Secrets For Removing the Toughest Holiday Stains

Plus the sneaky way you're setting stains—without even knowing it.

Christmas Tree Skirt
Photo: Getty/AMCImages

'Tis the season for spills, stains, and smudges. We asked Laura Goodman, P&G Senior Scientist and Fabric Care Expert to share her best-kept secrets on the biggest laundry blunders we'll face this season. She sounded off on everything from how to remove the most stubborn grease stains to how to get rid of those pesky pills that seem to plague our favorite holiday sweaters. Just be sure to keep your garments out of the dryer until the stains are removed, as that's a surefire way to set a stain.

How To Remove Grease on a Tablecloth

If you get grease on Grandma's tablecloth don't fret. First take a plastic bucket and create a soak solution by adding 1/2 dose (approximately 25 mL) of detergent per gallon of warm water. Allow the garment to soak for up to 30 minutes. Add a white towel to the bucket to help keep the stained garment submerged in the solution. Wash in the warmest water setting allowed by the care label with one dose of the appropriate amount of your selected detergent based on the wash-load size. If the stain remains, wash the garment again. Before washing, pretreat with your detergent (pour detergent on to cover stain and let set for 20 minutes). Then, rewash in warm water with one dose of the appropriate amount of detergent before drying.

Tip: Grease stains are hard to see on wet garments. Don't machine dry grease-stained garments until you are certain the stain is gone, as that may set the stain.

How To Remove Wine from Clothing

Start by rinsing the clothing item in warm water to dilute the stain. Pretreat using your selected detergent to break up the stain. Then pour enough detergent to cover the stain and let set for 20 minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to help spread the detergent into the fibers of the garment or rub the fabric together gently. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items. Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power. Wash in warm water with one dose of the appropriate amount of detergent for the wash-load size. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.

How To Clean Stockings and Tree Skirts

As you're cleaning your stockings and tree skirts from last year, fill a tub or sink with cool water to preserve colors and fabrics (or recommended temperature on label) and add 1 teaspoon of detergent (use more if washing multiple items). Submerge fabrics in soapy water and gently stir until fabrics are clean. Empty the tub or sink, refill it with cool rinsing water, and add clean fabrics to water. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of fabric conditioner (or enough to cover the bottom of the cap) in 1 cup of water. Fabric conditioner protects the fabrics from stretching and color fading. Once the rinsing is done, move fabrics to the side of the tub and pour the fabric conditioner solution directly into the rinse water. Stir the fabrics in the rinse water several times, then soak for 2 to 3 minutes and stir the fabrics several more times. Once the wash is complete, gently wring and dry flat, reshaping as necessary.

If there is a care label, follow it for any specific hand washing details.

How To Wash and Depill a Holiday Sweater

Why is it that by April, that sweater you unwrapped during the holidays already has those pesky pills under the arms and along the sides? Pilling occurs when fibers break down, separate, and then clump together in little balls. It tends to form on wool, cotton, cashmere, even polyester garments, usually at a point where two fabrics rub together. Making sure this doesn't happen to your sweater is very easy. Start by making sure you're laundering your garments like a pro. Turn the sweater inside out and set your machine to gentle cycle. Be sure to use a detergent that rinses clean and does not contain any dyes. After washing, lay the sweater flat to avoid stretching. Roll up the towel and sweater from the closest edge, like a jellyroll. This squeezes out any excess water. Now if you are experiencing pilling, place the sweater on a flat surface and go over with scissors or razor carefully. If you're worried about damaging the sweater, you can find something that will remove the pills more gently, such as a fine-tooth comb, pumice stone, or even a fruit zester. To protect those festive threads from further fuzzing use a fabric softener/conditioner in the rinse cycle when laundering. Fabric conditioners coat the fibers to ease the friction that causes pilling. Conditioners also help prevent fading and stretching which means your favorite sweater should be around for many more seasons to come.

How To Remove Wax Stains

Wax stain removal can be a bit of a challenge, but it's possible to save your garments from ruin. When removing wax drippings from your clothes, first things first: Step away from the stain! Wax removal is easier once the wax has hardened, so let it dry, instead of working it deeper into the garment's fibers. Once the wax is solid, you can remove the bulk of it easily. To remove any remaining wax, place white, unpatterned paper towels on either side of the fabric and use an iron on a low, non-steam setting. Be careful not to leave the iron in one spot for too long. If any oil stains remain you can pre-treat using your selected detergent and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure to let it sit for 5 minutes before washing. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items. Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power. When washing, use the hottest cycle available (as long as it coincides with your garment's washing instructions). If the stain persists after washing, repeat the previous steps before tossing in the dryer, as drying will set the stain.

How To Remove Tree Sap Stains

The first step to getting rid of tree sap is removing excess. Test for colorfastness by applying alcohol or sanitizer to an inside seam. After 1 to 3 minutes, dab with the towel. If no color comes off, the item is colorfast. If the item is colorfast, add rubbing alcohol or clear, alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the spot, then blot with a paper towel. Next you'll want to pre-treat by pouring a detergent directly onto the tree-sap stain. Make sure you completely cover it and let set for 5 minutes. Without rinsing off the garment, load into washer with your other garments. Leaving the detergent on your stain will give your washer more stain-fighting power. If the stain persists after washing, repeat the previous steps before tossing in the dryer, as drying will set the stain.

How To Remove Food Coloring from Linens

Brush off any excess food coloring from the garment before rinsing under running water. The higher the water pressure, the easier it will be to remove. Pour laundry detergent directly onto the dye stain and make sure you completely cover it and set for 5 minutes. Pour detergent into the HE washing machine and place the garment into the washer. Once again, leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power. Wash on the usual cycle, on the hottest wash temperature indicated, and unload the garment when complete.

How to Clean and Store Bed Linens

Getting out the linens before and after you have guests can be somewhat of a nuisance. You don't want your guests to sleep on sheets that smell like they've been in a closet all year. The general rule is that you should wash your sheets every 1-2 weeks. Wash your sheets every week at least if you're a heavy sweater. You also need to wash your sheets more frequently if you have acne or dust mite allergies to avoid reactions. If you have facial acne, wear heavy facial moisturizers to bed, wash your hair one to two times a week or less, or routinely go to bed without removing your makeup it's a good idea to change your pillowcase more frequently as it may be more soiled than your sheets. When it comes time to store, ironing bed linens can help. Keep freshly laundered sheets and bedding in a dry, cool place. To help keep matching sets together, store each set inside one of the pillowcases.

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How To Be More Eco-Friendly This Holiday Season

Looking to be eco-friendlier this holiday season? By changing simple habits in your laundry routine, you can not only reduce your footprint but can also save costs in your household. In your laundry routines, wash in cold water to reduce household energy and replace your supplies with a plant-based detergent and fabric conditioner. Plant-based products contain ingredients from plants, marine, forestry or other agricultural sources, and provides a renewable alternative to traditional, petroleum-based ingredients. By adding fabric conditioner to your routine, you extend the life of your clothes by up to four times, therefore reducing your environmental impact associated with purchasing new garments and keeping existing items out of landfill.

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