how to remove stains naturally

Why remove stains naturally?

Well the main reason to remove stains naturally is that you know exactly what you’re using with natural ingredients.  And, you know the ingredients aren’t toxic and will be so much better for you and the Planet.

You’ll also find that you can reduce the amount of plastic waste in your house as you wont need to buy plastic bottles of stain remover.

And, with three grandsons that all play football come rain or shine there’s always plenty of muddy, grass stained kits to deal and it’s good to know there’s nothing that will irritate their skin 🙂

how to remove stains naturally

why it's useful to know the pH of your natural cleaning ingredients

Before we get started  I thought it would be useful to recap, I’ve covered this in this previous posts,  on which ingredients work best for each cleaning task and why.

So, to understand why they work we need to think back to those science classes in school. The pH scale is used to determine how acidic or alkaline different solutions are, that is when a chemical is dissolved in water.

The scale goes from 0 to 14. Right in the middle is 7, neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic and anything above 7 is considered alkaline.

The reason this is useful to know is because Acids are better for removing things like calcium (limescale), rust, and other minerals. Alkaline (base) solutions are better at cutting through dirt, grease and oils.

It's all about the PH

Acids pH 1 to 6

Vinegar (Acetic Acid CH₃COOH) pH 3

Vinegar is acidic which makes it great for removing mineral deposits and it makes a brilliant general purpose cleaner. 

Hydrogen Peroxide (H₂O₂) pH 4

Hydrogen peroxide is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. A concentration of 3% works well as a disinfectant. It also is one of the most effective blood stain removers.

Warning – Never mix Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar as it will form Peracetic Acid. Peracetic Acid can irritate your skin, eyes and cause damage to your respiratory system.

Neutral pH 7

Rubbing Alcohol / Surgical Spirit (Isopropyl Alcohol 70%  C3H8O) pH 6 -8

Rubbing alcohol can be slightly acid, alkaline or neutral as it’s pH can range from 6 to 8.  Alcohol is a solvent, which means it’s good for dissolving dirt and oil.  It’s also a good disinfectant.

As with all chemicals, natural or man-made you do need to be careful. Its fumes are quite powerful, so always use it in a well-ventilated area. Remember the alcohol and its fumes are flammable, so keep it far from heat sources; don’t use it on this like your gas hob or oven.

Alkalines or Base 8 to 14

Bicarbonate of Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate NaHCO₃) pH 8 to 9

Bicarbonate of soda is an alkaline or base substance and is very good at powering through grease and dirt, but not enough to make it corrosive.  This makes it a great cleaning ingredient for all around your house.

Castile Soap  pH 9 – 11

Castile soap is a vegetable oil-based soap, that can be used to clean almost anything in your home.

Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate Na₂CO₃) pH 11

Washing soda or soda ash is a caustic alkaline / base.  The high alkalinity of washing soda allows it to act as a solvent in removing a wide range of stains so is great for washing laundry and degreasing pots and pans.   

Gloves should always be worn when cleaning with washing soda as it can cause skin irritation.  Also as it can be dangerous in large quantities, make sure to keep washing soda out of the reach of children and pets. It can be harmful to the eyes, cause irritation to the lungs if inhaled, and may cause abdominal pain or vomiting if large doses are swallowed.

how to remove stains naturally

General tips for treating stains

  1. Always treat stains as soon as possible.
  2. If you can’t deal with a stain straight away put the items in salted cold water to soak until you can.  Don’t use hot water as that will set the stain and make it very hard to remove. Note – the exception is oily stains where Hot is Good.
  3. For White laundry hanging the freshly laundered items outside in the sunshine is a great way to help remove stains
  4. For general laundry you can also use a couple of scoops of Oxy Bleach in your washing machine alongside your normal detergent. Oxygen bleach or  sodium percarbonate when mixed with water, breaks down to hydrogen peroxide—essentially water and oxygen plus sodium carbonate, or soda ash. It’s the perfect eco-friendly choice for whitening whites and brightening colours.  It’s also a great stain remover.  Oxygen bleach is safe to use on most fabrics except for a few very delicate ones like silk and wool.

How to remove stains naturally

Note – Before using any stain removing method on coloured or delicate items do a test on a small on your item somewhere it won’t be noticed to make sure it’s colour-fast.

I’m not saying these stain removal methods below are foolproof but they work for me but as well as the type of stain the type of material will also be a factor.  I tend to have mainly natural fabrics like linen and cotton.

Protein Stains – e.g. Blood, Sweat marks, Sick

Hydrogen peroxide – great at lifting organic stains, it’s a natural bleach so be careful on coloured items. Wet the stain with hydrogen peroxide, leave for around 15 to 20 minutes and rinse.

Baking Soda – make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water and rub into the stain, leave for around 10 minutes and then wash.

Organic Stains – Berries, Grass, Tea and Coffee

White vinegar – mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water and soak the item for 30 minutes before washing. For tougher stains you can just pour the undiluted vinegar on the stain.

Chewing Gum

The easiest way to remove chewing gum is to put the piece of clothing in the freezer for a couple of hours until the chewing gum hardens. Once it’s hard you’ll be able to break it off.

Oily Stains

Dab as much of the grease off and then sprinkle with baby powder, handy if you have kids, or if not use some cornflour on both sides of the stain and leave for 10 minutes. Wash in hot water

Ink Stains

Soak the fabric in milk for around 30 minutes and then wash. Alternatively, you can try soaking in Rubbing Alcohol.

General Laundry Stains

A good way to pre-treat general stains, like grimy cuffs and collars is to rub them with a bar of natural castile soap before washing. Just wet the bar and rub over the stain before washing.  Alternatively, you can pre-soak your laundry in a bowl of warm water with a couple a cup of washing soda.

Hope this helps with your laundry and I’d love to hear your top tips for removing stains naturally.

Written by 

Hi, I’m Frankie. This is my blog (Thoroughly Modern Grandma) about blending old fashioned values with modern technology, whilst trying to reduce our waste and be a little kinder to our Planet.

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