Laundry life hacks: 10 of the most common stains and how to remove them

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      Doing laundry is an aspect of being an adult that we’ve learned on a need-to-know basis. It’s a necessary part of life but it’s never been an area in which we’ve felt the need to excel. But being good at washing, drying, and ironing are more useful skills than you might expect. That’s because by properly caring for our clothes, we can increase their life while also reducing our impact on the environment and our wallets.

      Textile waste is one of the Earth’s biggest pollutants, and Metro Vancouver has launched the  campaign to encourage residents to reduce, repair, and reuse their clothing instead of throwing it out. Finding more energy-efficient ways of washing and drying our clothes can help minimize the carbon footprint. Better still, if we can keep the clothing we have for longer, that means we buy less.

      Thankfully, there are some fairly simple steps you can take to prolong the life span of your clothing. The first tip, not overwashing your clothes, might be one that you’ve been practising with gusto already. If you’ve only worn a garment once, ask yourself if it really needs a wash or if you could freshen it up by airing it out instead.

      Once your laundry basket is sufficiently filled with the items that require more than just air, you’re going to need to put in some prep work. Separate your clothes by colour (lights and darks) and fabric (heavy and delicate), then wash them in two separate loads on the coldest and gentlest cycle you can. If you’re not sure, read the labels.

      Metro Vancouver produced this handy guide to the most common laundry care symbols.
      Metro Vancouver

      Then consider hanging up your clothes instead of using the dryer. This will not only help preserve your clothing but it will also reduce the amount of ironing required. Plus, there have been no recorded incidents of socks going missing on the drying rack.

      Although you might have the basics covered already, what about times when disaster strikes?  What about the incidents that require a Mom level of laundry expertise? Don’t despair! There’s no use crying over spilled milk, or your sister’s overzealous dancing with a full glass of red wine, or your baby’s unfavourable reaction to spaghetti, or your pet’s lack of bathroom etiquette. Below are tips for removing some of the most common and stubborn of stains even when you think your clothes might be ruined.

      With the right tips and tricks, your clothes will come out of the laundry as good as new.


      Boil some water and stretch your fabric over a bowl. Carefully pour the water through the stain. Apply a commercial stain remover and wait for about 30 minutes before washing.


      For red wine, coat the stain with salt. Boil water and stretch fabric over a bowl. Carefully pour the water through the stain. For white wine, run cold water over the stain, then spray with dish-soap solution (approximately one tablespoon of clear soap in one cup of water) and dab with commercial stain remover.

      Tomato sauce

      Scrape off any excess and then apply dish-soap solution (approximately one tablespoon of clear soap in one cup of water). Blot with a damp towel to remove any residue. If the stain persists, apply a few drops of white vinegar.


      Flush the stain with white vinegar, then apply a dish-soap solution (approximately one tablespoon of clear soap in one cup of water) and let sit for 15 minutes then wash as usual.


      Rub an ice cube over the spot to freeze the gum, then chip away with a blunt tool as much as possible. To loosen remaining residue, apply a lubricant, like glycerin, then scrape it off. Rinse. If any gum remains, dab with dish soap.

      Salad dressing

      Sprinkle cornstarch on the spot and let sit to soak up the oil. Rinse with cool water. Apply commercial stain remover and let sit for 15 minutes.


      Spray the spot with a hair spray with alcohol in it and let sit for 10 minutes. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove any residue and remaining stain.


      For pen, apply rubbing alcohol with a clean toothbrush. Dab with a cotton ball. Let dry. Rinse with dish-soap solution (approximately one tablespoon of clear soap in one cup of water). For permanent marker, use a toothbrush to rub commercial stain remover into the spot.

      Dirt or mud

      Scrape off any excess once the stain is dry. Dilute laundry detergent with water and rub it on to form suds, then rinse with warm water. If any stain remains, apply a solution of one part white vinegar and one part water to lighten it.


      For a wet stain, soak in water, then dab on ammonia with a cotton swab. For a dry stain, soak in salt water for a few hours and rinse. Then apply with ammonia solution (one part ammonia to two parts water).

      For instructions on how to remove even more stains, plus tips and advice on how to reduce, repair, and reuse your clothing, visit the Metro Vancouver website at  Follow this series to explore some of the specific actions you can take to minimize your textile waste.