Our Handy Stain Removal Guide

Accidents will happen: all too frequently (in apparent defiance of the laws of probability) to a favourite piece of clothing, brand new carpet or treasured piece of furniture. If you don’t want to carry around the ghost of an unfortunate can-opening incident, or buy a rug to hide the evidence of a tipsier-than-usual evening, then there’s plenty of advice all over the internet on how to treat stains made by everything from beer to beetroot and grass to grease. However, there are some treatment tips that apply to all stains: follow these, and you’ll be in with a much better chance of having stain-free carpets, clothes and upholstery.

1. Be prepared!

Keep a well-stocked stain removal kit in your cleaning cupboard, so you can act quickly when accidents happen – it’s the best way to prevent a mishap developing into a costly catastrophe.

My under the sink “where-to-go-to-in-the-event-of-disaster” area contains rubber gloves, white cotton rags, sponges, an old kitchen spoon to scoop up any residue, Sticky Stuff Remover for anything adhesive/tar/oil based, Chemdry® Stain Extinguisher for carpets, Stain Remover Spray for non-washable fabrics and White Wonder Cleaning Cream for… just about everything. Don’t forget that there are also plenty of natural solutions – white vinegar and lemons are always worth having on hand for their cleaning properties.

And if you find you’re forever cleaning up stains on carpets and upholstery, our Bissell® Spotclean® Emergency Stain Remover can be called into action to suck up spills in seconds.

2. Read the instructions.

Follow the instructions on any stain removal products, and take note of any surfaces on which they cannot be used: many a silk shirt’s suffered unnecessarily from such inattention.

3. Protect yourself.

Always make sure there’s adequate ventilation if using solvents. Wear suitable gloves; clear the room of kids and pets and take as much care as possible to keep cleaning products off your skin and out of your eyes.

4. Spot test!

Always test any stain removal methods in a hidden seam/hem or inconspicuous spot, checking for colourfastness – and don’t use them if the colour changes at all.

5. Don’t use coloured cloths.

Always use white cloths, preferably cotton, or uncoloured paper or kitchen towels to apply cleaning products or blot stains – coloured ones can transfer dyes and make things even worse. Old white sheets and shirts make great cleaning rags, and can be ripped up into whatever size suits.

6. DON’T mix stain removal chemicals.

This can lead to toxic odours and less than satisfactory results, so always choose the most suitable product for the job.

7. Wash treated clothes.

Remember to thoroughly wash treated garments to remove any residual stain remover as well as the stain.

8. If you can’t wash it – get it to the dry cleaner.

Non-washable fabrics may need to be cleaned professionally. Make sure you point the stain out when you take it in and describe what it is – and tell the cleaner which products you’ve used if you’ve already had a go yourself.

9. It takes time — be patient.

Some stains may need repeat treatments, and little and often is better than ‘blitzing’. You may end up feeling like an inspirational spider in a cave – try, try trying again – but the results can be well worth it.

10. Some stains are permanent.

In an ideal world every stain would be removable, but this isn’t always possible. Some stains, including inks, dyes and some rust, can’t be removed without further damage. At some point you may have to make a judgement call and realise a smaller stain is better than a larger area of damage.


THE GOLDEN RULE: Treat stains at once, or as quickly as possible.

We’re probably all guilty of leaving a stain for an hour/day/week/month and then feeling frustrated when we finally get round to tackling it and it refuses to shift. Of course, there are times when it’s simply not practical to tackle a stain immediately – or you don’t notice it straight away – but otherwise, save yourself some trouble and recrimination and clean it up NOW!