drawing of a washing machine

Quick-fixes for 10 of the most common stubborn stains

How to blitz household stains, from coffee and red wine to blood and lipstick.

By Amy Lewis, 10 January 2016
Quick-fixes for 10 of the most common stubborn stains

Whether it’s red wine on the carpet, coffee on the sofa or blood stains on your towels, we’ve got a quick fix to remove almost any stain.

We’ve got a quick fix to remove almost any stain

Even the kids’ chocolate-covered fingers can’t beat these stain removal tips!


Blot what you can with clean paper towels. Then mix a little washing up liquid with a cup of cool water and, using a clean sponge or cloth, dab the stain. Keep repeating this, while blotting regularly with clean paper towels or a dry cloth, until the stain fades and disappears.


If the spill is on a machine-washable sofa cover or clothing, try soaking the stain in cool water for around half hour, before treating with a stain remover and then popping it in the machine as normal.



Again, blot with clean paper towels to soak up as much of the spill as you can, then sponge the stain with a clean damp cloth as soon as possible. Mix some washing up liquid with a tablespoon of white vinegar and warm water, then get to work on the stain using a clean cloth and the solution. Regularly pat the area dry with a clean towel as you go, to avoid getting the area too wet. When the stain has disappeared, use a clean damp cloth to rinse the area and leave it to dry.



If you manage to get to the stain before the blood has dried, soak it in cool water first. If it has dried, scrape off what you can and then soak in cool water with a pre-wash stain treatment or a solution of diluted washing powder or liquid. Then, sponge the stain using your soak solution until it disappears. Only scrub the area gently, as you don’t want to spread the stain further. If you can’t remove the mark completely, do what you can until the spot has faded and then wash in the machine (if safe for the fabric), using a stain remover as well.


If a tomato dinner dish [link to recipes] has found its way onto the tablecloth, carpet or sofa, don’t panic – there are things you can do. If you can turn the fabric over, do this and start soaking the stain using a sponge and cold water. Then, cover it with a solution of liquid laundry detergent and leave to soak for a few minutes. Rinse and then start sponging with a little white vinegar. Repeat the soapy soak and vinegar sponging until you’ve removed what you can, before washing as normal using a stain remover to finish of the remains. If the spill is on your carpet or a non-removable sofa cover, mix the liquid washing detergent with some cold water and use to sponge the stain, remembering to regularly blot the area dry.



Lipstick can be a tough one to remove thanks to the combination of oils, waxes and strong colour pigments. But if you do get a smudge, regular washing up liquid is your best bet since it’s designed to cut through grease. Mix some washing up liquid in a small bowl of water and soak the stain for around 10 to 20 minutes. Then, if you can, pop the stained item in the machine and wash it as normal. If not, gently blot the area dry with a clean paper towel and then start sponging the stain with more soapy water, working from the outer edges and moving inwards.



The most important thing to do here is let the chocolate dry before you start to clean it. You’ll just end up spreading the stain otherwise. Once it’s dry, gently scrape off what you can. If the chocolate is on a machine-washable fabric, treat the area with a stain remover and then pop it in the machine on a high temperature that is safe for the material. Otherwise, mix some liquid laundry detergent in a cup of cool water and sponge the stain using the solution.




Though tricky to budge, yellowish perspiration stains can be tackled, even on white shirts. If the stain is old, it’s best to first soak the area in a solution of water and a spoon of white vinegar. If it’s a relatively new stain, soak using an enzyme-based stain treatment instead. After soaking, scrub the area with a nail brush to lift what you can and then pop the item in the washing machine (if safe for the fabric) with a whitening action washing powder. Drying the garment outside in the sun can help too, as sunshine has a natural bleaching effect.



Whether it’s fresh vegetable puree or a jar of yummy pre-prepared food, the vibrant colours of baby food often mean stubborn stains on bibs and babygrows. To banish them for good, first scrape off what you can and then soak everything in cold water. If you have time, leave to soak overnight with a little washing up liquid, otherwise 30 minutes should help to start lifting the stain. Then, gently scrub the stain with a sponge and washing up liquid until it disappears (or at least starts to fade). Wash the garment as normal and repeat the steps if the stain doesn’t budge after the first wash.



Hold-off doing anything to a mud stain until it’s completely dry. If you attack a mud stain with water when it’s fresh, you’ll just push it deeper into the fabric. When the mud is dry, begin by scraping off what you can, or if it’s on the carpet use a dustpan and brush or vacuum cleaner. Then, break out the pre-wash stain remover, soak and, if possible, wash in the machine as normal. For carpets, sponge the stain with a solution of cool water and washing-up liquid instead. Keep blotting as you go so that the stain doesn’t get too wet and spread.



Another stain that won’t be helped by an instant splash of water, ink is best left alone until dry. Water is likely to help an ink stain spread further and soak deeper into the fabric. So, once it’s dry, apply some rubbing alcohol, Surgical Spirit or dry-cleaning solvent to the stain, using a sponge and gentle dabbing action. The stain should lift away fairly easily.


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