Laundry problem - any hope for food stains I already dried?
June 29, 2013 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I washed some clothes (cotton-heavy colors) and dried them, and they have dark food stains on them. Is there anything that could possibly get the stains out at this point? Ideally I'd prefer to use a spray or something easy to use, but soaking is an option if I can do it in a bin in my tub.

The last time I did laundry I stupidly let some items go into the dryer even though the food stains on them had not come out. The clothes are knit cotton skirts and t-shirts, some 100% cotton, the others close to that with maybe some lycra percentage. They are medium to dark-ish colors. The stains look like darker areas on the clothes, not caked on or anything like that.

My laundry facility is a coin-operated thing that I have not much control over the cycle of (I live in an apartment complex). I washed these things with my usual settings - Normal and Warm, and dried them on Normal (Hot). I think I used the Oxiclean gel stuff on them and perhaps I did it wrong somehow, I'm not sure. I treated the spots and then washed the clothes just a couple minutes after. I have used the Oxiclean liquid spray before and had some good results (sometimes, anyway) but I thought the gel would be better somehow.

Is there any hope to get the stains out at this point? I really would hate to never be able to wear them again - for the skirts I cannot find the same style anywhere, and the t-shirts were kind of expensive for me.

I would really like something to try that does not require a lot of scrubbing or making of pastes or soaking or things like that. Is there a product I can just spray on that might work? I imagine I would have to try multiple washes perhaps (being vigilant to not dry anything until the stain comes out). If I have to do more involved procedures I will, but I'd prefer the easier option.

I don't have much control over laundry cycles and cannot leave stuff to soak overnight in the laundry room, however I do have a bunch of Rubbermaid bins and a shower with a spray attachment so I could soak stuff in those in my tub if soaking is required, then launder the next day or however long.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
posted by marble to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Here's what I do. Spray the spots with Oxiclean and let sit for a couple of minutes. Soak the clothes in a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar and warm water. Soak all day or overnight. Treat again with stain remover and wash. Works for me.
posted by raisingsand at 5:13 PM on June 29, 2013

Can you spray them with the stain remover and then place them in the sun for a few hours? Even just in a window with direct sunlight might work.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 5:16 PM on June 29, 2013

If the stains are greasy, I've had excellent luck with rubbing Dawn dishwashing detergent into them, then pouring extremely hot (160°F or so) water through them, then putting them into the washing machine. (That's my old food-service days trick for getting grease spots out of my uniform.)
posted by telophase at 5:26 PM on June 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've had luck with Shout Advanced Gel (available at most drugstores) on months-old stains -- if not making them entirely disappear, then at least helping them to fade. (Depends on the stain obviously; gasoline, permanent marker, and blood, for instance, don't bode well.)
posted by taramosalata at 5:34 PM on June 29, 2013

My husband cooks a lot and hates wearing an apron, so 70% of his shirts end up in the hamper with food stains. I try to hit all the stains with Zout, a Dial product sold in the laundry aisle of many supermarkets. Sometime I miss spots in the first wash (and dry), then have to spray and repeat the wash. It works best if you spray it on, rub with fingers or a brush, and wait 10 minutes before washing. The only times it has failed: stains that were a combo of tomato and grease, left a week before washing. Zout also works on blood, lipstick, and red wine. Chocolate -- fifty-fifty. I literally buy it by the case on Amazon.

Lately, I've also had pretty good luck with the Tide stain stick for little spots. This one warns on the label that's it's not good for grease. I don't use it often because I like to test it on the clothing first, and there's not always time to do that. I've used it before washing and after.
posted by wryly at 5:35 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

when you don't have your own laundry facilities, zip lock bags are your friend. The big gallon size. What I do (or did, I have a washer and all that now - though I do still do it occasionally when I don't want stuff soaking in open water a long time) is rinse the item in the sink, I use my hand sprayer to work at the stain even more, and then I use a shout gel or solid stain stick. And then I'd put it in the bag, add a little water so the clothing is wet but the bag isn't full or strained, and then I seal the top and put that in my hamper for the next time I do laundry. Then I wash it in cold, and air dry; if the stain is gone (and it usually is), great. If it's not, I just repeat the process. You don't have anything to lose by trying it over and over, and it does work.

