7 Stain Removal Mistakes You Should Avoid At All Costs

stain mistakes

Whether it’s red wine on your favorite blouse or a greasy splotch on your sofa, a significant spill or splatter can be enough to send anyone into a tizzy! It’s easy to panic and make a rash decision about stain removal in haste, but making the wrong move can ultimately be worse than taking your time to think things through!

While I can’t stop you from panicking over a sudden stain (believe me, if I could, I would have done it for myself already!), I can explain why it’s important to avoid certain panic-induced stain interventions! And that’s what I plan to do here, where I’ll be sharing 7 mistakes you should avoid in order to give your stained clothes, upholstery, and carpets a fighting chance!

For more stain removal tips and trick, check out my eBook How To Wash Everything! You can get it in my shop, or download it free if you’re an OGT Plus member.

7 Stain Removal Mistakes That Make Matters Worse

stain mistakes

1. Rinsing With Hot Water

Pause before you rinse that stain with piping hot water! While your instincts may tell you that hot water will help dissolve whatever substance caused the stain, that isn’t the only thing worth considering!

Hot water can permanently set certain stains, especially protein-based ones like blood, and make them nearly impossible to remove. To stay on the safe side, always use cold water to flush soiled spots.

stain mistakes

2. Rubbing At A Stain

My mother taught me to always dab or blot stains (especially fresh ones) and her advice has never led me astray! Rubbing at a stain can be counterproductive, both because it puts stress on the soiled fabric and it can potentially make the stain even bigger. Blotting a stain instead of rubbing it will help you avoid both these problems.

stain mistakes

3. Drying An Item Before The Stain Is Gone

We’ve all thrown a stained item in the wash ASAP to prevent the stain from setting, but it’s important to make sure the stain is completely gone before drying it! As I mentioned above, heat can set stains permanently, so you don’t want to dry a stained item until you’re completely satisfied that the stain is gone.

It’s always a good idea to treat a stain first (I use my Ultimate Stain Remover Spray for just about everything, apart from blood and ink, which are best treated specially), then wash the soiled garment and check it afterward.

stain mistakes

4. Mixing Stain Removers

It’s never a good idea to mix chemicals, even when it comes to stain removers, because certain chemicals can create harmful gases when mixed. So when you’re treating a stain, choose one stain remover and give it a go. If the stain remains after going through a wash cycle, feel free to try a different approach!

stain mistakes

5. Using Too Much Stain Remover

You want to ensure your stain remover of choice covers the stain, but you don’t want to oversaturate it! Applying too much stain remover can make it almost impossible to rinse out completely (especially when you’re working with carpets or upholstery). To avoid overdoing it, apply stain removers lightly in repeated applications if necessary.

stain mistakes

6. Letting Stains Sit Too Long

Once you’ve decided on the best way to treat your stain, tackle it right away! It can be tempting to throw the soiled item in your laundry hamper and let it sit until your next laundry day, but the longer a stain sits, the harder it can be to remove completely—especially it the stain is colorful or greasy. So rinse and treat those stains promptly!

stain mistakes

7. Attacking A Stain From The Center

Similar to wiping up a spill on your kitchen counter, trying to clean a stain up from the center raises the risk of spreading it around. Approach the stain from the outside edges to help prevent it from spreading or seeping.

Do you have any tips for tackling tough stains?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • My biggest helper with food stains is baby powder. I often drip soup on myself at lunch at the office. There’s always an oil stain on my blouse. So I rub baby powder into the stain and wait 10 minutes then brush away the powder. Almost always takes oil stain away. Then I use a drop of Dawn before it goes into washer. Very seldom have stains after that treatment. (Also I keep a well-marked used tooth brush at my desk to brush powder away.)

  • A professional carpet cleaner told us once to always use a stain remover that is opposite in pH from the stain you’re treating – for instance, coffee is acidic, so you’d want to use an alkaline stain remover. Interestingly enough, cat & dog urine is acidic when wet (use alkaline treatment) but when you didn’t catch it in time and it’s dry, it’ll be alkaline so you’ll want to use something acidic – he suggested vinegar.

  • Two words: Totally Awesome. $1 at the Dollar Store. Gets out nearly everything including set in blueberries and stains previously dried in the dryer. Never been so satisfied with spending $1.

  • One thing that I would like to suggest is that when you are working with ink stains on clothing, be sure and work with one layer of the fabric or back it with a rag that you do not care about. I was tasked with removing ink from my husbands pants after he left an ink pen in the pock and it bled. When I used my stain remover with the pants lying flat the ink bled through to the inside of the pants and even to the back. So prior to spraying your spot remover stuff the pocket with a rag to absord the ink when it dilutes and make sure you separate the layers of front and back, or the front will be clean and the back will be a ink stained mess!

  • I’ve used Zout . It’s fairly cheap and available in stores. I like it because it’s formulated to use on various types of stains without having to buy a bunch of other removers. Oxi clean is excellent for whites and light colors.

  • One thing my mother taught me, that has worked so well over the years is this: When you blot a stain, first place a rag or paper towel behind the stain too. It will double the absorption and most of the time make the stain easy to clean..

  • Spray stains with ADVANTAGE (you can buy direct from the company or on Amazon). I have been using this for almost 40 years and it is unbelievable. Yes, the bottle seems expensive but you dilute it (depending on how strong you need it) and the bottle will last me for a couple of years. It has gotten out more carpet, furniture and clothing stains than you can even imagine! No matter what the stain (dirt, grease whatever), Advantage will get it out. Works super on car seats, too. When my kids moved out, I bought a bottle for each and they also always keep some on hand.

    • Hi KW. I’m interested in your suggestion. I just went in Amazon. There is a cleaner called Advantage – not a concentrate for $19.95 for a large spray bottle used on aircraft, etc. and there is a concentrate called Advanage 20x (no T in the word) for $39.90. I think I know that I need the second one but just wanted to check before I spent that kind of money. I have homemade stain remover and I like it but with kids, grandkids and pets, sometimes you need the big guns! Thanks a bunch.

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