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Removal of stains

Types of stains
A. Classification according to the materials of the stain

i. Vegetable stains:
These are from food such as fruit, tea, coffee, cocoa and grass.
ii. Animal stains:
These often contain animal protein which is “set” or hardened by heat, for example, blood, egg, gravy and milk.
iii. Grease stains:
These can be of animal or vegetable or mineral origin; for example, engine oil, palm oil and animal fat.
iv. Mineral stains:
Examples are ink, paint, medicines, rust, coal-tar and shoe polish.

B. Classification according to the form of the stain
There are three forms which are stated below:

i. Absorbed stains:
These are caused by liquids, which penetrate the fabric easily and become absorbed by it, for example, tea, coffee, beer, and medicine.
ii. Built-up stains:
These tend to stay on the surface and do not flow into the fibres, for example lip stick, crayon and ball-point pen ink.
iii. Compound stains:
These are absorbed into the fabric, and also leave a residue on the surface as do the built-up stains, for example, blood stains: some parts of blood are absorbed, while others remain on top of the fabric.

Stain removing agents

1. Vinegar is a mild acid which can be used to remove excess blue from over-blued article and for brightening colours.
2. Common salts can be used for dissolving blood stains and absorbing ink stains.
3. Fresh tomatoes can be used to remove ink stains.
4. Glycerine can be used to remove chocolate and fruit stains.
5. Lemon juice is also acidic. It can be used with common salts to remove ink, iron rust and medicine stains.
6. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild oxidising bleach that can be used on wool and silk.
7. Sour milk can be used to remove ink and iron rust stains.
8. Laundry ammonia can be used on acid stains such as milk.
9. Turpentine is good for fresh paint.
10. Enzyme washing powder will remove protein stains.

Methods of stain removal
A. Absorbed stains
These are stains which penetrate the fabric. These are the steps to take to remove such stains:

i. Place a pad of clean absorbent fabric under stained area.
ii. Use another clean pad containing the right stain removing agent and work from the outside edge of the stain towards the centre. This drives the stain off rather than into fabric.
iii. Wash the stained area thoroughly and rinse well with clean water.

B. Built-up and compound stains
With these stains, there will be some residue on the surface of the fabric.


i. Place the clean absorbent pad on the stain.
ii. Use another pad containing a suitable remover, and work from the back of the fabric. This procedure drives the stain off rather than into the fabric.