Stain Removal 101: Soaking a Stained Item

Sometimes – in fact, a lot of times – stains just do not come out with the typical method of spraying with a stain remover and throwing in the wash.  They often require soaking.

Which is potentially time consuming.

And who has time to worry about soaking stains?  Not this Mama.

I need the fastest possible method of soaking a stain. And here it is.

How to Remove Stains with The Soak

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Needed Items for The Stain Removal Soak

Stain Removal Supplies


Assemble your supplies:

— A large container or bucket
Oxi-Clean powder
— Warm/hot water
— A place to store your bucket while it soaks
Rubber gloves (this is the brand I use, but you can use your dishwashing gloves if desired)


Things to consider before you get started

I use a 5-gallon bucket most often for stain removal.  Because I save everything to soak at once (which creates its own problems) I most often need a large container.  If I am soaking something small, I use a hospital pan (the pink container in the picture) or something similar.

You’ll also need a place to store your container for several hours (or overnight).

If I’m using my 5-gallon bucket, I fill it up and let the items soak in our master tub.  If I’m just soaking a small item in a pan, than I keep it on the bathroom counter in our master bathroom.

When soaking, I keep the master bathroom shut and often locked.  I am admittedly a little paranoid about children’s heads in buckets of water and drowning.

If you have sensitive skin at all, make sure to wear rubber gloves when mixing your Oxi Clean Water.  I often do not use gloves, and I always wish I did.  It can make your skin itchy, red and generally feel unpleasant.  It almost feels like a burn.

If you choose not to wear gloves, wash your hands with soap immediately after you are finished to rinse off all of the residue.  Oxi Clean is a chemical, after all.


Method for The Soak

You are ready to get started once you have gathered your supplies, determined your container and where you’re going to leave your items to soak.

1) Scoop your desired amount of Oxi Clean into your clean container.

Pouring OxiClean in bucket

I use about a scoop of Oxi Clean per gallon of water, especially if the item is heavily soiled.  So I use almost a whole scoop if I’m using a hospital container and 2 full scoops if I am going to fill my 5-gallon bucket about 3/4 of the way full of water.

This is not rocket science and I do not measure the exact amount of water I am putting in the container.


2) Fill your container with warm or hot water.

Diluting OxiClean in Stain Bucket
Warm or hot water helps the Oxi Clean dissolve better.  You can use cold water, but it is definitely harder to get the Oxi Clean to disperse.


3) While the water is filling the container, use your hand to help dissolve the Oxi Clean.

Agitate OxiClean Water
Just use your hand to agitate the water.  Use the same method as if you were trying to make bubbly dish water to wash dishes.


4) Put your stained clothes in and completely saturate them with the Oxi Clean Water.

Clothes Soaking in OxiClean Water
Every inch of the garment needs to be wet.  It’s okay if the item is not completely dunked under the water and is floating towards the top.  Put in as many garments as will fit in the container you are using.


5) Allow the item to soak for awhile.
How long is awhile?  It depends on the stain.

Some stains come out super quickly, as in within an hour or so.  In my experience, it is best to let stains soak for several hours.  Stains such as newborn baby poop or those that are tomato-based may even need to be soaked overnight.

**If you are worried about the color-fastness of your item, make sure you check on it frequently.  Every 15-30 minutes you can peek and make sure the color has not faded.  I have only had Oxi Clean stain/discolor 2 items in my entire Soaking Career, however the potential always exists!


6) Agitate the clothes and the water every couple of hours.
Every hour or two (or whenever you think about it), run your hand through the container and re-arrange the garments and agitate the water.  You want to ensure that all of the items stay adequately wet with the Oxi Clean Water.

Yes, you want to wear gloves when you do this.


7) When the stain has sufficiently faded, wash the item as you regularly would.
If it isn’t too heavy, I take the whole bucket and pour it into the washing machine, Oxi Clean Water and all.  This is where a top-loader would be easier than a front-loader!

I add enough clothes to make a full load and wash as I usually would.

Before I place it in the dryer, I make sure the stain has faded to my standards.  If it is, I dry as usual in the dryer.  If I am unsure, I hang the item to drip-dry and examine it when it’s completely dry.

What do you do if the stain doesn’t come out?

If I am unsure what caused the stain, I try washing it using the Blue Dawn Method to remove grease.  It may be a grease stain and I didn’t realize that in the first place.  Oxi Clean doesn’t do a whole lot with grease, but it works wonders on other types of stains.

