Cleaning

A Stain-Removal Trick So Clever, You'll Never Forget It

Red wine stains are no match.

June  7, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

Summer is the season of enjoying with abandon: sun-warm raspberries, eaten by the handful; popsicles from an ice cream truck, dripping down your arm. But that also makes it prime time for stains. Like, blueberry pie remnants on a tablecloth, or red wine dribbled on your white tee shirt. And, of course, there’s the risk of slapping a mosquito during a long, twilight dinner on the porch and finding a dot of red on your pants later.

But summer’s simplest little lifesaver can help prepare you for some of these stains—and you may even already own it. You’ve probably heard that salt or salt water is best for getting out red wine and blood stains. But for your on-the-go summer needs, I present: saline solution, the salt-water drops made for contact lens wearers.

Saline solution comes in a compact, ready-to-tote bottle at the pharmacy, sometimes for as little as $3 or $4, and has a mess-free squirt top that makes it easy to target the tiniest of stains (looking at you, squished mosquitos). And the premixed saline will tackle stains just like a mountain of salt would.

It’s a method to which I can fully attest. Last Memorial Day, someone knocked a glass of red wine all over my mom’s jeans. “Try saline solution,” someone at the restaurant suggested as we frantically dabbed at her pants. Sure enough, we went home and soaked the stain in a bottle of saline solution I found in the bathroom from my contact-wearing days, then washed the jeans as normal, and the stain disappeared.

A few tips:

  • Look for bottles marked “saline solution,” not “contact solution”; the former has fewer ingredients—including, sometimes, boric acid, also a useful stain remover.
  • Saline solution is good in a pinch, to get to work on the stain and keep it wet while you’re out and about; it’ll help with most fabrics. (As always, test the solution in an inconspicuous area of the garment if you’re unsure.)
  • If the garment is dry-clean only, beware. Anton’s Cleaners advises taking it to a professional as soon as possible instead of trying to treat it yourself.

Wherever you’re going this summer—to the beach or a barbecue, on a picnic or a hike—slip a little bottle of saline solution in your bag. When wine is inevitably spilled, squirt a generous amount of saline solution on the stain as soon as it happens—and keep reapplying until you get home and can throw the item in the wash. (You can dab it a bit, too.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“That saline solution is basically water with less than 1% salt in it. And look how much you pay for a couple of ounces ! Just take any old water and add any old salt to it and voila! Saline solution!!”
— Mari
Comment

So, go ahead, have a glass of sangria in your favorite white sundress. You’ll be armed and ready to go.


Have any clever stain-removing tricks? Let us know in the comments!
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56 Comments

cybernurse June 19, 2021
Any suggestions for "surprise stains" (gone unnoticed or pre-treated) found on expensive linen tablecloths, after laundering and coming out of the washer/dryer? I'm heartbroken to find the stains, and I'm afraid to use bleach now, as it may remove more than the original stain. Is it too late?
 
JL June 19, 2021
Had 28 hrs. chem major chemistry effective the early 60s, but chem wasn't my major. I suggest that you try what I described below on a delicate cycle. Don't use bleach, because of oxiclean. You might want to use cold water. Linen, if I remember correctly, comes from a plant, so you should be OK (I think). All I can tell you, is that I used to hand wash in the bathtub my St. John Knits, which were made of 80/20 wool/rayon. They were VERY costly, and they came out OK. BUT, remember that wool is the hair (protein) of an animal, and we wash our hair that is also strands of protein.> Because of EPA regs, dry cleaners got rid of organic cleaning solvents; they use water and soap.> Oh, remember that lather is not generated by saponified fat (soap). A surfactant is used to make the stuff bubble.> Have you ever used FELS-NAPTHA soap? It's a laundry bar & stain remover. Your local hardware store should carry it for a modest price. It's was originally made by Amour, who became Armour-Dial, who sold it to Purex. Lightly wet the stained area (or neck collar of a shirt) with cool water. Then rub the bar over the spot. Let it sit for a short while. Then take an old toothbrush and carefully scrub out the soapy spot and rinse the area with cool water. If it looks OK, you could redo the process, and then follow with the Oxiclean procedure. If you're an RN, should should have had a whacked down course of organic chemistry. You didn't blow up the lab, and so now you're prepared to tackle your tablecloth with the same attitude. Go for it!
 
orit R. June 16, 2021
Any suggestions for old stains?
 
