This is a frequent question that pops up in my inbox regarding pre-treating stains and stain removal:
Mama, what is the best way to pre-treat a stain? Is there any one best way? Or do you just spray on the stain remover and let it be?
So it might seem like a no-brainer to pre-treat a stain before washing, but there really is a best way to do pre-treat stains.
The end result of any attempt at stain removal is to have a stain-free garment. Making sure you start the stain removal process on the right foot ensures you end up with an article of clothing that looks new again.
So here is a step-by-step guide to follow. Because I do love a step-by-step guide to most anything.
➡ Browse through all of the Laundry Stain Removal posts here at Mama’s Laundry Talk.
What type of stain is it?
First, determine what type of stain you’re dealing with: protein, food grease, ink, grass/dirt.
If the stain is:
- Protein-based (blood, spit-up, baby poop, vomit):
Rinse the item under cold running water as quickly as possible. Keep it in cold water until you can launder it. If you choose to use a spray stain remover, follow the directions later in this post.
- Food grease (bacon grease, French fries, cooking oil):
These types of stains are a different bird and you’ll need to use the Blue Dawn method of grease stain removal. Skip the spray stain remover step below completely. Spray stain removers aren’t really formulated for this type of stain.
➡ Read more details about removing food grease stains.
- Ink (from an ink pen or marker):
Go straight to the pre-treat steps listed below in this post.
- Grass and dirt:
You’ll probably have to end up doing The Soak Stain Removal Method, but you can certainly try to pre-treat with a spray stain remover first and hope for great results!
Using Spray Stain-Remover
Assuming you have completed all of these crucial steps in stain removal, you’re now ready to spray on your favorite product.
Spray your Pre-Treatment spray directly on the stain, saturating the entire area.
Using your finger, rub the stain remover in really well. Slightly lift up the fabric with your finger, ensuring you completely surround the stain with your spray product.
Next, you have the option of gently (and I mean really gently) rubbing the stain remover in with a toothbrush.
If you have a really tough stain (tomato sauce, mustard, chili), you might need the extra agitation.
But make sure you understand: be cautious when you use a toothbrush as this can sometimes be too vigorous for the fabric and lift the color. I speak from experience.
So this next part seals the stain removal deal: make sure to treat the stain on the reverse side of the fabric.
Use your finger to rub the stain remover into the fabric to ensure it’s covered well on both the front side and the reverse side.
Pre-Treat Stains Using Laundry Detergent
With 5 children, I have certainly done some laundry through the years! My favorite method for pre-treating stains actually just involves regular liquid laundry detergent.
I do use premium laundry detergent, as I have found our clothes to look dingy after using a bottle or two of economical detergent.
Since economical (read: cheaper) laundry detergent is not as concentrated and doesn’t have all of the whiteners and brighteners that premium detergent does, I have only found premium detergent to offer good results using this method.
When you have a stain, go through the First Steps in Stain Removal.
Then douse the stained area in liquid laundry detergent. Use your finger to gently rub in the detergent to both sides of the fabric.
Now you can toss it aside until you wash the next load. As with most stains, the stain will come out if it doesn’t sit very long. Removing candle wax is the exception here.
What You Should Never Do When Pre-Treating a Stain
Never ever rub the fabric together when pre-treating a stain. It is one of the worst techniques to use in all of laundry in my opinion. If you spray the stain with stain remover and then rub the fabric back on itself to saturate the stain with product, you can spread the stain and even make it bigger.
This is not the result you’re going after.
Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite product to pre-treat stains? Do you have one that you consider to be the best?