What Is the Best Stain Remover for Clothes?

Stains are a fact of life. Whether it's a ketchup spill on your white shirt or grass stains on your jeans, stains can happen to anyone. There are plenty of great stain removers on the market that can help you get your clothes looking like new again.

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Different types of stains

What is the best stain remover?

How do I remove stains from colored clothes?

How about my white clothes?

Try our stain stick for an eco-friendly ally in the battle against staining!  .

Stain stick

Common Stain Types

Here are some of the most common stains that you might encounter, along with some tips on how to remove them.

Grease and Oil Stains

These stubborn stains often require heavy duty pretreatment. Apply dish soap directly to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before laundering as usual.

For really tough grease, use a dedicated stain remover like Smart Sheep on the spot before washing. The chemicals in these products break down greasy residues.

Ink Stains

Fresh ink can sometimes be dabbed up carefully with a paper towel or cotton swab. For set-in stains, grab some rubbing alcohol or hairspray. Soak the stain completely, let it sit a few minutes, then launder.

The alcohol dissolves ink, while the alcohol in hairspray breaks it down. Just check care labels first, as some fabrics, like acetates, can be damaged by these chemicals.

Grass Stains

That afternoon of lawn games left grass stains on the kids' clothes? Pre-treat with hydrogen peroxide. The active enzymes in these products will remove the green chlorophyll present in grass. For extra assurance, let the garment soak before washing.

Wine Stains

Speed is important when tackling wine. As soon as possible, blot the stain, then cover liberally with salt or club soda. The salt will absorb some of the pigment while the bubbles in the soda lift it out. Rinse and launder right away before the stain has time to set.

Tomato Stains

The acid in lemon juice helps remove the natural pigments found in tomatoes. Squirt lemon juice directly on the stain and let sit briefly before washing. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a pre-treatment for tomato-based stains.

Coffee and Tea Stains

These can be among the toughest to remove. Apply white vinegar directly to the stain. Its acetic acid will start breaking down the stain. The active enzymes get deep into the fibers to remove the coffee and tea discoloration.

Knowing which solutions to reach for will get your clothes looking like new again in no time. With the right techniques, you can win the battle against all kinds of stubborn stains.

How do I Choose the Best Stain Remover?

The right stain remover can rescue even the most hopeless looking garment. Arm yourself for stain fighting success by keeping these key factors in mind when selecting a remover:

  • Fabric considerations. Harsh chemicals can ruin delicate silks, wools, and more. Always check care instructions.
  • Application method. Some work best by pretreating, others can be applied directly on wet fabrics.
  • Natural ingredients. When possible, choose gentle solutions like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon juice over harsh chemicals.

What is the Best DIY Stain Remover?

Need to tackle a stain but don't have a specialty product on hand? Don't worry—you likely have some powerful stain fighting ingredients in your pantry already. 

Whip up one of these homemade solutions for natural, eco-friendly stain removal:

White Vinegar

Most households have a bottle of vinegar readily available. The acidic properties in vinegar help break down stubborn stains on contact.

Follow these steps to lift stains from fabrics using vinegar:

  1. Pour undiluted white vinegar directly onto the fresh stain. Target stains like sweat, deodorant marks, wine, coffee, sauces, grass, mud, or blood.
  2. Use a clean cloth to gently blot the vinegar into the stain. Avoid aggressive rubbing.
  3. Wash as usual after blotting. The vinegar will remain on the fabric, continuing to break down the stain.
  4. Check care labels first. Test vinegar on an inconspicuous area, as some silks and wools may need special treatment.

Lemon Juice

Like vinegar, lemon juice's acidity dissolves staining compounds. The bonus bleaching power of lemon also brightens clothes.

Use lemon juice as follows:

  1. Squeeze fresh lemon juice directly onto the stain. Target wine, berries, tomato sauce, spinach, mustard, coffee, and more.
  2. Gently blot the juice into the fabric with a clean cloth. Avoid excessive rubbing.
  3. Wash normally after blotting. Lemon juice will remain on the fabric, lifting the stain.
  4. Check care instructions and test first, as lemon may lighten some dyes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda's alkaline properties lift stains, while its texture scrubs. 

