How to Get Rid of Every Summer Stain—From Grass to Barbecue Sauce

Keep those summer whites looking fresh all the way through Labor Day and beyond.

August 30, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.

We’ve teamed up with LG STUDIO to share our top tips and tricks for laundry success, starting with the appliances. Our pick: The LG STUDIO WashTower, which has built-in technology that selects just the right cycle for your wash-and-rinse routine. And don’t forget their Styler steam closet—it’s the perfect laundry room plus-one for refreshing your favorite garments, pillows, plush toys, and more.

Summer is the season for picnics, hikes, backyard barbecues, and lazy days spent at the lake. All these sunny activities (fun as they may be) add up to a myriad of laundry challenges, especially tricky stains. Luckily, even the toughest stains are no match for the right technique and a powerful washing machine—like the LG STUDIO WashTower.

From grass stains to spilled cold brew, we zeroed in on eight of the most common stains of the season and the best way to get rid of them.

Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.

1. Grass

Last year one of Home52’s writers put five different grass stain treatments to the test. She found that white vinegar was the most effective way to treat this common summer stain. To tackle grass stains, mix one part distilled white vinegar with one part water. Coat the stain with the vinegar solution, let sit (30 minutes should do it), scrub, and rinse in cool water. Then, treat with detergent, scrub gently, let sit, and rinse again. Launder and check that the stain has disappeared before drying.

2. Sweat

When you notice yellowing from the build-up of sweat and antiperspirant on a garment, a thorough washing is in order. There are many recipes for sweat stains out there on the internet, but for hardy fabrics like cotton, linen, and most synthetic blends, Cheryl Mendelson recommends “one or two exceedingly vigorous launderings” in her cult homekeeping book Home Comforts.

Here’s how: Pretreat the sweat-stained area with a store-bought stain remover (also called a “pretreatment” or “pretreater,” this could be a spray or a stain stick), and let the product sit for 10 minutes. Then presoak the stained garment in a tub of water and an enzyme-based detergent for up to 30 minutes. Next, squeeze out excess water and launder the piece with the hottest water setting that’s safe for the fabric using detergent, a detergent booster, and the right type of bleach for the garment (just check the label; if it’s white, this is the time to break out the chlorine bleach). Rinse very thoroughly, and add an extra rinse cycle on your washing machine. Repeat until the stains fade.

3. Mud

Mud is the rare stain you want to let dry before you treat it. Once it is fully dry use an old toothbrush to scrape away the excess dried dirt. Treat the stain with a stain remover or liquid detergent and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before laundering the garment as usual. If an item is particularly muddy, you may want to launder it separately.

Appliance tip: If you’re not satisfied with your machine’s cleaning powers and it’s older than six years old, you might want to consider upgrading to a new high-efficiency machine (which means it also saves energy and water) like the LG STUDIO WashTower.

4. Ketchup & Barbecue Sauce

Fear not, fries, ribs, hot dogs, and other classic summer fare where ketchup and barbecue sauce are the key condiments. To remove these stains, start by scraping off any remaining ketchup or barbecue sauce, then treat the stain with a stain remover, rub it into the stain, and let the product work for at least 10 minutes before laundering. When choosing the cycle on your washing machine, opt for the warmest water the garment can take (according to the care label) and add the strongest bleach safe for the garment to the load. If it doesn’t come out after one washing, immediately re-launder.

5. Mustard

Remove as much of the mustard as possible and then pretreat the stain with distilled white vinegar. Launder the fabric according to the care label with detergent and color-safe bleach in your washing machine; simply use whatever cycle you’d normally choose for the garment.

6. Berries & Fruits

Again, start by scraping any excess food off of the garment. Run the fabric under cold water to flush the stain out. Squeeze out the water and apply plain white vinegar to the stain. Next, work a stain remover or liquid detergent into the fabric and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then launder using the warmest water the care label allows. If the berry juice remains after washing, try soaking the garment in a solution of color-safe bleach and re-laundering.

Laundry tip: Tackle watermelon stains ASAP. This fruit’s juice disappears when it dries, but when left untreated, watermelon juice will oxidize into pale yellow marks that are almost impossible to remove.

7. Ice Cream (or Iced Coffee with milk)

Ice cream and iced coffee with milk contain protein, which requires an enzyme detergent to remove. Use a clean paper towel to blot up any excess ice cream or coffee. Next, apply an enzyme-based liquid detergent to the stain and rub it into the cloth. Then launder with the warmest water safe for the fabric and more of the enzyme-based detergent.

8. Salad Dressing

You should never use water on oil-based stains like salad dressing. If you’ve got a serious grease spot, you can cover the stain with cornstarch to absorb the oil; after a couple hours, brush it off. Next, apply a stain remover or liquid detergent with enzymes directly to the grease stain. Rub it in so the product gets worked into the fabric’s fibers, then launder using the warmest water the care label allows.

Last words of advice: If the offending stain persists after treating it using any of the methods mentioned above, launder the piece a second time before the garment has a chance to dry. And if it still persists, try a third washing. The key is not to let the garment dry until the stain has disappeared.

For summer items that aren’t easily washable, like silky dresses and seersucker blazers, spot treat stains according to the care label and pop the garment into the LG STUDIO Styler—a nifty steam closet—for a quick and easy refresh.

What are your top stain-fighting tips and tricks? Tell us in the comments!

Reinvent your laundry routine with smart appliances from our friends at LG STUDIO. Their space-saving WashTower is perfect for laundry rooms big and small, thanks to a compact vertical design and neat features like the TurboWash™ 360, which powers through even your largest loads in a swift 30 minutes. To keep your garments (and other treasured items) clean and fresh in between washes, the LG STUDIO Styler steam closet has you covered—it uses the gentle power of steam to deodorize, sanitize, de-wrinkle, and then some.

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Laura Fenton

Written by: Laura Fenton

Laura Fenton is the No Space Too Small columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton.

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shazzy September 1, 2021
how can I remove pen ink from a cotton shirt