8 Natural Fixes For Summer's Most Annoying Stains

Between the grass stains and the sweat rings, summer can leave you looking less than fresh. Here's help.

August 2, 2016
pile of laundry

As a walking stain magnet, I’ve become a champion stain remover over the years. Summer—with its picnics, drippy ice cream cones, gardening, and berry picking—seems to leave me with even more laundry stains than any of the other seasons of the year. Luckily, it's easy to remove stains with inexpensive, nontoxic cabinet staples you already have on hand—like vinegar

In general, deal with laundry stains as soon as possible. Scoop off goo, gently blot up liquids with an absorbent cloth, and rinse off excess liquids with cold water for best results. Avoid rubbing, which grinds the substance into fabric, and don't use hot water (unless it's specifically recommended), a hot clothes dryer, or an iron on any stain before it's gone, as the heat may set it more and make it even harder to remove.

For specific stains, there are a few tips that make soiled laundry easier to clean. When using these tactics, be sure to test any cleaning method on an inconspicuous area first if you have any doubt your fabric will be colorfast. (Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

grass stain
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1. Grass Stains

Saturate grass stains with white vinegar and launder as usual in cold water, and they usually come out pretty easily. If brown stains reappear, it means some of the sugars from the grass juice remain and have started to caramelize. Work a dab of dish or laundry detergent into the stain and let is sit for 30 minutes, and then launder in cold water as usual.

Related: 7 Nontoxic Fixes For Common Lawn Problems

berry stained hands
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2. Fruit Stains

Not only can brightly colored fruits stain your clothing and hands when you're handling them, but also birds that like to eat them can christen your drying laundry with a mix of berry juice and droppings. If you find your clothes have fruit stains, a trick my Mom used still works perfectly: Just pour boiling water through the stain until it's gone, stretching the item over a colander set in the sink to avoid scalded fingers.

If the stain is on your fingers, soak or rub your fingers in fresh lemon juice or vinegar, or rub stains with a cut raw potato. Then, sprinkle a little salt on your hands and wash with warm, soapy water. You may need to repeat a few times to completely remove the stains.

child eating ice cream
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3. Ice Cream Or Chocolate Stains

Remove any dried-on solids with a dull knife. Rinse with cold water, work a dab of dish or laundry detergent into the stain, and let it sit for 30 minutes, then launder in cold water as usual. Repeat if needed, allowing the detergent at least a few hours to work before laundering again.

ketchup stain
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4. Condiment Stains

Treat ketchup the same as you would berry stains. For mustard, work a dab of glycerin (you can buy it in most drugstores) into the stain, and let it sit for about five minutes; rinse, and launder as usual.

Related: 8 Must-Haves For A Nontoxic Cleaning Kit

spilled wine
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5. Wine Stains

A wine stain on your favorite tablecloth or best summer cocktail dress is a sad way to remember a great party. Blot off excess wine while it's still wet, saturate the spot with white vinegar, and blot off the vinegar; repeat until the stain is gone. Launder as usual.

sweat stains
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6. Sweat Stains

Saturate with vinegar and launder as usual.

Related: 8 Ways To Keep Housecleaning Nontoxic

tree sap
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7. Tree-Sap Stains

If you run afoul of this sticky substance, try using this old-fashioned solution: Rub the spot with peanut butter or solid shortening, let the fatty stuff sit for 30 seconds, and remove the excess. Oil from the peanut butter or shortening left behind? For fabrics, work a dab of dish or laundry detergent into the oil, let sit for 30 minutes, and then launder in cold water as usual; remove it from hard surfaces by rubbing them clean with a soft cloth. Repeat a few times if necessary. Denatured alcohol will also remove tar and sap.

girl by the pool
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8. Stained Hair

If you have fair hair and spend too much time in a chlorinated pool, you may find you've taken on a greenish tinge. This happens when the chlorine in pool water oxidizes dissolved metals—such as copper, iron, and manganese—in the water creating a greenish blue dye. Rinse your hair with pure lemon juice or pure vinegar or with a solution of baking soda dissolved in water to remove any existing greenish hues, and use the same rinse after each time you swim. Using a swimming cap and taking a shower before you swim will help reduce chlorine absorption.

Related: 7 Simple, Natural Changes That Helped Heal My Acne