Here's how to erase stains with it:

  1. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Adjust thickness as needed.
  2. Use a soft scrubbing brush to gently work the paste into the fabric. Apply liberally over stains.
  3. Let pasta sit for 30+ minutes before washing to lift the stain.
  4. Rinse paste until completely removed before washing.
  5. Wash in the washing machine as usual at the coolest recommended temperature.
  6. Target coffee, wine, tomato, mustard, and other acidic stains.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide naturally degrades into water and oxygen, making it a safe yet powerful stain remover. Follow these tips when using it:

  1. Check fabric instructions first, as peroxide may lighten some fabrics. Spot test an inconspicuous area.
  2. Apply undiluted hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain.
  3. Allow 15-30 minutes wait time to allow bubbles and oxidation to lift the stain.
  4. Blot away excess liquid. Avoid aggressive rubbing.
  5. Wash as usual using the coolest recommended temperature.


Salt draws out liquid spills while scrubbing stains away. Use it as follows:

  1. Pour salt directly onto the fresh stain. Target wine, sweat, grass, blood, or grease.
  2. Allow 5-10 minutes for salt to absorb the stain.
  3. Gently blot stained area with a clean, absorbent cloth. Avoid aggressive rubbing.
  4. Rinse away salt residue under cold water before washing.
  5. Wash with detergent at the coolest recommended temperature.

Soap Sticks

Keep an all-natural soap stick in your laundry room for tackling stains on-the-go. These solid soap bars harness the cleaning power of natural saponified oils. Here's how to use them:

  1. Wet the stain with a bit of water.
  2. Rub the soap stick directly onto the wet stain. Target fresh stains like grease, mud, food spills, grass, and makeup.
  3. Continue rubbing gently to work the soap into the stain. The texture helps lift staining particles.
  4. Let sit for 5-10 minutes allowing time for the soap to penetrate and release the stain.
  5. Rinse the soap residue thoroughly under cool water.
  6. Launder as usual with your regular detergent. The stain should rinse cleanly away.
  7. Avoid using it on silk or wool unless labeled safe for delicates.

Reviews of Top Stain Removers

While home remedies have their place, there are times when you simply need swift solutions. If you're in search of store-bought stain removers known for their effectiveness, check out these top recommendations:

OxiClean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover

The oxygen-activated enzymes in OxiClean MaxForce work to penetrate and lift even the most embedded oil and food-based stains. Keep a bottle on hand to pre-treat pesky coffee, wine, sauce and grease stains on white fabrics including cotton, linen and polyester blends. The foam of this advanced stain remover clings to vertical hanging fabrics for targeted application.

Biokleen Bac-Out Stain Remover

Harnessing natural cultures of live enzymes, Biokleen Bac-Out digests stains from grass, mud, food, makeup and more on delicates like silk, wool and linen. The plant-based formula aims to gently remove chlorophyll, protein and tannin stains without harsh chemicals that could ruin fabrics. Its portability makes it ideal for tackling food spills on the go.

Carbona Stain Devils Stain Remover

Carbona’s laundry stain scrubber offers enzyme-based pre-treatments tailored to different stain types like oil, grease, coffee, rust, ink and more. Keeping the right Stain Devil on hand means you'll have the ideal product ready to lift specific stains from fabric. The convenient applicator bottles make it easy to target treatment.

Shout Advanced Grease Busting Foam Laundry Foam

Shout's foam formula clings to fabric to penetrate, loosen, and lift stains from coffee, wine, grease, and more. The foam allows you to precisely target the stain. Just spray, let sit, then toss in the wash for clean results.

Zout Triple Enzyme Formula Stain Remover

Zout's triple enzyme formula specially targets grease, oil, ink, grass, coffee, makeup, blood, and other organic stains. It's safe on most fabrics. Simply spray or pour onto stains and let sit before washing. The handy applicator makes it easy to target treatment.

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover

The natural soap in Fels-Naptha targets tough grease, dirt, and stains. Just wet the stain, rub the bar directly on it, and toss in the wash. The laundry soap bar means no plastic bottles to toss. It works on most fabric types.

Spray 'n Wash Pre-Treat Stain Stick

Spray 'n Wash offers a convenient stain stick for on-the-go portability. Just twist to expose the bar and directly apply to stains. This stain remover spray has an enzyme formula that aims to lift coffee, wine, grease, grass, ink, blood, and other stains from fabric.

