Today's detergents are remarkably effective for general stain removal, but there are a few other products that you should keep on hand to deal with stubborn stains.
1. Bleach. For dingy clothing, white or colored, you need bleach. Chlorine bleach is for white and colorfast clothes, and all-fabric bleach brightens colors. Be sure to follow instructions carefully with chlorine bleach. Add the bleach after the tub is full and just as agitation starts.
2. Enzyme Stain Remover. For stubborn organic stains such as wine, dairy, foods, berries and grasses, you need an enzyme stain remover such as Biz, Axion or my very own Mary Ellen's Stain Remover Formula One for white and colorfast clothes and Formula Two for colored clothes. Mary Ellen's Stain Remover removes all these stains in a matter of seconds. My products can even be used for stains that remain on garments that have been already washed and dried. For baby formula stains use Biz, Axion or Mary Ellen's Bye Bye Baby Stains (Formula One for whites and colorfast clothes and Formula 2 for colored clothing).
3. Hydrogen Peroxide. For fresh bloodstains, the solution is three percent hydrogen peroxide (the kind sold as an antiseptic, not a bleach). For fresh or old blood stains, use Mary Ellen's For Those Days. Apply the product, watch the bubbles appear, and when it stops, rinse item with water. Repeat until stain is gone.
4. Rubbing Alcohol. For ink stains, have rubbing alcohol on hand. Sponge alcohol onto the stain until all ''bleeding'' stops. Let dry and repeat. Launder in hottest water, using non-chlorine bleach.
5. Prewash Stain Treatment. For a heavily soiled load—like cooking oils and motor oils, especially on synthetics—use a prewash soil and stain remover such as Shout or Spray 'n Wash. Apply liquids and sprays just before laundering the garment, and reapply if the stain doesn't go away. The product in stick form should be used on the fresh stain, though you can postpone actual laundering for a week. Use the hottest water the fabric can stand. (Careful. These products may make neon and fluorescent colors fade and run.)
Watch Video: Removing Summer Stains
Stain Removers for Special Situations:
For rust stains, you need a product specially made for this problem such as Rit Rust Remover.
For deodorant stains, vinegar may help. Apply, rinse, apply laundry detergent directly to stain, then launder.
For fabric softener stains, just use bar laundry soap like Fels Naptha, available in large supermarkets such as Kroger.
A note about colorfastness: If you're not sure whether a garment is colorfast, mix one part bleach with four parts water, then dab a bit of this mixture onto the garment in a hidden area with a cotton swab. After one minute, blot dry. If there is no color change, chlorine bleaching is safe. Separately test all colors and any trim on the garment.