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September 11, 2009 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for removing large, set-in blood stains from cotton fabric?

Last week I had a laparotomy to remove my cervix and ovaries. Yesterday the incision began to leak copious amounts of pooled blood. I've soaked two pairs of comfy pants and 2 panties with blood, as well as gotten smaller spots on other cotton items. I haven't been able to deal with the stains because I've been trying to stop the bleeding (I'm seeing my doc this morning to get it fixed).

What are your suggestions for removing really nasty, set-in blood stains from cotton fabric? Thanks in advance.
posted by happy scrappy to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could try Vanish bar, that's very good. But in my experience (hello, coil!) you might have to think about replacing them altogether.
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: I should add, I'll be happy even if I can get the stains mostly out ... these are not clothes I'll be wearing in public ever. But I want to try my best to get them as clean as possible.
posted by happy scrappy at 6:11 AM on September 11, 2009

If the stains are still wet: soak them in a pail of cold water. Seriously coldcoldcold.

If not -- still try scrubbing at 'em in cold water, with a bar of Fels Naptha soap. I tried using some of my Mom's when I was a teenager trying to do some "initmate" laundry and it worked great.

(If anyone's had practice getting blood stains out of clothing, it's women. Think about it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 AM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: You should be able to find the Fels Naptha soap in the laundry isle of your local store. It costs about a dollar a bar.

Even if the blood is dry, start with the cold water soak. It wouldn't hurt to squirt some liquid dish detergent into the water as well while they soak. Then, you'll need to put in a bit of elbow grease to do the scrubbing. You really want to work in the soap to the fabric. After that, run the material through the washing machine, again using cold water only.
posted by onhazier at 6:31 AM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: Soak in cold water and a tablespoon or so of table salt in a bucket/sink, probably overnight. If you can't find the Fels Naptha, a bar of Sunlight (grated on the coarse side of your grater) would work. Soap is much better at cleaning than detergent for this kind of thing.
posted by x46 at 6:35 AM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: I've had good luck with Spray n' Wash on seemingly-hopeless bloodstains. (Suggested by my mom, so you know it's a winner.)

Feel better soon!
posted by corey flood at 6:37 AM on September 11, 2009

Do the soak. Use oxygen bleach (I buy mine powdered at a health food store, but you can substitute a bunch of liquid hydrogen peroxide if you can't find any). This is my no-scrub method for reusable cotton pads (mine are white and have no stains, so it really works):

Soak in its own container with the bleach for 24 hours. Dispose of the water, rinse the clothes, soak again in fresh (cold, as mentioned above) water with more bleach. If at the end of a second 24 hours, the water has any stain in it, repeat. Repeat until the water is clear and/or the stain is gone. The less blood in the water, the longer you can soak it, up to about 2.5-3 days (with bleach). When it's clean, run it through a normal wash.

It's very important that you use oxygen bleach (which will not harm your fabrics) *not* chlorine bleach.
posted by carmen at 6:40 AM on September 11, 2009

Cold water soak (as said above, cold as possible), with any sort of biological washing powder in the water. For lots of blood, just do an initial quick cold water rinse to get out anything that's likely to run out by itself, then do the soak. Cold water rinse when you take them out of soak, and then in the washing machine on a cool temperature. I do this with reusable sanitary towels, and it gets out the vast majority of bloodstains.

My mum taught me this, and always referred to the process as 'chomping' - the enzymes in the washing powder chomp away at the blood!
posted by Coobeastie at 6:41 AM on September 11, 2009

(from Mrs. Deadmessenger)

Presoaking for a few hours in an Oxi Clean solution should work.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:42 AM on September 11, 2009

One of the reasons everyone is advocating cold water is that heat sets a stain. Don't put them through the dryer until they're as stainless as you think you can get them.

I use Oxy Clean to fairly good results for this kind of thing. If you happen to have any enzymatic animal stain remover like Nature's Miracle, you might try soaking the stains with it for a day or so and then following the laundry directions on the bottle.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:49 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can also wet the clothes, then put meat tenderizer on top of the stains. It breaks down the protein.
posted by Houstonian at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2009

Pre-soak in Windex and cold water. I don't know why, but it works.
posted by bunny hugger at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: My father-in-law is a hematologist at the Mayo Clinic.

