The ultimate DIY stain stick recipe

Tired of spending money on expensive stain sticks? Do you want to get rid of stains without harsh chemicals? If so, then you'll love these easy-to-make DIY laundry stain stick recipes!

Quick links:

Ingredients needed

DIY steps

Boost cleaning power

How to use the stain stick?

How to use on cotton

How to use on silk

How to use on linen

Should I pre-treat stains?

Benefits of stain sticks?

Homemade vs commercial stain removers

These recipes are made with all-natural ingredients, so they’re safe for your family and the environment. They’re also super affordable, so you can save money in the long run.

What do I need to make my own stain stick?

Looking to take laundry care into your own hands? Before diving into a sudsy homebrew session, be sure to gather the essential ingredients that give DIY detergent its cleaning power and delightful scent.

DIY stain stick ingredients

  • Coconut oil. A teaspoon cuts grease fast thanks to the tropical oil’s unmatched ability to penetrate fibers. Opt for the unrefined kind.
  • Castile soap or grated bar soap. This versatile plant-based soap made from olive oil packs a gentle punch. Grate bars or use liquid.
  • Washing soda. Sodium carbonate is a stain fighting superhero. Buy some or DIY your own from baking soda.
  • Essential oils (optional). Add a touch of eucalyptus, lemon, or lavender aroma magic. Just a few drops do the trick.
  • Distilled water. Mineral-free distilled water ensures no funky reactions with your masterpiece brew.

Equipment needed

  1. Mixing bowls. Stainless steel and glass bowls make the detergent mixing station.
  2. Spoons. Wooden spoons whisk ingredients into bubbly matrimony.
  3. Grater. Grate those soap bars into flaky goodness.
  4. Food processor. Can be used to blend the ingredient mixtures into a fine powder
  5. Loaf mold or containers. Repurposed jugs and bottles house and dispense your fresh creation.
  6. Funnel. Neatly guide your soap into containers without any mess.
  7. Immersion blender (optional). Makes quick work of emulsifying and blending ingredients smoothly.

With the essential ingredients and equipment at the ready, you have all you need to start crafting healthy, eco-friendly, customized laundry soap in stick form. Let the sudsy alchemy begin!

The best DIY stain stick recipes

Laundry stains meet their match with these easy, homemade stain stick recipes. By mixing up all-natural ingredients like soap, oils, and lemon juice right in your kitchen, you can create customized stain-fighting sticks that rival or exceed chemical-laden store-bought products. 

The simple recipes for laundry stain removers below require a few affordable ingredients you likely have on hand.

3-ingredient lemon stick


  • 1 cup grated laundry soap bar
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Melt soap and coconut oil together. Stir in lemon oil. Mix into a paste and transfer to a container. The acidity in lemon lifts stains while the oils penetrate fabric.

Baking soda stain eraser


  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cold process soap flakes
  • 10 drops essential oil (optional)

Blend baking soda and soap flakes. Add several drops of tea tree, eucalyptus, or lavender oil if desired. Use this abrasive scrub on tough set-in stains.

Dual-oil stain remover


  • 1/3 cup grated laundry soap
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons castor oil
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

Combine grated soap, coconut oil and castor oil in a bowl. Add vitamin E oil and mix into a creamy paste. The oils work together to break down and lift stains.

Gel stain stick


  • 1⁄2 cup liquid soap
  • 1⁄4 cup aloe vera gel
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 5 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix ingredients into a smooth, thick gel. The viscosity clings to stains. Great for grease and oily spills.

Powder stain remover


  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1⁄4 cup washing soda
  • 5 drops essential oil (optional)

Blend ingredients into a fine powder. Sprinkle on stains and gently rub with a damp brush. Lifts food and drink stains.

Laundry prewash spray


  • 1⁄2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 20 drops essential oil (optional)

Combine in a spray bottle. Spritz over stains to pre-treat before washing. Removes underarm, sweat, and protein stains.

All-purpose laundry soap


  • 1 cup soap flakes
  • 1⁄2 cup washing soda
  • 1⁄4 cup borax

Grate soap and mix washing soda and borax into a powder. Dissolve 1 tbsp per wash load. Cleans stains while washing.

Boost your homemade stain stick's cleaning power

Amplify the staining fighting superpowers of these recipes by adding supplemental ingredients specifically designed to combat stains.

