Whether it’s bibs, onesies, sporting outfits or school uniforms, dirty clothes seems to be inevitable when you have children. But it doesn’t mean that permanent stains, nor toxic stain remover sprays or soaks need to be permanent fixtures in your home.
While my eldest son prefers dance lessons and eating with cutlery to football and eating with his hands, my youngest is what you would call a “typical boy.”
He was the baby who would only feed himself (and the floor). Toddler who dug in the garden and made mud pies (rather than singing “twinkle twinkle” and doing craft). And he’s looking to be the pre-schooler who enjoys painting on the easel, floors, walls and himself.
You get the picture. My eldest is a one-outfit-for-a-few-days, while my youngest is several-outfits-a-day kind of kid.
Now these several outfits a day can be covered in anything. From mashed avocado and banana to paint, mud, pasta sauce – the list is endless.
Determined to break up with my chlorine-based stain soaker, which was quite possibly the last cleaning “chemical” in my home, I’ve tested pretty much every natural stain remover spray and soaker recipe that I could find.
My current favourite is quite likely the very first homemade laundry cleaner I tested and simply consists of a 50:50 blend of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. For larger stains I simply soak the garment in a bucket containing a larger volume of white vinegar and water at a 25:75 ratio (use full strength vinegar for grass stains).
White vinegar is great on most stains but here are a few extra tips for common stains you may regularly encounter:
Banana – wipe glycerine over the stain and leave for 15 minutes, then wash normally.
Blood – wash fresh bloodstains in the washing machine on the cold setting. If you can’t put it through the wash immediately, soak in cold water.
Chocolate – clean with soap and cold water, then clean with soap and hot water.
Coffee and Tea – for fresh stains, wipe glycerine over the stain and wash in washing powder. For old stains, soak item in a solution of 1/3 cup of vinegar to 2/3 cup of water, then hang the garment out in the sun to dry.
Watermelon – sponge with white vinegar and sprinkle with bicarbonate soda to remove the smell.
Wine – for new red wine spills, absorb as much moisture as possible with a rag, then apply a little white vinegar. For old red wine spills, apply glycerine, then sprinkle over bicarbonate soda and detergent. For white wine stains (old and new) apply white vinegar.
Of course the best way to maintain your garments in tip top condition is to reduce the likelihood of stains occurring in the first place. Even just by using bibs, napkins and aprons to protect clothing and switching a tablecloth for placemats, you can reduce the likelihood of food coming into contact with clothing.
If the inevitable has happened and clothing is soiled, water and speed are the two main ingredients for successful stain removal. The sooner you can get the garment soaking in lukewarm water (hot water may set the stain), the best chance you have of removing the stain.
And if you’ve missed the window and the stain looks like it’s here to stay, stained clothes are still fine for daycare, gardening, craft and cooking.
Born with a green heart, Laura Trotta is obsessed with all things eco and has been living and breathing sustainability for over 20 years. Laura is an award-winning sustainable living educator, founder of Sustainahome and guides women to create healthier, toxin-free homes via her popular Home Detox Boot Camp. Fusing her professional expertise as an environmental engineer with the down-to-earth pragmatism that comes from being a busy mum, Laura is an eco thought leader who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.