Puracy Natural Stain Remover

Puracy's plant-based formula aims to lift stains without harsh chemicals. It uses citrus extracts to target oils, chlorophyll to lift plant stains, and enzymes for protein stains. The spray bottle makes it easy to treat stains on fabric before washing.

Grandma's Secret Spot Remover Laundry Spray

Grandma's Secret foaming laundry stain remover relies on the cleaning power of natural ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, lemon oil, and soap bark extract to pretreat stains. The convenient spray bottle makes it easy to target chocolate syrup, grease, olive oil, wine, and other spots. Just spray, let sit briefly, then wash for lift-free laundry.

Seventh Generation Laundry Stain Remover

The plant-based formula in Seventh Generation's stain remover spray aims to gently lift stains like coffee, wine, grass, and ketchup from fabric. Enzyme-based cleaners break down stubborn spots without chlorine or other harsh chemicals. Simply spray, let sit, then wash for clean results.

Shout Advanced Stain Lifting Foam

Shout's foam formula clings to fabric to penetrate, loosen, and lift stains from coffee, wine, grease, and more. The foam allows you to precisely target the stain. Just spray, let sit, then toss in the wash for clean results.

Smart Sheep Stain Stick

Our handy Smart Sheep Stain Stick is designed for portability so you can instantly treat stains from messy kids, pets, foods, and spills even when away from home.

The plant-based, non-toxic formula is gentle on skin but tough on stains. The twist applicator allows you to directly target the stained area on clothing or fabrics. Toss clothes in the wash after pre-treating for lift-free results.

The biodegradable paper packaging means one less plastic container clogging up landfills.

Stain stick

What is the Best Stain Remover for Colored Clothes?

When choosing a stain remover for colored clothes, avoid formulas with harsh chemicals that could cause fading, bleaching, or discoloration. Look for plant-based ingredients like citrus extracts and enzyme cleaners that break down stains without stripping vibrant dyes.

Always test an inconspicuous area first when using a new product. Check clothing tags for the manufacturer's recommended cleaning methods.

The Smart Sheep Stain Stick is gentle on fabrics but tough on stains. Our biodegradable, plant-based formula removes stains from colored clothes without fading. Just twist to expose the stick and target stained areas before washing.

What is the Best Stain Remover for White Clothes?

The best stain remover for white clothes is the Smart Sheep Stain Stick. Its non-toxic, plant-based formula removes even set-in stains from white clothes to prevent yellowing over time. It outperforms harsh chemical cleaners. Just twist to expose the stick and target stains before washing for whiter whites.

Stain Remover FAQ

What is the best stain remover for old stains on fabric?

The best stain remover for old stains on fabric will depend on the type of fabric. However, some good options for removing old stains from fabric include:

  • Dish soap is a mild detergent that can be used to remove a variety of stains from fabric, including old food, grass, and blood stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent that can be used to remove old stains from fabric, including blood, ink, and rust stains.
  • White vinegar is a natural cleaner that can be used to remove a variety of stains from fabric, including old food, grass, and sweat stains.

Can old stains still be removed?

Yes, old stains can still be removed, but it may take more time and effort than removing a fresh stain. The key is to act quickly and to use a stain remover that is effective on the type of stain.

Can baking soda remove stains?

Baking soda can remove a variety of stains, including old food, grass, and blood stains. To use baking soda to remove a stain, simply sprinkle the baking soda on the stain and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. Then, brush the baking soda away and wash the garment as usual.

How do you get old dried stains out of clothes?

To get old dried stains out of clothes, follow these steps:

  1. Soak the garment in a solution of water and oxygen bleach for 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the garment with cold water.
  3. Wash the garment as usual.

How do you remove old stains from clothes?

Old, set-in stains can be challenging to remove but it is possible with the right stain fighting technique. Follow these steps for the best results:

  • Check clothing tags to understand fabric type and care instructions.
  • Pre-treat old stains with a stain remover containing active ingredients like oxygenators or enzymes that penetrate deep into fabric.
  • Allow the stain remover to soak 15-30 minutes before washing to give the ingredients time to work.
  • Wash with detergent and the warmest water recommended for the fabric.
  • Avoid chlorine bleach which could damage fabrics.

