Stains are simply a fact of life. There are the accidental drips from coffee and red wine, the grass and dirt on your kids' pants, and the dreaded but unavoidable pit stains. But don't toss anything in the trash just yet; check out our list of laundry stain removers to get your clothing, towels, and bedding looking brand new.
For a color-safe option that can fight a variety of stains, we recommend OxiClean's Versatile Stain Remover. The powder formula can be mixed with water to form a paste or a pre-soak liquid, then added to your washing machine to boost the power of your regular detergent. Keep reading to see the rest of our picks, including spray, stick, and powder types! And if you're trying to remove a specific type of stain, check out our buying guide so you know exactly what to look out for.
When choosing a laundry stain remover, you should know what type of stains you're dealing with so that you can pick the product with the most effective ingredients. You will also want to consider the type of fabric. In this guide, we will help you find the best stain removers for food, grease, sweat, and more.
When it comes to stain removal, the type of stain matters. Red wine and blood may look similar on your white t-shirt, but they actually require different stain removal methods.
Stains can be classified as enzymatic, oxidizable, greasy, and particulate, although they usually fall into more than one category. Because of this, many stain removers contain ingredients to fight multiple types of stains at once.
Enzymatic stains are created by organic materials like blood, grass, urine, and eggs. For these types of stains, you should use an enzyme cleaner, which contains ingredients that target organic particles and help dissolve them. Look for a stain remover that specifies that it contains enzymes.
Common enzymes include protease, which targets proteins; lipase, which targets fat; and amylase, which targets starches. Enzyme stain removers usually contain a combination of multiple enzymes to target all parts of the stain.
Oxidizable stains can be recognized by their bright colors; think red wine, juice, lipstick, and coffee. To treat these stains, you should look for a stain remover that contains a bleaching agent, which will remove the color-causing compounds and render the stain invisible.
It’s best to stay away from bleach itself, as it tends to be quite harsh and can remove the dye from colored garments. Instead, look for hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate, also called oxygen bleach. These ingredients are gentler than bleach and are generally safe to use on both whites and colors.
Greasy stains come from things like motor oil and oil-based cosmetics. Because they naturally repel water, they require a stain remover that contains a surfactant. Surfactants have features of both oil and water. When applied to a greasy stain, they help the grease become more water-soluble so it can be lifted from your clothing.
Dish detergent is a common household surfactant, which is why it’s so good at cleaning oil off your dishes. Common surfactants in stain removers include sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and alcohol ethoxylates.
Particulate stains usually come from being outside and include soil, dirt, and mud. To remove them, use a cleaner that contains components called builders.
Builders work to soften your laundry water by removing certain mineral ions. They help disperse soil particles and also increase the effectiveness of surfactants. Ingredients to look for include polycarboxylates, sodium carbonate, silicates, and zeolites.
Stain removers come in a few different formulas with various application methods. To decide which one will work best for you, consider the size of your stain and how much time you have to clean it.
Spot treatments are applied directly to the stain and come in the form of a spray bottle, squeeze bottle, pen, or bar. Once applied, manufacturers may recommend letting the garment sit anywhere from a few minutes to overnight, depending on the severity of the stain.
Some spot treatments are designed to be used right before your clothes are washed, while others can sit for up to a week in your laundry basket. Spot treatments can also be used on other items, like upholstery and carpets, provided the fabric falls under the manufacturer’s recommendations.
For larger stains, multiple stained items, or general dinginess, a laundry treatment can be more efficient. These are usually powder or liquid stain removers that you add to your washing machine along with your detergent.
They work to boost the performance of your detergent and target an entire load of laundry at once. You can also mix laundry treatments with water to create a pre-soak or a paste for spot treatment, which can be helpful for heavily soiled items.
Portable stain removers are spot treatments that are designed to be easy to use while on the go. They usually take the form of a pen or a stick. If you’re wearing clothes that can be easily stained, you can throw a portable stain remover in your bag in case of emergency. They’re also great for travel.
With portable stain removers, it’s important to choose one that won’t leave any residue behind and doesn’t require washing after using. Also, make sure it has a tight lid and is small enough to fit in your bag.
Not all laundry stain removers are safe for all items of clothing. Before you buy, check the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding what types of fabric the stain remover is safe for.
Pay special attention if you plan to use it on natural surfaces like wool, leather, or linen or delicate fabrics like silk and lace; certain ingredients can be too harsh for these surfaces. In addition, stain removers are usually not recommended for use on clothes marked dry clean only.
If you plan to use the stain remover on colored clothing as well as whites, you will need one that won’t remove the dye from your clothes. Bleach is an obvious ingredient to stay away from but is not the only ingredient that can lift dye from fabric.
The best way to determine if the stain remover can be used on colored clothes is to check the product’s description for an indication that it’s color-safe. It can also be helpful to read reviewer comments to see if anyone experienced unwanted bleaching.