I've used dawn dishsoap instead of the stain sticks, and I've used zout, and I've used laundry detergent right on the stain too. All worked pretty well. Sometimes changing up what I treat a stain with seems to work on a particularly resistant spot.
posted by lemniskate at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

For tough stains, I've had nearly 100 per cent success using either Zote or Shout Triple Action Stain Remover. Zote can usually be found in stores like Target, Orchard Supply, or your local supermarket -- and it's fantastic! You just rub the stained item in your sink with the pink Zote bar and a little water and it practically disappears before your eyes (sometimes, for particularly tough stains, you may need a toothbrush to rub the soap deep into the fibers of the fabric to loosen the stain). Shout is great for just squirting the stain and leaving it in the basket for the next time you do laundry, but it doesn't always completely remove the stain on the first wash and I find the smell kind of strong and annoying, so I don't like to use it on bedding or anything I have to wear all day. The smell goes away after another wash or two, but it still bugs me, so I prefer Zote.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:22 PM on June 29, 2013

If they're grease/oil/fat stains, then I enthusiastically second/third/whatever rubbing Dawn dish detergent into them. I've used this on grease stains on clothes that have gone through the dryer, on multiple occasions, and it usually works.

If it's something non-greasy but colored, like tomato, then try Zout or Shout sprays or gels/sticks. (I've gotten good results with both brands' sprays.) Apply liberally to the stain, then let it sit for, like, a day or more before laundering again. If the stain doesn't come out after that, then I would go to soaking the items in a strong solution of Oxy-Clean and detergent in one of your bins. I'd soak them overnight or longer, until the stain visibly fades, then launder.

If it's a combination of grease and something like tomato, then you can apply both Dawn and Zout or Shout.
posted by snowmentality at 6:45 PM on June 29, 2013

Agreeing with everyone else about trying dish washing detergent but you'll want to put some paper towel or something inside the item first, just where the stains is because if it works, you don't want the loose gunk going through to the other side of your item! I use the handle end of a teaspoon to gently rub the dish washing liquid into the stain from the outside in.

(If I can't get a stain out or it still leaves enough of a dark mark, depending on where the stain on the item is, I will sometimes do embroidery or sew a patch or something over it if that works on the item/you are crafty)
posted by halcyonday at 12:32 AM on June 30, 2013

Stain removal has been turned into an enormous industry, particularly in the United States. There are a zillion products, they are pricey, and in my experience, hardly any of them work.

If you are not a vegetarian or otherwise have ethical issues with using animal products, I would try bile soap. Yes, you read that right. It's soap made from ox bile. This stuff is used routinely in Germany (where you can buy it almost anywhere), and it's been the only thing I have found to consistently work. Bars last a long time, it's relatively inexpensive, and it removes damn near any stain. Yes, even after they've been baked in. Grease, blood, ink, any food stain you can imagine. I have removed wax with this stuff, which, if you've ever tried getting wax out of textiles, is no small feat.

Unsexy, unattractive, unexpensive, and unfortunately seemingly unobtainable in the US, but very, very effective and worth the effort needed to get some. There are ways (the link above is a start); failing that, I would track down a German deli or store in your area, where you are certain to find somebody who knows what it is. (It's called Gallseife, pronounced "gull-sigh-fe".)
posted by rhombus at 9:06 AM on June 30, 2013

Sounds like oil or grease stains. Dawn dish detergent has degreaser in it, and will often remove grease stains. Rub in some Dawn + water. Let sit at least 24 hrs. Wash.
posted by theora55 at 10:04 AM on June 30, 2013

I've used this stuff on dried-in grease stains to very good effect. Made from lanolin, the manufacturer's web site has a list od retailers who sell it.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:50 AM on June 30, 2013

Goop hand cleaner.
posted by buzzman at 1:14 PM on June 30, 2013

I routinely find stains on clothes after they come out of the dryer, and they're really no harder to remove than spots treated before washing. Dishwashing soap, or Prell shampoo, work wonders on greasy stains even after they've been "set in" by the dryer. If all else fails, though, try this: rub some GooGone on the spot, then cover it completely with stain spray. Do this just before sticking the item in the washer. Don't let any GooGone sit uncovered, or it will lighten the color.
posted by DrGail at 3:30 PM on June 30, 2013

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