RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—As a walking stain magnet, I’ve become a champion stain remover over the years. Summer, with its picnics (grass stains), drippy ice cream cones, gardening, and berry picking, seems to leave me with even more laundry stains than any of the other seasons of the year do. Luckily, it's easy to remove stains with inexpensive, nontoxic cabinet staples you already have on hand.
In general, deal with laundry stains as soon as possible. Scoop off goo, gently blot up liquids with an absorbent cloth, and/or rinse off excess liquids with cold water for best results. Avoid rubbing, which grinds the substance into fabric, and don't use hot water (unless it's specifically recommended), a hot clothes dryer, or an iron on any stain before it's gone. The heat may set it more and make it even harder to remove.
You can also put the summer sun to work. Hang stained items on the line with the stains exposed to the sun to help bleach them away naturally. Just be vigilant, as sunshine may also bleach the pigment out of some fabrics quite effectively, along with any stains.
For specific stains, there are a few tips that make soiled laundry easier to clean, so read on. When using these tactics, be sure to test any cleaning method on an inconspicuous area first if you have any doubt your fabric will be colorfast.
Make these natural, nontoxic solutions your first "clothesline" of defense for common summer stains:
• Grass stains. Saturate grass stains with white vinegar and launder as usual in cold water, and they usually come out pretty easily. If brown stains reappear, it means some of the sugars from the grass juice remain and have started to caramelize. Work a dab of dish or laundry detergent into the stain, let is sit for 30 minutes, and launder in cold water as usual.
• Berries/fruit/tomato stains. Not only can brightly colored berries and fruits stain your clothing and hands when you're handling them, but also birds that like to eat them can christen your drying laundry with a mix of berry juice and…well, you know.
On cloth: A trick my Mom used still works perfectly. Just pour boiling water through the stain until it is gone (stretch the item over a colander set in the sink to avoid scalded fingers).
On fingers: Soak or rub your fingers in fresh lemon juice or vinegar, or rub stains with a cut raw potato. Then, sprinkle a little salt on your hands and wash with warm, soapy water. You may need to repeat a few times to completely remove the stains.