  1. Enzyme cleaners. Protease and amylase enzymes break down protein and carbohydrate stains like blood, grass, sweat, and food. Add an enzyme-based fruit stain remover.
  2. Sodium hydroxide. This strong alkali helps lift deep set oily stains. Use extreme caution, as sodium hydroxide can damage skin and fabrics.
  3. Surfactants. Detergents like borax, washing soda, and liquid castile soap contain surfactants that lift and penetrate stains.
  4. Acids. Lemon juice, white vinegar, citric acid, and vitamin C tablets all acidify stick recipes to dissolve mineral stains from aluminum, iron, and copper.
  5. Hydrogen peroxide. The oxidizing properties of peroxide help lift organic stains, like armpit stains, and whiten fabrics. Use on cottons and whites.
  6. Prewash sprays. Add a commercial organic prewash spray to stick recipes for more cleaning enzymes and surfactants.
  7. Glycerin. This clear liquid acts as a humectant to draw moisture into stick mixes and keep them spreadable.

While the original recipes make great stain removers on their own, consider boosting the formulas with targeted ingredients for even more cleaning power on extra stubborn stains.

How to use DIY stain sticks?

Follow these tips for best stain removal:

  • Apply to stains quickly. As soon as you notice a new stain on clothes, apply the stain stick.
  • Gently rub into the stain. Use a brush to work the stain remover into the fabric fibers and penetrate the stain.
  • Let rest for 30 minutes. This gives the natural cleaning ingredients time to lift the stain.
  • Use warm wash water. Washing in warm water activates the natural cleaning powers of the ingredients.
  • Scrub set-in natural laundry stains. Dip a toothbrush in water and scrub to tackle stubborn stains.
  • Always pre-treat. Apply homemade sticks to laundry stains before washing, not after, for best results.

It's time to start the next chapter in stain removal—one that's green, clean, and kind to your clothes and the planet.

Different types of stains and their challenges

Stains happen when you least expect them: red wine on your new shirt, mustard on your kid's outfit right before pictures, mud on the soccer uniform. Stains are pesky, but we can beat them with the right know-how. 

  • Grease and oil stains resist water thanks to their oil-based properties. Food grease, cooking oil, makeup residue, and motor oil are common culprits.
  • Blood stains contain protein that adheres to fabric. Cuts, scrapes, and other blood sources often leave their mark. 
  • Grass stains embed vivid chlorophyll in fabric. Active outdoor play can lead to persistent grass stains.
  • Ink stains deposit tenacious dye. Pens, markers, and printer inks are common sources. 
  • Red wine tannins create a stain nightmare. Just a splash of red wine can create a lasting stain.
  • Food stains like tomato sauce, berries, and chocolate contain pigments that get trapped in fibers.
  • Body-related stains—deodorant marks and body oils, for example—present cleaning challenges too.

No matter the type, act fast by blotting and dabbing stains before washing. Avoid hot water or high heat before pretreating, since heat can set stains. 

Over time, stains oxidize and bind tightly to fibers, resisting lifting even with strong detergents. Set-in stains need repeated soaking, scrubbing and spot treatment.

Armed with stain-fighting products and knowledge, you can triumph over stains when they ambush your clothes. It's a battle, but with perseverance, you can send those stains packing every time.

How can I pre-treat stains?

Before you even reach for a homemade stain stick, taking a few simple steps to pre-treat stains can make removal much easier. Pre-treating prepares the stain for washing and prevents setting it deeper into the fabric.

Follow these best practices when you first notice a new stain:

  • Blot the stain. Immediately blot liquid stains with an absorbent cloth or paper towel. Press firmly to soak up as much of the staining substance as possible. Don't rub, which can spread the stain.
  • Rinse under cold water. For food, dirt, or other water-soluble stains, rinse under cold running water while gently dabbing the stain. Cold water keeps stains from setting.
  • Loosen solids. Use a dull knife or spoon to lift off any crusty or sticky solids from the fabric surface. This removes excess staining material.
  • Apply salt. For oil-based stains, sprinkle table salt liberally to absorb grease and draw out the stain. Let sit for a few minutes before brushing off.
  • Freeze gum. Hardened gum can be frozen with an ice cube and then gently scraped off. Place ice over the gum for about 5 minutes.
  • Allow ventilation. Prop up fabric to allow air circulation on both sides. This prevents water rings or concentric staining.

By pre-treating stains as soon as they occur, you give your homemade stain stick a head start on lifting and removing the offending spot or spill once wash time comes.

We have a full article about the best stain removers for clothes! Take a look!

The benefits of a DIY stain stick

No matter how fastidious we are, spills and spots are inevitable. Rather than splurging on commercial stain removers laden with toxins, why not whip up an all-natural DIY stain stick?