Also, I decide if I need to go through the whole process again.  Sometimes soaking for 2-3 days will help remove a stain as opposed to just 2-3 hours.  I’ve even soaked for a couple of days and then let the garment dry in the sun (without rinsing it first).  Between the sun and the Oxi Clean Water, the stain bleaches out.  Drying in the sun while coated in Oxi Clean Water can definitely fade color – just beware.

If it doesn’t come out after trying these things…well, it just doesn’t come out.  You can’t remove all stains, regardless of how hard you try or how much effort you put in it.  The item can then turn into a wear-around-the house article at that point.


How closely do I need to watch my container of soaking items?

Honestly, I’ve left clothes soaking for days. Only because I couldn’t get around to emptying the container or I just plain forgot they were there.  However, I don’t recommend this!

If you forget to agitate the clothes after a couple of hours or accidentally leave them overnight without meaning to, all will probably be fine.

But just to be on the safe side, write yourself a note or set your cell phone to alarm and remind you they are there!


What other questions do you have about soaking a stained item? Ask away in the comments.  I love stain questions…



  1. A simple, non-time consuming way to soak and treat stains – thank you!

    I have a feeling I’ll have occasion to give this a try very soon (not that I’m implying my kids are messy or anything LOL) and I have a growing stack of yard sale finds that have a few stains I’ve been meaning to try getting out, too.

    We have grass stains and popsicle juice stains galore this summer (sign of a good season? )

    Thanks for the tips!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Kara – I totally agree. With kids, stains equal a good day usually!! I’ve been meaning to write a post on that actually.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Love these tips — what a great article. I have been meaning to write something like this myself for a while. I love presoaking — it works wonders for stain removal.

  3. I love OxiClean for getting stains out–but you’re right, definitely not with grease. For some reason things seem to come out of my washer with grease stains they didn’t enter with. Sigh!

    I have used my bathtub and a whole lotta OxiClean to de-stain my bedspread before!

    • mamalaundry says:

      I would have NEVER thought to soak a whole comforter in the bathtub with OxiClean! Great idea!!


  4. Great blog! I seriously need help with laundry. I’ll be following your blog!

  5. Great blog! Is it sad that I’m a 25-year-old, stay-at-home, homeschooling momma to three and know next to nothing about removing stains???!!! Thanks for all the great tips!!! I seems to have the hardest time getting chocolate out of my little ones clothes from chocolate milk or ice cream sundaes! Absolutely going to being using your tips!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Thank you for your kind comment, Momma B!

      If you have specific stain questions (or any laundry question for that matter), always shoot me an email or ask in the comments! I’ll be happy to help you get them out!


      • Hey , this is great blog.i need help accidentally I washed white shirt with colored clothes and my white shirt become pink. I soaked it in oxiclean overnight in hot water 2 times but the pink color not remove..what I can do. Please help.

        • Lauren Hill says:

          Hi Ankita!

          Yes, I have done this myself. :/

          Oxi Clean probably won’t help this type of situation. I have used Rit White-Wash to remedy white clothes that were accidentally washed with colors that bled.

          I would try it! You can find it on Amazon, and I’ve also purchased it at my local grocery store.

          -Lauren 🙂

      • I just finished knitting a little white, cotton dress for my grand daughter. It has a few red and blue stripes. I rinsed it in cold water, to soften it. The red has turned all of the white the slightest pink. If I use clorox2 or oxy, will it only remove the pink? I don’t want it to lighten the red or blue stripes.

  6. Great info! It pays to review the Dawn Spot Removal dirrections
    each time. I used a toothbrush to scrub in the Dawn and this
    usage caused the gold shirt to lighten somewhat where the
    stain was located. It’s just a finger rub, no brushes!
    Always, Mama’s Mama

  7. You mentioned somewhere about mold/mildew stains…we had went to the beach and on the way home my little one threw up on the shirt I was planning on using for pictures. I had the bag my grocery cart cover came in for some reason (like I am really going to stuff it back into that little blue bag after shopping???) so I just put the pukey clothes with the wet clothes in the bag. Well a 3 hour drive and 2 crabby babies later I completely forgot about the bag. Of course the only shirt that there was an issue with was our upcoming picture shirt. I tried EVERYTHING! I probably washed and dried this shirt 5 or 6 times at least! Finally I grabbed the last of my oxi clean and put it in an old pasta cooking pot. I put the shirt in and boiled the heck out of it. I was worried about the buttons and the color, but the shirt was already ruined so what the heck. All the mildew/mold stains came out! I.could.not.believe. it! So, that’s my trick up my sleeve for the really stubborn stains on clothes I still need to look nice.

