Dealing with freshly stained clothing is just like getting a pimple: Your first instinct is a full-throttle attack until the unsightly blemish is gone.
But much like DIY extractions, non-strategized scrubbing can do more harm than good. “Some fabrics start to distort when you begin rubbing,” warns John Mahdessian, president of Madame Paulette cleaners (and he should know his company not only counts big brands like Louis Vuitton and Alexander Wang as clients but also the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute). “Chaffing is also a possibility often it produces a flat surface where you see it has been rubbed. The best option is to take your items to the cleaners to have the stain removed properly.”
That said, you won’t always have the the time, money or patience to source out treatment. That’s when, according to Mahdessian, knowing the source of your spill is key. There are three major categories it can fall under protein-, earth- or oil-based and each responds to a different mix of chemicals, soap and water. You’ll find the tried-and-true formula for every possibility in the slideshow above, along with an easy rundown of which ones work for what.
Before you start blending, though, read on for John’s five-step method for lifting any unwanted mark:
1. Always start by testing the solution on a hidden seam or some inconspicuous area beforehand. That way if there’s any color loss, bleeding or fabric deterioration, you’ll catch it before the whole garment is ruined.
2. If the formula passes the test, move on to the actual stain. First you want to remove all excess residue from affected area by using a spoon or a similarly shaped tool.
3. Place a white towel or cloth underneath your spot of concentration.
4. Now that the prep work is done, you can start applying solution. This should be done by way of white fabric dipped in formula, which you’ll gently tap repeatedly to the mark in questionno excessive pressure or digging of fingernails, please!
As the stain begins working through the material, keeping adjusting the catch-all swatch from step #3 to a clean section. That keeps unwanted grime from redepositing.
5. After the blemish is gone, rinse it under water with a fresh cloth (in other words, not the one that just collected all the gook) and dry the wet ring by placing it under a unused towel while lightly dabbing it with another. Start from the center and move to outer areas in a circular motion.
Want to speed up the process? Use a blow dryer on warm and heat in the opposite direction: the outer areas firststill in a circular motionfollowed by the center.