Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 22, 2020

Removing Stains Safely

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Everyone needs to remove a stain at one time or another. When you’re cleaning up one -- especially if you’re dealing with bodily fluids like blood, urine, vomit, or poop -- you need to make sure you do it in a safe, sanitary way. There are general tips to follow, as well as techniques for certain stains.

General Tips

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No matter what you're cleaning, before you start, make sure there’s no one around who could accidentally touch the dirty material. When dealing with the stain, wear disposable gloves. You might want to change into comfortable cleaning clothes too. Always clean toward the stain and work inward so that you don’t spread the mess around. Remember to never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia, since the combination creates toxic gases. Breathing them in can cause serious health issues.

Blood on Clothes

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If you get blood on your clothes, rinse them under cold running water right away. While you do that, rub some liquid detergent or a bar of soap on the stain, then let the water run over it and repeat. After that, soak the clothing in cool water for 30 minutes. If that doesn't do the trick, put a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide on the stain for a couple of minutes, then rinse.

Blood on Carpet

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Consult the manufacturer's instructions or label for cleaning a blood stain on a carpet or rug to get the best results. A general rule, however, is to mix a teaspoon of mild detergent with half a pint of cold water and apply a bit of the solution on the stain and blot it with cloth or paper towel. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

Urine, Mucus, or Baby Formula on Clothes

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The technique is the same for all three. Start by scraping off any residue. Mix half a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap and a tablespoon of ammonia into a quart of lukewarm water. Soak the fabric for about 15 minutes and then rub the stain gently with a cloth. Soak for another 15 minutes, rinse, then soak it in a cleaning product that has enzymes for at least half an hour. After that, machine-wash the clothes as normal.  

What if They're On Carpet?

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If you have urine, mucus, or baby formula on your carpet, blot up as much as you can with a towel, then blot it with cold water. Mix a solution of half water and half white vinegar and continue to blot the stain with that until it disappears.  

Vomit or Feces

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First, wipe it up with paper towels. If it’s on carpet or upholstery, use kitty litter or baking soda to soak up any liquid. Next, use soapy water to clean anywhere the vomit or diarrhea touched. If it’s on clothes, you can machine-wash them with detergent and hot water. Use the longest cycle with the most heat. Lastly, disinfect the area around the stain with a mix of a cup of regular bleach and a gallon of water.

Mildew

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It’s important to take care of mildew stains quickly, since mold can rot or weaken material. If your stain is on clothing, wash them with soap and water, rinse, and then dry them in the sun. If there’s still a stain, put a mix of lemon juice and salt on it, and dry it outside. If the mildew is on carpet or a rug, vacuum the area to suck up some of the mold. If there’s still a stain, sponge the area with soap and a clean, damp towel.

Wine on Clothes

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If wine stains your clothes, soak them in a mix of half a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap, one tablespoon of white vinegar, and a quart of lukewarm water for 15 minutes. After that, dip the clothes in rubbing alcohol. Lightly rub from the center to the outer edges of the stain. Then soak for 30 more minutes in a quart of warm water with a tablespoon of a cleaning product with enzymes.

Wine on Carpet

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If wine gets in your carpet, mix a teaspoon of mild, bleach-free detergent with a cup of lukewarm water. Blot the stain with a cloth or sponge. Then, mix 1/3 cup of white vinegar with 2/3 cup of water and blot the stain again. To finish, hit the affected again with the first mixture, then blot the area once more with clean water.

Lip Balm or Lipstick on Clothes

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If these stains are on your clothes, use a stain removing stick on the item, then rub the area with a heavy-duty liquid detergent. Next, scrub the stain in hot water. Finally, rub an all-fabric bleach on the area and wash the clothes in hot water.

Lip Balm or Lipstick on Carpet

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Clean up any residue first. Then, put some dry-cleaning solution on a towel and blot the stain. If it's still there, you can mix half a teaspoon of dishwashing soap and a cup of water, then put a small amount of the solution on the stain and blot it until it’s gone. Finish by rinsing the area with cold water and dotting it dry.

Grass on Clothes

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Soak the clothing in a mix of cold water and a cleaner that has enzymes for at least an hour. After that you can machine-wash it. If the stain is still there after it's washed, soak it for 30 more minutes, and rewash it with clothing-safe bleach. Don't use hot water -- that will help the stain set in and make it more difficult for you to get rid of it.

Grass on Carpet

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If you have a grass stain in your carpet, use a cloth to dab at the stain with acetone. Then, sponge the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent. If the stain is still there, sponge it with a mix of a tablespoon of dishwashing soap and 2 cups of warm water. Then blot until the carpet is dry again. Finally, mix a tablespoon of ammonia with 2 cups of warm water, sponge the stain, and blot it dry.

Chocolate

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To get it off clothing, use a pretreatment laundry stain remover. Wait 1 minute and then rub it with a heavy-duty liquid detergent before machine washing, as normal. If the stain is in carpet, blot it with a paper towel. Then mix a tablespoon of household ammonia and half a cup of water. Use a spray bottle to put it on the stain, and then blot the area again. Next, add a tiny bit of detergent to the stain and rub it in. Keep adding detergent and blotting to clear the stain until it's gone. Once it is, rinse the area with water and blot it once more.

Wax

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To get wax out of clothing, start by adding a pretreatment laundry stain remover to the spot. Wait a minute and rub the area with heavy-duty liquid detergent before cleaning the clothing in the washer. If the stain is still there, soak the clothes in a chlorine bleach that’s safe for fabric.

Coffee or Tea on Clothes

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Start by soaking them in a mix of half a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap, a tablespoon of white vinegar, and a quart of warm water for 15 minutes. Sponge the area with rubbing alcohol. Then soak the clothes again for 30 minutes in a quart of warm water with a tablespoon of a cleaner that has enzymes in it.

Coffee on Carpet

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Start by dabbing the stain to get as much of the coffee out as possible. Use 1/3 cup of white vinegar and 2/3 cup of water on the stain and then blot. Next, add a tiny amount of detergent to the area and dab it again. Finally, spray the area with water, put a stack of paper towels on the stain and place a brick (or something heavy) on top until it dries.

Tea on Carpet

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If you've got tea in your carpet, blot the area with a paper towel and use plain water to take up as much tea as you can. Sponge the area with a tiny amount of water until the stain is gone.

Sweat on Clothing

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We've all seen those annoying armpit stains on our clothing at one time or another. To get rid of them, either soak or sponge the stain in cold water, then treat it with a cleaner with enzymes in it in warm water for about 30 minutes. After that, spray the stain with a solution of a quart of warm water, a tablespoon of ammonia, and half a teaspoon of liquid soap. Next, put laundry detergent or soap directly on the stain and rub it in. Finish by washing the clothing in the hottest water possible, then let it air dry.

After You're Done

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Make sure you throw away any paper towels and other waste. You can put the dirty towels you used to clean the stain in another bag to wash later. Regardless of what kind of stain you’re cleaning, always wash your hands with warm water and soap after you've finished (even if you wore disposable gloves).

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