He claims that saline is the best thing for removing blood from fabric, and my experiences prove that he is correct, at least as far as fresher blood stains are concerned.
posted by padraigin at 7:43 AM on September 11, 2009

I have had good results using hydrogen peroxide on blood stains that have dried but haven't been through the wash yet. I think it's better than just plain cold water, but I haven't tried all the other suggestions here, so I can't vouch for the comparative effectiveness.

Buy a big bottle (the stuff is cheap) and do a few quick soak-rinse cycles (soak for 30 seconds, clear away the resulting foam, repeat) to get the worst of the stain out before leaving the material to soak in more peroxide for a few hours.
posted by LBS at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In the future, if you find that you've bloodied some clothes and don't have any real time to deal with it, get them into a bucket or sink or something where you can soak them in cold water. Stick them in, and let them soak until you have time to deal with it.

When you have time to deal with it, my most successful method has been liquid soap and hand-scrubbing under cold water. If it hasn't dried out it will go better.

I hope your recovery goes well from here on out!
posted by that girl at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2009

Carbona Stain Devils has worked well for me in the past on blood and all sorts of other stains. I've been able to purchase them at Fry's (Kroger-owned grocery store). The site also has a store locator you can use. You'll need Stain Devils #4.
posted by Aleen at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2009

I've had good luck with oxy clean solution made with cold water. I soak my clothes in it (usually add ice to make the water cold), and them scrub a bit, then put them in the washer adding a little bit more oxy clean. I've heard salt water works as well (maybe it's a pH/salt thing, but oxy clean is "salty" as well). I haven't had such large blood stains like you are describing, but they are set-in.

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by bluefly at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2009

Here's my routine for bloodstains both old and new.
1) Cold water soak.
2) Fels-Naptha (a bar of very harsh, for reals, yo, laundry soap) scrubbed into the stain(s), completely surrounding the stains and saturating the fabric (I use a toothbrush)
3) Spotting over the treated stains with home-use hydrogen peroxide
4) Wash in washing machine.
5) Repeat as necessary, before drying.
posted by Lynsey at 10:15 AM on September 11, 2009

I want to repeat -- DO NOT put them in the dryer until you're completely satisfied with the level of stain.

Hydrogen peroxide works well up to a point, and it's quick and easy, but I find that it leaves a ring. Go for the enzyme detergent. This doesn't have to be a special product -- just read the ingredients of the normal laundry detergents, and find one that says "enzymes." I think Tide or something else equally everyday has them. Then wash in cold water -- for blood, it's all cold, all the time.

You shouldn't use enzyme detergents on wool or silk, though, because enzymes eat protein, and they'll eat through your fabric.

Martha Stewart's Stain Removal Chart (pdf)
posted by thebazilist at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2009

Best answer: I once had some fairly serious blood stains on cotton sheets that I left for a month (I know, I'm a slob), and googling around for the cheap-ass solution led me to: Head and Shoulders shampoo. This solution (spot-scrubbing with the shampoo -- not even very hard since I didn't want to damage the fabric, just persistently) worked 100%. To my glee, it has worked on every blood stain since, as well, no matter how new or old; I haven't had to throw out underwear (well, for this reason) in years.

Incidentally, I've been told that any shampoo will work, but I'm unwilling to push my luck.
posted by obliquicity at 9:57 PM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: I got most of the stains out (except for a couple undies, but who cares). I used a combination of overnight soaking in cold salt water, then scrubbing with shampoo, then brief soaking with cold water, dish detergent and ammonia, then 1 hour soaking in the washer with Spray n' Wash + laundry detergent, then cold wash/rinse.

Thanks for your help!
posted by happy scrappy at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2009

Response by poster: p.s. the shampoo I used was some kinda fruity-smelling storebought shampoo for permed/color treated hair (it was in a little unmarked travel bottle), so I think pretty much any shampoo will do. Googling told me to use shampoo as well.
posted by happy scrappy at 11:46 AM on September 13, 2009

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