JL June 16, 2021
For stains (clothes, rugs, etc.) I think will be difficult to remove, I spray them with FOLEX, an instant carpet spot remover. It states it removes MOST OLD STAINS. My local grocery store carries a 32 oz. white opaque plastic spray bottle. The bottle states it's mfgd. by FOLEXPORT, INC. in Tualatin, OR 97062; 1-800-253-6102; www.folexcompany.com. Don't remember the cost, but check them out. I REALLY like their product, and have been using it for years.> After I let the sprayed area do it's thing, I put Oxiclean in the washer with whatever detergent I'm using at the time.> Should the stain not be removed with that wash, use the garment (or rug) and reapply with Folex and throw it in the washer with Oxiclean and your detergent for another clean> My caregiver refuses to shave under his arms and leaves armpit stains on his T-shirts. My cleaning method always gets those stains out.> If you've dried blood or wine on your clothes, carefully use OTC peroxide to attack the stain, rinse, use Folex, and the wash with Oxiclean and your detergent. Rome wasn't built in a day, but you'll be successful if you persevere.
 
orit R. June 18, 2021
Thank you 🙏
 
Carla L. June 15, 2021
A funny little trick I learned while sewing my own curtains: if you pick your finger and your blood stains the fabric, it will dissolve and disappear using your own saliva! Tried many times and proven to be true!
 
JL June 15, 2021
It's no surprise--it's a known medical fact. Your saliva is water based. When a red blood cell comes encounters water, hemolysis (destruction of the red cell) occurs. That's why people are NEVER given water intravenously.
 
Chris L. June 15, 2021
For red wine the best thing is white wine - it completely neutralizes the color. Then wash as normal. I dropped an entire glass on a dove gray wool chair - immediately poured white on it and it was like vanishing liquid!
 
Medora V. April 15, 2021
There's a bottle of saline spray for wound cleaning in the medicine chest. Would this work as well?
 
JL June 15, 2021
Isotonic saline is also known as 0.89% NaCl.
 
Medora V. June 16, 2021
Thanks--I think I finally have my answer. Fortunately, I haven't spilled any red wine in the past two months ;)
 
GigiR February 18, 2021
Hi. For removing blood, nothing like peroxide 3%, the one for cleaning scrapes and cuts. Start from the backside of the stain. Pour it on, watch it foam. If needed, rub the fabric together, under the cold water tap. You might also rub the stain with a mild soap bar as well. Good luck.
 
pmporter August 2, 2020
Does this work on turmeric stains? Does anything?
 
Jras June 16, 2021
Direct sunlight!
 
Alicia M. September 21, 2019
If anyone knows how to get the soap color from a Brillo pad out of a linen shirt sleeve, please write in. 🙏🏻
 
Carol H. August 10, 2019
I've used club soda especially for red wine stains.
 
Jen S. July 8, 2019
A comment with nothing to do with the stain removal trick - albeit a great trick I will try...

Why must you film instructional videos soooo slowly. It's annoying. Either the person actually moves that slow- or you're slowing it down. I can't watch them.
 
Carol July 8, 2019
I'm only finding saline solution for sensitive eyes. Does anyone know if it will be equally effective?
 
JL July 8, 2019
Ask your pharmacist if it relates to your health! >
If you're looking to make a saline solution for household cleaning purposes, try weighing out 0.9 grams of fine table salt (NaCl) and add it to 100 milliliters of water (an unopened bottle of water would be best because you don't know what contaminents are in your tap water).
 
Carla L. June 15, 2021
saline solution is really,very salty water, concentrated. So why not just mix your own?
 
cybernurse June 19, 2021
It should be fine. It's essentially saline (salt water) w/o any irritating additives.
 
Marisa F. July 6, 2019
For blood stains I've found peroxide works the best. Keep putting it on the stain and it bubbles up. When the stain has almost disappeard, wash as usual.
 
Judy W. July 6, 2019
How about blood stains? With taking blood thinners, sheets and pillowcases are often blood spotted. I've tried so many things, nothing seems to work well. Don't know how hospitals and motels have such sparkling white sheets.
 
Teresa July 6, 2019
They use Clorox type bleaching agents there is a reason all are white
 
Gabi July 6, 2019
Hydrogen Peroxide will help remove blood stains, even dry, as long as the spot on the fabric has not been subjected to heat.
 
