GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you operate a wash-dry-fold service, or are thinking about offering one, my column this month is for you. I’m going to talk about the most common stains I encountered over the years, a couple of very difficult stains, and my solutions for removing them.

Plus, I’ll share a simple thing to do to actually reduce the number of stains that your customers get in the first place! (And this applies to self-service customers as well as drop-off customers.)

There are two types of stains: stains that end up in a person’s laundry, usually the result of eating or drinking; and stains accidentally left by your Laundromat (a color run, or a pen breaking open in the dryer, for instance).

Most stains can be effectively and safely removed, usually by using common household cleaning items. Stubborn stains may require stronger chemicals, more soaking time, or repeated washings.


Let’s take a look at the categories of stains commonly seen in a laundry:

Protein Stains — Examples are egg, vomit, wine, blood, urine, tomato juice or sauce, baby formula, tea, coffee, feces and sweat. Use a Liquid Tide solution (more on that coming up).

Petroleum-Based Stains — Grease, ink, crayon and makeup are the toughest stains to remove.

Color Runs — This is caused when a dye within a garment bleeds during washing.

To fix a color run on colored clothes, soak overnight with oxygen bleach, then wash as usual in cold or warm water. Repeat as necessary.

If a color run affects items that are supposed to be 100% white, you can soak them in a 10% bleach solution. This is why I always kept a couple of top loaders in my mats. They’re great for lifting the lid to soak. In lieu of a top loader, you can use a 5-gallon bucket. It’s better to soak stained whites with less bleach but a longer time.

And now, the stain removers that I’m familiar with and what they’re best at removing (remember to always read and follow label instructions):

Liquid Tide — This well-known household detergent is formulated to remove food stains, body stains, grass, and even some greases and oils.

For those who want a simple, effective and safe method to remove 80% of the stains you encounter, mix one-quarter Tide with three-quarters water in a spray bottle. It’s far cheaper to use than any of the prepared stain removers out there, in my opinion, and the absolute best. We called it our “Mystery Spot Remover.”

Get the “Heavy Duty” version if you can. It does a little better job on grease and oil. But regular Tide is still great due to its excellent enzymes that basically eat the stains and … it’s safe on nearly all washable garments!

If you only had one stain-removing chemical to use, this is it. Use it in cold or warm water, and soaking helps. If the stain does not come out, either repeat, or try a different chemical or product.

An exception is an ink stain. It will require a solvent-based chemical for removal.

Hydrogen Peroxide — It will remove blood stains, berries, red wine, body stains, coffee stains and urine, plus it removes odors. It safely brightens colors and will even whiten whites. Combined with Tide, I found it to be a very effective and inexpensive stain-removing system.

(Warning: Never mix peroxide with chlorine bleach, vinegar or ammonia! Toxic gases will be the result. Besides, chlorine bleach cancels out peroxide in the water.)

Even though peroxide is safe when used properly, if you plan to use it at full strength on a stain, test an inconspicuous area of the garment first.

(Fun fact: The biggest active ingredient in Liquid Clorox 2 is hydrogen peroxide.)

When Oxyclean is mixed with warm water, it becomes … hydrogen peroxide!

Ammonia — It’s dirt cheap and works on all body stains, most food stains, and even some grease stains.

If you have a well-ventilated area, ammonia is a great overall stain remover to use, ranking right after Tide and peroxide in safe removal. However, the smell can get bad with no ventilation.

As with peroxide, never mix ammonia with chlorine bleach; doing so creates a toxic gas.

Citrus Cleaner — Either orange- or lemon-based, it can be useful for difficult stains such as grease.

White Vinegar — It’s usually about 4% to 7% acetic acid. Use one-half cup to reduce odors, and it helps whiten and brighten. Since it is slightly acetic, it has some limited antimicrobial properties. It’s good for treating the same stains as peroxide, and is hypoallergenic. Caution: Don’t mix with bleach or peroxide.

Borax — It has a pH of 9.5, so it can make a difference on all your laundry by softening the water in the machine.

Hard water requires more detergent and hotter temperatures. It also shortens the life of washers because encrustations of calcium and magnesium build up.

If your mat doesn’t have an effective water softener, one-half cup of Borax for a double loader can do the trick.

Baking Soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate — This also helps with soften hard water, but its pH of 8.3 means it’s not quite as alkaline as Borax. Baking soda deodorizes, whitens and brightens; hotels use it for their towels.

Baking soda’s ability to neutralize acids means softer water, allowing detergents to work better. You can mix baking soda with other chemicals (but not vinegar) to form a wet paste for really stubborn stains. Its bubbling action lifts stains from fabrics. You can even let the paste dry out overnight for better results.

Chlorine Bleach — This works well on all-white underwear and towels, but that’s about it! Anything else will likely get bleach stains that can never be removed. Chlorine can also weaken fabrics to the point of tearing or creating a hole if poured on directly at full strength.

Dishwashing Liquid — Not my favorite choice but it is formulated to dissolve grease on dishes, so it may help on some grease-stained items.

RustGo® — As the name implies, this works like magic on rust stains. Instantly disappears right before your eyes! It contains hydrofluoric acid, so double gloves, face mask, goggles and great ventilation are necessary.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.