Lastly, if you’re still concerned, it doesn’t hurt to do a spot test before you wash an entire load!
Ingredients in laundry stain removers can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions from laundry detergents, keep an eye out for common irritants. These include preservatives, parabens, dyes, solvents, emulsifiers, and enzymes.
If you prefer to avoid synthetic ingredients, you can find stain removers made from natural ingredients, which may be less harsh for some people.
Our list includes laundry stain removers in a variety of formulas, including powders, gels, and liquids. Some are small and portable so you can start fighting stains right after they happen, while others can be added directly to your load of laundry.
Versatile Stain Remover
Tide To Go
Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar & Stain Remover
Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover
Advanced Action Gel
Laundry Stain Remover Spray
Max Force Gel Stain Remover Stick
Natural Stain Remover
An Oxygen-Based Powder That Doubles as a Household Cleaner
Take These Stain Remover Pens With You
Get Rid Of Stains From Oil, Grease, and Sweat
Plant-Powered Cleaning With No Artificial Scents or Colors
A Spray Gel That Targets Set Stains
Triple Enzyme Action Fights Proteins, Starches, and Oils
Concentrated Gel in a Convenient Stick Applicator
A Stain Remover Spray Made From Natural Ingredients
A Stain and Odor Buster for Pet Owners
Lift Away New and Old Stains Alike
|Amount||5 lbs.||0.33 fl. oz. each||5 oz.||1 gal.||22 fl. oz. each||22 fl. oz.||6.2 fl. oz. each||25 fl. oz.||32 fl. oz.||2 fl. oz. each|
|Application||Powder||Pen||Bar||Liquid||Gel spray||Liquid spray||Gel stick||Liquid spray||Liquid||Liquid|
|Main ingredients||Sodium carbonate, sodium carbonate peroxide, C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, sodium chloride||Sodium alkyl sulfate, hydrogen peroxide, alkyl dimethyl amine oxide, trimethoxy benzoic acid||Soap, coconut acid, palm acid, tallow acid||Caprylyl/capryl glucoside, laureth 7, viable bacillus cultures||Ethoxylated alcohol, sodium dodecylbenzene sulphonate, sodium hydroxide||Protease, lipase, amylase enzymes||Sodium lauriminodipropionate, protease enzyme, amylase enzyme||C9-C11 alcohol ethoxylate, decyl glucoside, protease, mannanase, amylase, lipase, cellulase||Low foaming surfactants, bacillus spore blend, zinc salt||Anionic, nonionic, and silicone surfactants|
|Color safe||Yes||Yes||Yes||Not provided||Yes||Not provided||Yes||Yes||Yes||Not provided|
|Best for||Colorfast fabrics||Food, drink stains||Grease, oil, sweat stains||Food, wine, dirt stains; baby messes, pet accidents||Difficult stains||Enzymatic and oily stains on cotton or poly-cotton||Grease, oil, dirt, grass, blood, food stains||All stains||Urine, feces, blood, vomit, grease, oil stains||All stains|
|Main ingredients||Sodium carbonate, sodium carbonate peroxide, C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, sodium chloride|
|Best for||Colorfast fabrics|
|Amount||0.33 fl. oz. each|
|Ingredients||Sodium alkyl sulfate, hydrogen peroxide, alkyl dimethyl amine oxide, trimethoxy benzoic acid|
|Best for||Food, drink stains|
|Ingredients||Soap, coconut acid, palm acid, tallow acid|
|Best for||Grease, oil, sweat stains|
|Ingredients||Caprylyl/capryl glucoside, laureth 7, viable bacillus cultures|
|Color safe||Not provided|
|Best for||Food, wine, dirt stains; baby messes, pet accidents|
|Amount||22 fl. oz. each|
|Ingredients||Ethoxylated alcohol, sodium dodecylbenzene sulphonate, sodium hydroxide|
|Best for||Difficult stains|
|Amount||22 fl. oz.|
|Ingredients||Protease, lipase, amylase enzymes|
|Color safe||Not provided|
|Best for||Enzymatic and oily stains on cotton or poly-cotton|
|Amount||6.2 fl. oz. each|
|Ingredients||Sodium lauriminodipropionate, protease enzyme, amylase enzyme|
|Best for||Grease, oil, dirt, grass, blood, food stains|
|Amount||25 fl. oz.|
|Ingredients||C9-C11 alcohol ethoxylate, decyl glucoside, protease, mannanase, amylase, lipase, cellulase|
|Best for||All stains|
|Amount||32 fl. oz.|
|Ingredients||Low foaming surfactants, bacillus spore blend, zinc salt|
|Best for||Urine, feces, blood, vomit, grease, oil stains|
|Amount||2 fl. oz. each|
|Ingredients||Anionic, nonionic, and silicone surfactants|
|Color safe||Not provided|
|Best for||All stains|
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