Angela W. August 10, 2019
I found a fantastic stain remover 'S-32' at my local Publix for about $2.50 a bottle. (you can find it on Amazon but they want $9 a bottle!!!) It works really well on blood stains. Just squirt the liquid onto the blood stain then throw into the washing machine. (though, for some reason it is becoming more difficult to find this stain remover, I will have to resort to buying a case of 12 directly from the manufacturer). /Users/angelawalton1/Desktop/81IkLAdu62L._SY679_.jpg
 
macdoka July 21, 2020
See the comment about hydrogen peroxide from Marissa F. A nurse told us that trick, so I’m sure that’s how hospitals manage. Not sure about motels, and but I guess they use bleach and really hot water.
 
Cristina R. June 15, 2021
You don’t need anything special. Just treat it as soon as you can and only use cold water. Rinse with cold water first to get as much of the blood out as you can. Then apply hand soap (or dish soap, whatever you have) and pinch the two sides of the fabric closest to the stain and rub together. I’ve never had this fail.
 
Cristina R. June 15, 2021
You don’t need anything special. Just use cold water and clean it as soon as you can. Use cold water to rinse as much of the blood out as possible then apply liquid hand soap (or dish soap or laundry detergent) and punch the fabric on opposite sides of where the stain is rub together. Rinse with cold water. I’ve never had this fail. Works on all stains.
 
cybernurse June 19, 2021
From a nurse: Start by rinsing w cold water (some rinses out if it's "fresh"). Then pour or dab peroxide on the spot. This "oxidizes" the blood (breaks it down) - you'll see it bubble on contact. Repeat as needed, including a detergent.

(Hospital staff are too busy. Linens are outsourced to commercial laundries where they're treated with HOT 🔥 water and chemical bleaches to clean and sanitize. Stained items wind up discarded.)
 
kate June 28, 2019
Does this (saline solution or just salt + water in general) work on grease stains?? Those are the ones that always get me. I usually go with dish soap or spray n wash, but I haven't found a good solution for more delicate hand-wash fabrics!
 
HalfPint July 1, 2019
Chemically, no, salt+water/saline is not going to break up any grease or oil. I recommend starting with a generous dusting of cornstarch on the grease stain. Let it sit for about 30-60 minutes and then brush off. Then follow with a little diluted Dawn dish detergent or some liquid Tide, brush in gently and rinse, then air dry.
 
auntpat June 16, 2021
Dawn dish soap the blue one will work well with any stain that is food related!
 
Bethany R. June 28, 2019
Great idea! The sun is also a great stain remover (although I don't know what it does for red wine)! I had a tea towel that had a bright yellow stain from a curry with turmeric and an afternoon noon drying in the sun took it right out. Most eco friendly stain remover ever!
 
Mari June 28, 2019
Talk about an expensive way to clean stains!!! That saline solution is basically water with less than 1% salt in it. And look how much you pay for a couple of ounces !
Just take any old water and add any old salt to it and voila! Saline solution!!
 
Kay July 2, 2019
I stash a little saline bottle I my bag - cuz I'm not alway at home.
 
Rosalind P. June 16, 2021
My response exactly. Salt and water -- so cheap. The only need to resort to saline solution is possibly when you're away from salt and water. Even a restaurant situation can use table salt and H2O. The other stain remedies here are all very good. Always flood with water first (cold) and then move on to the stain remover of choice. Cold water is best because hot water can set many stains. Grease and oil need hot water, but first start by sprinkling talcum powder over the stain to absorb the oil
; be sure you know what you're dealing with.
 
Maya June 28, 2019
For any berry stains, remove the garment, put it in a sink and pour boiling water over the stain (literally boiling from a tea kettle or a pot), watch the stain disappear before your eyes.
 
jennifer December 2, 2019
This includes red wine stains. I've saved precious, white, hand-hemstitched linens with this trick.
 
s June 27, 2019
Whenever red wine was spilled on a table cloth, my mother used to just sprinkle some salt on them immediately. Always did the trick.
 
Sandy June 27, 2019
After a waiter dumped a tray of glasses filled with red wine on my husband's white shirt, I discovered white shaving cream as a stain remover. I rubbed in the shaving cream (only use white shaving cream) and let it sit overnight. Washed as usual the next day and not a trace. I also used it on a nice pair of slacks, which were off white. However, I've never tried it on a garment with color so not certain whether it would bleach or not.
 
JL June 27, 2019
Intravenous saline solution is NaCl, 0.9 percent per liter. Make your own using boiled water that has cooled with the pot's cover on. After all, you're only using it for cleaning purposes.