    Also, don’t know where you are but I lived in California for a while and would buy something called Soil Love. This stuff is AMAZING! So amazing that 3 states later if anyone goes or visits from California I always have them bring me a case of it. Best part…it’s at the dollar store 🙂

    • mamalaundry says:

      Wow, Misty! So thrilled for you and your stain success! You’re totally right: if the item is pretty much ruined anyway, you may as well do everything you can to get the stain out. Gosh, I love that Oxi Clean!

      And I’ve never heard of Soil Love! I’ll have to research that. Thanks for the tip 😉


  8. Great, great poast! Thanks so much!

    And y’all know about the GENERIC Oxi-Clean at WalMart, right? I didn’t until some other moms told me about it…….and it’s half the cost!
    Does just as great a job for us. 🙂

    • mamalaundry says:

      I’ve never tried the generic. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll give it a try. 😉


    • There is also a generic Oxi Clean at the dollar store.

      • Just fyi the generic oxi clean’s often found at 99¢ stores are cheap for a reason. They incorporate often less than half of the peroxide catalyst in their mix compared to oxi clean so you are getting about half the cleaning power…and because of the additional useless fillers they add just doubling the amount you use isn’t effective in the same way oxi clean is. In short they may work somewhat but generally buying bargain store generic oxi is throwing good money after bad.

  9. When I’m soaking stuff that might set if soaked in hot water (like blood stains or chocolate) I dissolve the oxi-clean in a little hot water at the bottom of the container, maybe a cup or two for the bucket and less for a smaller container. Pour in the hottest water you can, agitate the oxi-clean and water until the powder is at least mostly dissolved, then add cold water and clothes to be soaked.

    • mamalaundry says:

      VS – I totally agree with dissolving. The OxiClean works incredibly better if you dissolve in hot water first! Right on!

  10. JeanKretzmann says:

    I will try the soak, I can’t remember if I tried it at the beginning or not.
    Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. Hi! I found this site while searching for Soil love online. I will echo what Misty said about soillove. I get it at the 99c. store and it is awesome! The only thing I haven’t found it to be as effective for is tomato based stains. I use Zout for that. And oxi clean overnight soak works well for most things – but not always those tomato based stains. I ditto the tip on boiling water with oxi clean poured over a stain…usually gets the stains out that i’ve tried everything else on. good Luck!

  12. I have been doing this ever since Oxi Clean came out, and you had to order it because they didn’t sell it in the stores. 🙂 It is amazing, and gets out almost everything. When I had a top loader wash machine, I would soak a load right in the washer, and open the lid so it wouldn’t rinse.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Yes! One of the many benefits of a top-loader!

    • I tried soaking all my toddlers and my clothes overnight and there were a few items that bled color over the other items. Some of my really nice shirts got ruined with red dye. I have been so scared to try soaking again. I have no way of telling which clothes run! How do you prevent this?

  13. I’ve soaked things in my front loader; I just get them to agitate a bit with the solution, then stop the cycle. The machine probably drains, but the items are already soaked. I just start the cycle over when I’m ready to wash.

  14. Hi there

    I wonder if anyone has ever had to try and get damp stains off clothes? I have 3 expensive t shirts that have gotten damp and I can’t get stain out! I have tried vanish and oxyclean but neither of these have worked? The dry cleaner said I would struggle but I wondered if anyone had any success with this type of stain? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

  15. Single dad, trying OXI CLEAN WHITE REVIVE for the first time. The directions on the package are tiny and not clear. I went to the Oxi Clean website and they don’t even post directions on how to use their product! THANK YOU for the clear and simple instructions.

  16. Hi. I have a collection of work shirts which are very colourful and patterned too. I take great pride in washing my work shirts separately and air drying them. I was surprised I came across a few shirts that still had marks across the collar after having had washed the shirts. Can I use this product with all my different shirts mixed into one large bucket before washing them in the machine to remove the daily collar marks? And will the marks come off easily? Many thanks

  17. Thanks for the oxiclean soaking tips!! I had a red hand towel accidentally get into the towel load (I had planned on hand washing it separately). Unfortunately, my pink towels now have red spots on them. I tried washing them twice with oxiclean and detergent and even used the oxiclean stain remover spray, but it did not help. Now I will soak these new pink towels overnight and hope that the oxiclean will do its job and get the red out. I had considered vinegar before I saw your blog!! Thanks so much for the detailed tip!!

