11 Common Household Products That Are Great Stain Removers

Baking Soda

Baking soda is mildly alkaline and abrasive, making it great for lifting stains. Sprinkle baking soda directly on grease, oil, or acidic stains like wine, coffee, and tomato sauce. Let it sit for a few minutes to absorb the stain, then rinse and launder as usual. For extra cleaning power, mix baking soda with water to form a paste before applying to the stain.

White Vinegar

The acidic nature of white vinegar helps break down stains and odors. For most stains, fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and spray it directly on the spot. Check the stain after a few minutes. If it’s not gone, rub it gently with a soft cloth or toothbrush. Rinse with water. Vinegar works well on coffee, tea, juice, and tomato-based stains.

Hydrogen Peroxide

As a bleach alternative, hydrogen peroxide can whiten and remove all sorts of stains. Use a 3% solution for household purposes. Lightly spritz it onto the stain and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before washing as normal. Hydrogen peroxide is great for pit stains, blood, grass, wine, and more. Test on an inconspicuous area first since hydrogen peroxide may discolor some fabrics over time.

Lemon Juice

The natural acidity in lemon juice breaks down stains. After squeezing fresh lemon juice onto a stain, rub the area with salt and let sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing and washing. This works well for rust, perspiration, and dye stains. For extra cleaning power, set the stained item out in direct sunlight after applying the lemon juice and salt. The sun’s UV rays help whiten the fabric.

Meat Tenderizer

Meat tenderizer contains natural enzymes that break down proteins – exactly what you need for food stains or blood. Make a paste with tenderizer and water and gently rub it on the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing and washing. Meat tenderizer works wonders on food spills, grease, grass stains, and blood.

Rubbing Alcohol

The solvent properties of rubbing alcohol allow it to dissolve all kinds of stains and lift them from the fabric. Use a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution. Pour a small amount directly onto the stain and let it soak in for a few minutes. Then rinse thoroughly with cool water before laundering as normal. Be sure to test rubbing alcohol on an inconspicuous area first, as it may discolor or damage certain fabrics over time.

Dish Soap

For oil-based stains, try squirting some dish soap directly onto the spot and scrubbing gently with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with cool water. The surfactants in dish soap will break down the oils and allow the stain to be washed away. Dish soap works wonders on greasy food stains, cosmetics, motor oil, crayon, and more.

Club Soda

The carbonation in plain club soda makes it a great pretreatment for stains before washing. Pour club soda generously on the stain and let it bubble and fizz for a few minutes to help lift it away. Then rinse and launder as usual. Club soda can tackle wine, blood, grass, makeup stains, and more.


As a laundry booster and whitener, borax can also be used to pretreat stains. Make a paste with borax and water and rub it into the stain. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes before rinsing and washing. The abrasiveness of borax helps lift out all kinds of stains, from food and drinks to dirt and mud.

Distilled White Vinegar

Fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar and spritz it directly onto stains before washing. The acidic vinegar will help break down and dissolve all kinds of stains. Let it soak in for a few minutes before rinsing and throwing in the wash. White vinegar removes coffee, tea, juice, tomato sauce, urine, sweat, and pet stains.

Cream of Tartar

The abrasive texture of cream of tartar makes it ideal for scrubbing out stubborn stains. Mix it with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Apply it to the stain and let sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing and washing as usual. It’s great for wine, coffee, tea, juice, and watercolor stains. The cream of tartar also helps brighten whites.

Frequently Asked Questions About Stain Removal

Here are answers to some common questions about using household products to remove tough stains:

How long should I let a stain remover sit before washing?

Let stain removers or pretreatments sit for at least 5-10 minutes before washing to give them time to work. For more stubborn stains, you can let them sit for up to 30 minutes or more. Just make sure to rinse the area thoroughly before putting it in the wash.

What temperature should I wash stained items in?
Use the hottest water setting recommended for that fabric type. The heat helps release the stained particles from the fabric. Avoid excessive heat though, as that can set some stains permanently.

Can I use stain removers on delicate fabrics?
Yes, but always test an inconspicuous area first. Use a gentle touch when rubbing the stain remover and rinse it off thoroughly before washing delicates. Avoid aggressive scrubbing that could damage fabrics.

Do I need to rinse off stain removers before washing?
Yes, you should always rinse off any pretreatments or stain removers thoroughly before putting the item in the washing machine. Residual removers could impact the effectiveness of your regular laundry detergent.

What kinds of stains are hardest to remove?
Set-in stains, oil-based stains, grease, food dyes, blood, wax, and ink stains can be the most challenging to get out completely. Using a stain remover as soon as possible improves your chances.

Will stain removers damage or discolor my clothes over time?
It’s possible with harsh chemical removers. That’s why it’s best to start with gentle homemade options first. Always check for colorfastness and fabric content before using any new product. Spot test removers in an inconspicuous area.


You probably have some effective stain fighting ingredients already in your pantry or laundry room. Before spending money on speciality stain removers, try some of these common household products. Baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap can tackle all kinds of stains through the power of absorption, abrasion, and dissolution. Always use a light touch, test removers first in an inconspicuous spot, allow plenty of time for them to work, and rinse thoroughly. With some trial and error, these simple, natural products can become your go-to stain removers for fresh spills and set-in stains alike.