Going the homemade route offers a host of benefits:

  • Natural ingredients. Homemade laundry stain removers use gentle, eco-friendly ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and essential oils. Avoiding harsh chemicals is better for your skin and keeps toxic substances out of waterways.
  • Customizable formulas. DIY stain remover recipes can be tweaked and adapted. Add different oils for more cleaning power or scent. Adjust consistency based on storage needs. Cater the formula to the types of stains your family encounters.
  • Specific stain targeting. Commercial products rely on generalized ingredients. But homemade stain removers can be mixed up with specific stains in mind, like coffee, grease, grass, or ink. Target different stain causes for better results.
  • Fun family activity. Making DIY stain sticks is an engaging family activity. Let kids help measure and mix the ingredients while learning about science and sustainability. Bond over laughter when things get messy!
  • Affordable and effective. Compared to pricey commercial options, homemade stain removers provide top-notch stain fighting at a fraction of the cost. Generations have relied on DIY formulas for a reason—they work!

Going the DIY route means an all-natural, customizable, eco-friendly way to tackle laundry stains. Ditch the toxic chemicals and make your own stain stick solution instead. Your wallet, health, and the planet will thank you!

Want to learn more about eco-friendly stain removers? Find out more in our new post!

Stain removal tips for specific fabrics

Fabrics all have their own individual characteristics and properties. Because of this, stain removal techniques may need to be adapted for different types of fabrics. Natural, homemade cleaners can tackle stains on any fabric when used properly, but caution should be taken to avoid damage.

Follow these fabric-specific tips when removing stains to safely care for your clothes.


  • Pretreat cotton stains with a homemade stain stick or natural enzyme cleaner before washing. The enzymes will break down the stain.
  • Use hot water for cotton laundry to fully remove treated stains. Cotton can withstand high heat.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can be used to lift stains from white cotton, but test first for color-safety.
  • Avoid harsh bleaches and chlorine bleach on cotton, as it can damage fibers over time.


  • Gently dab stains on silk instead of rubbing to prevent snags or damage to the delicate fibers.
  • Use a very small amount of mild homemade soap solution. Too much moisture risks water spots on silk.
  • Allow silk garments to fully air dry before wearing again to prevent water spots.
  • Avoid homemade cleaners with lemon, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, as silk fibers are sensitive to acids.


  • Work homemade stain solution gently into wool fibers to avoid shrinking or felting the material.
  • Rinse wool thoroughly after stain treatment to remove all soap residue that can attract dirt over time.
  • Air dry wool clothing flat to prevent stretching from hangers.
  • Do not use heat when cleaning wool, only air or cold water. Heat risks shrinking wool.


  • Wipe leather stains gently with a soft, damp cloth. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.
  • Use a mild soap and water solution, avoiding harsh cleaners that may strip leather's oils.
  • Immediately dry leather after cleaning by patting with a clean, soft towel.
  • Test cleaner on an inconspicuous spot first to check for color transfer or damage.


  • Use warm water rather than hot to prevent shrinking. Avoid bleach.
  • Make sure stains are fully dissolved before drying to prevent setting in heat.


  • Rub stain gently in circular motions to avoid damaging linen's fibers.
  • Rinse thoroughly after treating. Air dry out of direct sunlight to prevent yellowing.


  • Use a suede brush or soft cloth to gently lift stains. Avoid excessive moisture.
  • Use a suede cleaner or gentle vinegar and water solution.
  • Stuff with paper to restore nap when dry.

Brightly colored fabrics

  • Test stain treatments on inside seams first.
  • Use cool water to rinse.
  • Wash separately from other clothes to prevent color transfer.


  • Hand wash gently using minimal homemade stain solution diluted in cool water.
  • Roll the item in a towel to absorb moisture; avoid twisting or wringing.

Handle fabrics gently, follow fabric-specific care tips, and always test homemade cleaners on an inside seam first to prevent damage. With some caution, homemade stain solutions can safely tackle stains on all types of fabrics.

Try the Smart Sheep stain stick

If you’re short on time and long on stains, you may want a powerful stain stick that you don’t have to make yourself. You’re in luck. Buy our stain stick and say sayonara to tough stains. It’s eco-friendly, easy to use, compact, and effective.