  18. Glen Buchanan says:

    I have a closet full of badly smoked stained white t-shirts and dress shirts. Will an overnight soak in the oxyclean formula work? (Yes we smoke in the house 🙁 . Please Help!

  19. Hillari says:

    Have you had any luck with red clay stains? I just moved to a new home and we are working on growing grass in the backyard now but my kids are ruining all of there clothes with these red clay stains. I cannot get them out! I haven’t tried boiling the water though. Just wondering if you’ve had any luck with a similar stain? These stains are about to drive me batty!

  20. Bert Mitchell says:

    I have tried oxyclean on a lot of things and stains and I have yet to see it work . I’ve got whites soaking now 5 gal. Hot water and 4 full scoops of oxyclean and plan on a 6 hr. soak. I’ve done this before and seen no difference

  21. Hi. I borrowed one of my mom’s shirt – very thick cream materials and with black pleather bands at the waist and collar…and had a black bra bleed into after wearing it (I knew I should have worn the tan one as people say….side note…this explains mystery stains in one of my favorite yellow blouses too). The stains were blue and heaviest under the breast area, but did go all around the strap. I used dawn, baking soda and white vinegar as soon as I took it off. I washed and then soaked for about 3 hours. It looks like it got out the lighter areas from the band, but the breast area is still REALLY blue. Would Oxi-clean work on that? I’m going to check how it looks when I get home to see if the light blue areas are really gone now that its dry. I hung to dry…not in the dryer.

  22. Does this work on dye transfer problems? I have a red and white fleece coat and the red dye bled into the white portions of my coat leaving this ugly dingy pink undertone

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Melissa, The Soak probably won’t work on dye transfer. I’m surprised that the dye in the fleece bled, actually. That type of fabric doesn’t usually bleed.

      You can try using a product like Carbona Color Run Remover, but make sure you follow the directions precisely.

      -Lauren 🙂

  23. Lauren, thank you so much for this great tip. I had lots of ugly mildew stains on our heirloom holiday tablecloth. This was a tablecloth that my mother embroidered beautifully for Passover over many years, so I really wanted to get it clean. It took two days of soaking, but it got completely clean and beautiful. I am really relieved and very grateful! This site is a keeper!

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Oh I am so THRILLED, Ilana!! What a precious heirloom you were able to restore. Thank you so much for letting me know!

      -Lauren 🙂

  24. Kimberly says:

    Hi, is it okay to use oxiclean and borax together, or are they the same thing? You said oxiclean doesn’t, but does borax work for grease stains? Thanks.

  25. Old blood stain on hand stitched quilt. I must have nicked myself with the needle I was using and didn’t notice till I took the quilt top out years later. It’s now quilted and bound and ready to give to my soon to be born grandchild. Now I see the blood. Not much but I do see it. Treated it with carbona blood remover, borax, and washed it in arm and hammer detergent with oxi- clean. Stain has tuned an orange color. Help. My friend suggested taking it to the dry cleaner and asking if they could get the stain out. I don’t want a hole to develop. P

  26. I picked up a nice 100% cotton shirt at a garage sale that had been dry cleaned. When I got home with it, it had spots on the sleeve. I tried Zout, Spray & Wash, dawn/peroxide mixture one at a time, but they didn’t take the spots out. A dry cleaner told me they are wine stains. Any tips would be appreciated.

  27. Hi, don’t know if it’s waaaaay too late to ask, but I just came across your website & I need help. I soaked my baby’s poopy onesie in water & laundry detergent & forgot about it. It’s been a few days to a week. I go to rinse it out today & the poop stains are gone, but I noticed these small gray dots all over the top of the onesie. Is that mold or mildew? Can it really develop in a week’s time? Should I try to wash it or throw it away? Concerned about it touching my baby’s skin. Thanks in advance!

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hey Eva! No, it’s not too late at all to ask! 🙂

      Was the onesie soaking in water the whole time? If so, I would doubt it’s mold or mildew. However, if the item had any portion that was sticking up out of the water, you run a pretty good chance of it being mildew. 🙁

      If you wash the water in hot and dry on hot (as hot as your washer and dryer will allow), it will hopefully kill the mildew spores. There probably WILL be a stain left, though. You can try this post for removing the mildew stain: How to Remove Mildew Stains

      I hope some of this is helpful!
      Lauren 🙂


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