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:
“Granted, "saline solution" intended to be put in eyes would be sterile, but I somehow doubt that "mom's jeans" would get an infection from being doused with a bit of less-than-sterile liquid. Add some boric acid if you think it'll help; that stuff is cheap too.”
— isw
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!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alicia Meeks
    Alicia Meeks
  • Carol Hollis
    Carol Hollis
  • Jen Schultz
    Jen Schultz
  • Carol
    Carol
  • Marisa Franca
    Marisa Franca
Comment
Annie Quigley

Written by: Annie Quigley

Writer

32 Comments

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).
 
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
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
draya3 June 27, 2019
I've used 1 part blue Dawn dish soap (Not sure if the color matters - probably not) and 1 part hydrogen peroxide for many years. It's gotten everything out and not damaged any fabric, to date. I mix it and keep a spray bottle in the laundry room. Spray stain before washing and they are all gone.
 
Deborah S. June 27, 2019
Here's a trick from the Altar Guild. Yep, the folks who deal with wine and lipstick stains every week. Fels Naptha soap! Works like a charm. One Holy Week, the clergy just kept rinsing the linens and sticking them in the refrigerator (emergency trick known to Altar Guild in many denominations to hold wine stained linens). On Wednesday, the baggie was stuffed and we were low on linens. I hit all the stained linens with Fels Naptha, washed in hot water and they all sparkled! Now if ironing all those linens was so easy.
 
BDale June 27, 2019
Red wine spill to non-dry cleanable fibers or fabrics? Immediately apply 1/2 white wine and 1/2 seltzer water solution.
 
icharmeat June 28, 2019
is that solution applied to the garment or to the wearer (spritzer, anyone?) . Possibly both (guaranteed not to stain).
 
Lori June 30, 2019
👆🏼😂
 
Bettelou June 27, 2019
Here is an easy, practical way to remove stains.....https://cleanandsimplecleaning.com/removing-stains-hydrogen-peroxide/
 
Ann June 27, 2019
This is worth trying. Since most of us aren’t running around with salt, gallon jugs of water, and boric acid in our bags, a small squirt bottle of saline is completely sensible, at least to start cleaning the stain immediately. Once home, further soaking would help remove any remaining stain.
 
Heather June 27, 2019
sounds like it would be helpful when you are out & about- I can't stand the smell of tide sticks
 
Bettelou June 27, 2019
Not to mention chemical's used by Tide. Try hydrogen peroxide....https://cleanandsimplecleaning.com/removing-stains-hydrogen-peroxide/
 
Carla H. June 27, 2019
Seltzer for stains. Salt water for stains.