A slight bump is all it takes for a glass of red wine to spill down the front of your dream dress. There is no time to buy a new dress, so what do you do next?
First, off, here’s the good news. The sooner you catch a stain and treat it, the better your chances of removal. If you treat that punch stain on your prom dress right away, it will probably be gone in no time.
The other good news? You’ve got our handy top tricks for removing stains right here to guide you through it.
How To Remove Beverage Stains:
Step 1: Treat the Stain
When in doubt, salt it out! Apply a small mound of table salt to the stain. Press down with a rag to encourage the salt to absorb the stain from the fabric of your dress.
Do this as soon as the stain occurs. This treatment works best when used immediately after the spill.
If you have a stain stick handy like a Tide Pen or a Shout Wipe (which we recommend as a great thing to carry in case of emergencies), you can apply it after you try the salt. The solution inside the pen or wipe will help lift the stain from the fabric. Read the instructions first on your particular product to make sure you use it correctly.
Make sure your stain remover pen or wipe doesn’t react badly with the fabric of your dress. Lift up the hem of your skirt and test it first on a hidden spot near the ground. If the fabric looks okay in the test spot, you have the go-ahead to treat the stain.
Step 2: Flood the Stain with Water
Use this step when the salt trick does not remove enough of the stain. It also works if you noticed the stain long after the spill happened.
Douse a clean rag in a similar color as your dress (a white rag will leave white lint on a dark dress, and vice versa) with cold sparkling soda water and blot the stain generously.
You don’t want your dress completely soaked, so avoid pouring soda water directly onto the gown. Using a white cloth or paper towel is key. Beverage stains are best treated with cold water. For oil and grease stains, hot water is a better pick.
Step 3: Dry the Stain
Use a dry cloth in a similar color as your dress. Dark cloth for dark dresses and light cloth for light dresses. Blot the stain and absorb as much of the water and cleaning solution as possible.
Be sure to blot the stain with a steady hand – do not rub back and forth. A rubbing motion can cause the stain to further set into the fabric.
Step 1: Consider the type of food
Olive oil or butter stains require a different treatment from the watery red mark left behind by a beet, strawberry or tomato.
We’ve already recommended that watery stains are treated with cold water (to prevent spreading), and oily stains are treated with very hot water (to break through the oily film and dissolve the stain). You can also try white vinegar to help lift the stain.
If your stain came from the juice of a vegetable or fruit, treat as if it were a beverage stain. Follow the instructions in the beverage stain removal section above for best results. If your stain came from a buttery sauce, sticky syrup, salad dressing or olive oil, your best bet is to treat is as follows.
Step 2: Treating the Oil Stain
Oil stains are among the toughest to target because of the way it coats the fabric of your garment. The first step is to use a treatment to absorb the oils in the stain. Read the care label on the inside of your dress before you start.
If the fabric is to be washed in cold water only, do not try the warm water rinse discussed below. Your best bet is to use a dry chalk stain stick (like Janie Stick Spot Cleaner on Amazon).
If you didn’t plan ahead by purchasing a dry spot cleaner, your next best bet is a piece of chalk. The closer the chalk is to the color of your dress, the better. Many kids chalk sets carry an array of colors, so raid your little sister’s art supplies if necessary.
Once you have the chalk in hand, grind it down by drawing hard on a plate or in a little bowl. Alternately you can cut off a small piece of the chalk and crush it in a pill crusher or between two spoons to turn it into powder.
Next, press the fine chalk powder onto the stain, cover with a cloth and push it against the fabric. The added pressure will allow the chalk to soak up the oils in the fabric. You can even try rubbing it in gently to further remove the grease or oil.
If you have a dry spot cleaner stick, you will find that most come equipped with a handy miniature bristle brush at one end. Allow the chalk to sit on top of the stain for a few minutes. Then use this bristle brush to firmly brush the chalk off the stain.
Continue brushing until all of the chalk is removed – and hopefully the stain is as well.
For a garment that is OK to expose to high heat, you can also use a hot water trick. Cold water doesn’t have the power to cut through oils. However, when heated it breaks up grease to help wash out the stain.
Begin this process by rubbing a small bit of Dawn dish detergent into the stain. Thanks to Dawn’s ability to loosen oils, it has an underground following for grease stain removal.
Use Some Elbow Grease
Unlike the beverage stain, put in some effort into truly scrubbing at the grease stain. Use your nail, even, to work the detergent into the oil spot. Once the detergent is thoroughly in the stain, it’s time to rinse.
Place the dress over a bowl with the stain portion draped over the center of the bowl. Next, pour very hot water on top of the stain with the idea of it rinsing straight through the fabric into the bowl below. You can repeat this process twice if your fabric is OK to be exposed to water and detergent.
Step 3: Dry the Stain
Drying the dress with a microfiber cloth is one of the best ways to get the moisture out. If the dress is a natural fabric, using a hair dryer on a very low heat setting can also help eliminate the ring of water after spot treating.
How to Remove Makeup Stains
Most makeups are oil-based (foundation, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, lipgloss) so they will benefit from the same stain removal process as food-based spots.
How to Remove Deodorant Stains from Your Dress
Step 1: Grab a Dryer Sheet
If you have access to a dryer sheet, use it to rub across the stain.
Step 2: Dryer Sheet Alternatives
If you don’t have a dryer sheet, wet a paper towel or cloth in a similar color to your gown. Dark cloth with dark gowns, white or light colored cloths with light gowns. Rub it across the deodorant spot.
Be sure to check the label on your garment first to ensure it can take water without ruining the fabric. When you can’t find a separate cleaning rag, you can also dip a small portion of the hem into a bit of water. Then rub that together with the deodorant stained spot to remove it.
Final Thoughts on Stain Removal
Regardless of your immediate stain removal tactic, these two things are for sure:
- Treat it right away
- Always get it professionally laundered after
- Be prepared in case of stains by bringing a few key stain remover items in your evening clutch: a Tide stain stick, a dry cleaning spot stick or chalk, a dryer sheet, and a little piece of cloth in a similar color of your dress. This is like a stain insurance policy that will keep you covered in most emergencies.
The stain may look like it’s gone from the fabric after you treat it. Look closely as it can set further into the fabric if you don’t get it professionally cleaned. Remember to remove your stain in a well-ventilated area if you’re using hydrogen peroxide or any other strong cleaning solution.
You should also wear gloves if coming into contact with any dry cleaning solvent chemicals or enzyme presoak products. Remember to launder with care according to the label.
Stains can warp the color on your dress if they sit for days and weeks. The smell of the stain can attract moths who may take a nibble out of your pretty pieces. Take good care of your dress investment by remembering this final step.