Clean the 5 Most Common Stains, Naturally


There’s little I find more frustrating than walking away from an evening meal in my favourite Italian restaurant, looking down and finding I’ve spilled olive oil on the front of one of my best shirts.

Here come the gallons of caustic, paint-stripping eco-hostile chemicals, futile trips to the cleaners, and cycling through umpteen washes. Or so I thought until very recently. I’ve taken it upon myself to learn all about eco-friendly cleaning tricks (I’m not giving up olive oil any time soon).

Just make sure your cupboard contains the following:

– Table salt
– White wine vinegar
– Cornstarch
– A bottle of cheap white wine
– Eucalyptus oil
– Washing soda (Sodium Carbonate Decahydrate)
Concentrated orange cleaner
– Rubbing alcohol

And here’s how to use them to the five most common types of stain:

1. Red wine

Sprinkle salt or cornstarch on the fresh stain. These substances draw moisture into themselves, and will suck most of the wine out of the material. Next….yes, you guessed it, the old adage is true: splash on some white wine. Leave it for 15 minutes, then dab with warm water.

2. Grass

Mix a cup of white wine vinegar diluted with warm water. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the stain and rub in well, then soak it in the diluted vinegar. Leave to activate, then dab away.

3. Ink

Speed is everything. Soak the stain in rubbing alcohol as quickly as possible. If the stain is persistent, even after three or four washes, then consider re-use options. What colour is the stain? Would it make a nice colour for the whole garment? If so, get your dye out!

4. Blood

Salt is the answer. Not only will it soak up fluids, it breaks down the proteins in blood. Soak the fresh stain in a strong saline solution. Washing soda also breaks down proteins, so use this next with some warm water.

5. Grease

The best way to deal with oils is to mop them up. Use salt or cornstarch, combined with a paper towel. (Cat litter is apparently a great alternative!). Once you’ve sponged up as much as you can, bring out the concentrated orange cleaner to loosen those last pockets of grease.

There are a few important things to keep in mind. Firstly, these processes need time to work – patience is a virtue. Secondly, the water you use shouldn’t be more than lukewarm – you don’t want to cook the stain into the material. And thirdly, dab – don’t rub the stain in further. Simple, effective and natural – with nary a stain on your conscience.

Image: gabyu

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.