed, you’ll have to deal with a little blood every now and then. For fresh blood stains, soak the clothing in cold water (never hot, which will set the stain) and then throw it in the wash as usual. If the blood had time to dry, you’ll want to pretreat it: Soak in warm water with a product that contains enzymes (many stain removers do) and then wash as you normally would. If the stain doesn’t come out in the wash, you’ll need to rewash it, ideally with bleach or colour safe oxygen bleach.

Crayon
Everything’s a canvas to your little crayon-wielding Picasso—including his own clothes (and maybe his sister’s too). When faced with waxy crayon stains, you have two options. For minor stains, you might be able to get away with rubbing a bar of soap over it and washing as you normally would. But if your kid went to town with the crayons, it’ll probably take a bit more effort. First, gently scrape wax off the surface of the fabric with the dull side of a butter knife. Then place a piece of paper towel under the stain and another piece over, and run a warm iron overtop (you might need to replace the paper towels as the wax is absorbed into them). Over a clean paper towel, place the stain facedown and dab a stain remover over the crayon, blotting with paper towel. Once the stain is dry, wash in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric. Have a stubborn stain? You might need to pre-treat and soak the clothing in a stain remover with enzymes or an oxygen bleach. Tip: If an errant crayon melted in the dryer onto a whole load of clothes, throw the lot back in the wash on a hot cycle, adding 1 cup of baking soda to your usual laundry detergent.

Grass stains
There’s no escaping grass stains, but it is possible to get them out of your kiddo’s soccer uniform or jeans and tee. You’ll want to pre-treat or soak your kid’s clothing for at least a half hour (overnight is better) in cool water using a product with enzymes to help lift the stain. If the grass stain hasn’t budged, repeat the pre-treating process, then wash with bleach or oxygen bleach, and then wash again in warm water with laundry detergent.

Mud
It often goes hand-in-hand with grass stains—or maybe your kid’s a mud pie master, or a magnet for that bare patch of dirt in the schoolyard. Sooner or later, every parent has to deal with mud stains. To tackle this mess, first let the mud dry and then brush off as much as you can. If there isn’t too much staining, just spot treat with a little of your usual laundry detergent before you toss the clothes in the wash. For more serious stains, you’ll want to pre-soak the clothing using a stain remover with enzymes before washing.

Poop
When you have a baby, poopsplosions are inevitable. After getting your gag reflex in check, take an old spoon and scrape off as much of the poo as possible. Soak the clothing in one litre of lukewarm water with 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid (you can also add a tablespoon of ammonia, if you have it on hand). After 15 minutes, gently rub the stain from the back of the fabric to loosen particles. Let soak for at least another 15 minutes, rinse, and then soak using a stain remover with enzymes for at least 30 minutes before laundering with bleach (if safe for the fabric) or oxygen bleach.

Ketchup or spaghetti sauce
Your kid will, at some point, get a glob of ketchup on her shirt. And if you have a toddler, there’s a good chance he treats spaghetti dinner as a full-body experience. Tomato stains happen, and they’re the worst. Resist the urge to dab and instead remove excess ketchup or sauce with a spoon or knife, taking care to avoid rubbing it into the fabric (we know—easier said than done with a squirmy kid). As soon as you can, run cold water through the fabric from the backside of the stain. Pre-treat the spot with liquid detergent, rubbing it in gently in a circular motion, and then soak the clothing in a diluted solution of water and colour-safe oxygen bleach. If that doesn’t do the trick and the stain is on a white or colourfast fabric, you can soak it in a diluted solution of water and chlorine bleach for 15 minutes. It’s always a good idea to apply a stain remover before washing pesky stains like these.

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