Get out summer's toughest stains

The best ways to treat 10 of the season's worst offenders. By Adam Bluestein

Fast fix: If you're sweating bullets, dry your armpits with paper towels. It's not glamorous, but it will prevent overwetting and damage to the fabric.

Home remedy: Treat perspiration marks with a prewash stain remover, then launder the clothes in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, using an enzyme detergent and an oxygen bleach.

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Fast fix: Not required.
Home remedy: Apply a pretreatment product, such as Spray 'n Wash or OxiClean. Let the mixture soak in, then scrub lightly with an old toothbrush. Launder using a detergent with enzymes, such as Wisk or Tide. (Enzymes help break up protein stains, like grass, making them easier to remove.) If the stain persists, wash again with an oxygen bleach for colors or a chlorine bleach for whites.

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Fast fix: Apply cool water at once.
Home remedy: Start by using a pretreatment product, then soak the clothing in an enzyme detergent. "For old stains, soak at least 30 minutes," says Nancy Bock, vice president of education for the Soap and Detergent Association, a trade group. Machine wash.

Fast fix: Not required.
Home remedy: Take your pick―either spot-treat with a mixture of dishwashing liquid and glycerin (available at drugstores) or pretreat with a stain remover, a liquid laundry detergent, or a laundry-detergent booster, such as OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover ( or 20 Mule Team Borax (Target). Machine wash, using the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

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Machinery Grease
Fast fix: Not required. In fact, treating with plain water will help set the stain.
Home remedy: Bock recommends placing a heavily soiled garment facedown on clean paper towels and applying cleaning fluid to the back. Carbona Stain Devils No. 5 ( is a good choice. Let clothing air-dry, then rinse. Machine wash, using the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

Fast fix: Not required.

Home remedy: "Rust is a hard stain to get out, because it has tiny particles that get stuck in the fiber," says Martin Wolf, the director of product and environmental technology for Seventh Generation, a manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning agents. For best results, treat with a commercial rust remover that's safe for fabrics, such as Rx for Spotting Rust Remover ( for store locations). Then launder as usual. If you don't have a special rust-removal product, Wolf recommends pretreating the stain with a product containing surfactants (lubricating agents found in most detergents), then laundering. No matter what: Don't add chlorine bleach to the mix. It reacts with the rust, intensifying the discoloration.

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Fast fix: For the first line of defense, dab the stain with water immediately. If you have access to some detergent, even better. Spot-treat.

Home remedy: Pretreat the stain with liquid laundry detergent or a prewash stain remover, like Tide to Go. On light-colored fabrics, consider spraying on some hydrogen peroxide, which acts as a mild bleach. Then machine wash, using a detergent and a bleach that are safe for the fabric.

Fast fix: If the stain is wet, soak the fabric in cold water, then rub with a bar of soap.

Home remedy: If the stain is still wet, soak in water and apply a small amount of ammonia with a Q-tip. If it's a light-colored material, "you can follow up by dabbing with hydrogen peroxide, which creates a powerful bleach," says Steve Boorstein, the author and founder of Machine wash. With dried bloodstains, apply an enzyme prewash product or soak the clothing in warm water with an enzyme detergent before laundering. If the stain persists, wash with a detergent and a bleach that are safe for the fabric.

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Fast fix: Rinse with cold water.

Home remedy: Soak in cold water. "You can follow with some ammonia on a Q-tip," advises Steve Boorstein, the author and founder of, "especially if it's a reddish stain on a light-colored fabric." Launder with detergent and an oxygen bleach. "Color-safe bleach is excellent for removing the last traces of these water-based stains," says Boorstein.

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