Stain stick

“This [Smart Sheep] stain stick is a powerful and natural stain remover that effectively tackles a variety of stubborn stains on clothes. With its formulation using natural ingredients, this stain remover bar proves to be a reliable and convenient solution for removing food, drink, pet, grass, and blood stains.”—Kelly Rene, verified purchaser (five stars)

“I have toddlers and this stick removed set in blueberry smoothie and chocolate ice cream. The kids have sensitive skin and this did not cause any reactions after washing the clothes. I also used it on ring around the collar. This has been the only product that completely removed it.( I have tried almost everything) Pleasant light scent and easy to use. I will be buying more!”—MT, verified purchaser (five stars)

Here’s why our stain stick is a great alternative to other commercial stain removers:

  • Health considerations. Many commercial stain removers contain irritating chemicals and perfumes. Smart Sheep uses a gentle, non-toxic plant-based formula that is hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin.
  • Effectiveness. Smart Sheep stain stick's natural enzyme-powered formula rivals mainstream chemical brands in cleaning power.
  • Convenience. As a pre-made product, Smart Sheep offers stain removal with no mixing required. The handy stick format is easy to toss in your laundry bag.
  • Light scent. A touch of essential oil gives Smart Sheep a light, fresh scent, not overwhelming synthetic perfumes.

While homemade stain removers allow customization, our pre-made natural stain stick provide stellar stain-fighting without the hassle or chemicals. It outperforms mainstream brands.

Stain stick FAQ

What is in a laundry stick?

Typical laundry stain sticks contain detergent for lifting stains, solvents like alcohol or oxyclean to dissolve oils and grease, surfactants to penetrate fibers, fragrances, and/or bleaches. Homemade versions use gentle ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice, soap, vinegar, and essential oils.

What can I use instead of a stain stick?

Instead of a traditional stain stick, you can make DIY paste or gel with baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and dish soap. A sprinkle of borax or oxiclean also works. For on-the-go, try a small spray bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and water.

What is the best homemade stain remover?

The best homemade stain remover will vary depending on the type of stain. However, some of the most effective homemade stain removers include:

  • Baking soda and water. This is a classic stain remover that is effective on a variety of stains. To use, mix together equal parts baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the paste away with cold water.
  • Dish soap and water. This is another effective stain remover that is gentle on fabrics. To use, mix together a few drops of dish soap and water to form a sudsy solution. Apply the solution to the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the solution away with cold water.
  • White vinegar. White vinegar can be used to remove a variety of stains, including grass, blood, and ink stains. To use, mix together equal parts white vinegar and water. Apply the solution to the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the solution away with cold water.
  • Lemon juice. Lemon juice can be used to remove a variety of stains, including fruit and wine stains. To use, mix together equal parts lemon juice and water. Apply the solution to the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the solution away with cold water.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol can be used to remove a variety of stains, including grease and oil stains. To use, apply the alcohol to a clean cloth and blot the stain. Be careful not to rub the stain, as this can spread it. Rinse the area with cold water.

Does vinegar set a stain?

No, vinegar does not set a stain. In fact, it can actually help to remove stains by breaking down the stain molecules. However, it is important to note that vinegar can also damage some fabrics, so it is important to test it in an inconspicuous area first.

Does baking soda bleach clothes?

Baking soda is not a bleach and does not remove fabric color. However, some factors like using hot water or applying baking soda too abrasively can lead to color loss over time. As long as used properly at lower temperatures, baking soda safely lifts stains without bleaching.

How do you permanently stain clothes?

To intentionally and permanently stain clothes, opt for staining agents like ink, paint, food coloring, coffee, mustard, blood, oil, wax, or nail polish. Apply heavily over the fabric and let soak in completely before washing. For best chance of permanence, don't pre-treat the stain, but dry on high heat to help set the stain.

What stains won't come out of clothes?

Some very difficult stains to remove from clothes include oil-based makeup, ink or marker stains that have set in for a long time, blood or food stains that were highly heated in the dryer, or any stain that has remained untreated for more than a few days.

What is the best stain remover trick?

One of the best stain removal tricks is to soak clothes in an enzyme pretreatment solution before washing. Protease enzymes break down proteins and disturb stubborn organic stains. Simply soak garments in an enzymatic fruit stain remover liquid for 1-2 hours before regular washing.

How are stain proof clothes made?

Stain-proof clothes often undergo a treatment process that involves applying a protective barrier to the fabric. This barrier repels liquids and prevents them from being absorbed into the fabric, making it easier to clean off stains.

Further reading

What are the best wool dryer balls?

Are dryer balls good for down jackets?

The guide to using essential oils for laundry

10 essential oil recipes to freshen your laundry

Where can I buy wool dryer balls?

Should I put tennis balls in the dryer?

What are the best laundry detergents for sensitive skin?

What is the best stain remover for white clothes?