What's the best way to remove stains from a shirt that has been washed over and over?
February 12, 2009 8:23 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to remove stains from a shirt that has been washed over and over? (And anyone from NYC ever find that their shirts come out worse after washing?)

Hey all. Let me get this out of the way: I know there are a bunch of posts out there like this already, but I think this one is a little different.

So here's the problem: we have a bunch of shirts with armpit stains and other spots on them. And no matter what we do, we just can't get the stains out.

We've tried all the methods suggested in other posts. We've used Biz to pretreat the shirts half an hour before washing them. We've tried treating the shirts with Biz the night before, which also didn't work. Vinegar, Oxi-clean, you name it - we've tried it. And nothing works.

So I come to you guys for help. What's left? Do we just have to accept that the shirts will never be in their original state? Is there some miracle cure that we just don't know about?

I mention the NYC question because I'm starting to believe that the water here is making the shirts worse. Maybe it's my laundromat, though the place is pretty darn clean. But have any of you living here in the city found that your laundry stains come out looking worse after a wash?
posted by gchucky to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Oxy Clean! Just a little hand scrubbing and you'll be amazed!
posted by Unred at 5:12 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

The best thing that worked for underarm stains in my case (and I am speaking as someone who salvaged shirts from theater dressing rooms, so lo, I have had to deal with this) is: soaking them in BOILING hot water mixed with bleach, vinegar, AND Tide with bleach for about an hour first, and then washing in hot water. It didn't get it 100% out, but it faded it a great deal.

What also may help is NOT running it through a dryer. Dryers tend to "set" stains in place, so they're harder to get out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try toilet bowl cleaner; the "blue" kind. Yes this is strange and gross...but the bluing counteracts the stains and the ultra-concentrated bleach also does its trick. I put a bunch of Tidy Bowl in a bucket with the shirts...and leave it for a few days.
posted by answergrape at 6:25 AM on February 13, 2009

Would soaking in bleach and Calgon help? That is the only thing that gets out the milk stains all around the neck of every newborn outfit, so maybe a similiar solution, as both are organically based stains. And the Calgon deals with you water issue.

Also laundry tips from the Coin Laundry Association has good stain fighting ideas.
posted by readery at 6:28 AM on February 13, 2009

Some of the responses above are good for white materials. However, if your shirt has a color, you might want to give Shout Advanced (blue bottle) a try. It works for my set in stains.
posted by onhazier at 6:44 AM on February 13, 2009

There used to be a product called Clorox Powedered Bleach that has since been discontinued. NOT Clorox 2. Blue box. This stuff worked great for maintaining white cotton undergarments' whiteness. If you can find something that's the same, it should work great. And please tell me about it!

(Also, if you can get your hands on it, the powdered bleach that comes in packets that they use at McDonald's to clean the white towels is good stuff too. Made by Kay Chemical company. I've never found a retail source. But when I worked there, I was able to make good use of the "it's ok to wash your uniforms at work" allowance...)

I have had the most luck with using the Spray-n-Wash glue stick thing. It's work intensive, but it works the best for me for stain removal. Has saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars in keeping clothing usable.

Do you use dryer sheets? I find that they can cause stains which look just like cooking oil stains. Just sort of an oily spot. I quit using them and that problem went away.

For the armpit stains, I bet the suggestion of making an Oxy-Clean paste and scrubbing would work nicely. Use a brush that's soft like a vegetable brush.
posted by gjc at 6:46 AM on February 13, 2009

Lestoil. Soak them in pure undiluted Lestoil.
They'll smell like floor cleaner for a while but that stuff would wipe the shroud of turin clean.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 7:30 AM on February 13, 2009

With the arrival of our baby and the inevitable nasty stains that necessarily follow, my wife learned from the secret sorority of Austin mothers the secret to removing 95% of stains.

Mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a paste. Lay out your garment and pour the paste over the stains. Allow the paste to dry over the stains. The launder as you normally would (with oxyclean for our whites). Difficult stains might take two applications.

I've found this to remove those nasty pit and collar stains.
The only thing it could not remove completely were bad mold stains and one particular kind of reddish dirt. It works on food, sweat, poop, blood, some inks (gel inks are different) and many stains of indeterminate origin.

Gel Ink removal:
Mix cream of tartar with lemon juice and soak it into the cloth until the ink dissolves and then blot off.
posted by Seamus at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

There's an amazing tea-tree-oil spot remover by Melaleuca called PreSpot that gets out almost every stain I put it up against. It once took out a 2-year-old grease stain on a shirt that had been washed many times since.
posted by pised at 12:58 PM on February 13, 2009

One thing you could do to counteract any weird water issues is to wash your clothes with 1/4 cup baking soda. It somehow cancels out hard water and well water issues if you have them.
posted by BuddhaBelly at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2009

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