What is the best red wine stain remover?

Look for a stain remover containing enzymes to treat red wine stains. The enzymes work to break down the natural tannins in wine that cause deep staining.

This type of formula will be more effective than detergent alone. Cleaning experts recommend pre-treating with stain remover before washing. Apply it directly to the stain and allow time to soak in before washing.

Are instant stain remover pens good?

Instant stain remover pens are convenient for quickly treating fresh stains when out and about. However, the formula in instant pens may not be strong enough to fully lift set-in, dried, or heavy stains.

For these types of stubborn stains, it is more effective to pre-treat with a dedicated stain removal product prior to washing. The stronger formula and dwell time allow it to better penetrate and release the stain.

What is the best stain remover for food stains?

For food stains, look for a laundry pre-treatment spray or stick that contains enzyme-based formulas. Enzyme cleaners work to break down food particles at a molecular level. Zout, OxiClean, and Tide To Go Instant are examples of enzyme-based performance stain removers that can tackle food stains. Check clothing tags and allow time for the formula to penetrate before washing.

How do I remove stinky odors from clothes?

To remove stinky odors from clothes, pretreat with a laundry product designed specifically as an odor remover. Look for formulas with active enzymes or oxidizers that neutralize odor compounds. Soaking clothes in an oxygenated cleaning solution can also help lift stubborn stinky smells before washing. Avoid using excessive heat when drying smelly clothes.

What is the best stain remover powder?

For a versatile stain remover powder, try ones containing sodium percarbonate like OxiClean or Clorox 2. This ingredient provides cleaning power on stubborn oil, grease, wine, mud, grass, and other stains. Make a paste with water and rub it directly on stained areas before washing. Just check clothing tags first, as some fabrics require gentler cleaners.

How do I remove makeup stains?

Gently dab the stain with a makeup remover wipe to lift surface residue. Then pretreat with a liquid solvent-based makeup stain remover. Look for ones containing ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol to cut through oil and pigment stains. Allow time to penetrate before washing as usual. Avoid rubbing, which can grind stains further into fabric.

Is Method stain remover any good?

Method makes plant-based stain removers in both liquid and gel formulas. Their products use natural ingredients like lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to lift stains without harsh chemicals. 

Which is better—liquid vs gel stain removers?

Liquid removers quickly penetrate fabric and cover large areas well. Gels cling to fabric better and allow precise stain targeting without drips. For large stains or pre-treating, a liquid covers more area. For spot cleaning or small stains, a gel gives you more control. Both liquid and gel formulas make convenient stain removal options.

What cleaning products remove tough stains?

For really tough, set-in stains, use an oxygen-based or enzyme-powered formula. These work by penetrating deep into fabric over time to dissolve and lift stubborn stains away from fibers. Make a paste with oxygen cleaner powder and water and rub it in before washing. Or use an enzyme liquid or foaming spray and let it soak in. The key is using active ingredients and giving dwell time.

How do I get pet smells out of clothes?

Pet odors like urine or musk can be tricky to remove from fabrics. To get lingering pet smells out of clothes, bedding, or other washable fabrics, pretreat with an enzymatic stink remover designed specifically for pet odors before laundering.

Look for enzyme-powered formulas that work at the molecular level to digest and neutralize the organic compounds causing pet odors. Products like Angry Orange or Nature's Miracle contain live enzymes that break down ammonia residues, bodily fluids, and embedded pet smells over time.

Apply the pet odor remover liberally to the affected garment, allowing it to fully soak in. Let it sit for at least 15-30 minutes before washing to give the enzymes time to work. For severe odors, you can let it soak overnight. Then launder as usual with detergent to lift away the released odor. With the right pet stain and odor remover, you can get rid of even strong lingering pet smells at the source.

Further Reading

Homemade stain remover for white clothes

Why is the dryer making my clothes smell burnt?

Will essential oils on my dryer balls stain clothes?

What is the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin?

Detergent sheets vs liquid detergent—who wins?

How can I keep my sheets from balling up in the dryer?

How to recharge wool dryer balls

How to add essential oils to dryer balls