After A Little Day Out: Tips for Tackling Life’s Little Blotches – Food Stains!

Food Stain

Wouldn’t it be nice if dinner actually stayed on the plate for a change and didn’t end up being another food journal on your child’s freshly laundered clothes?

Young children have very effective throwing arms when it suits them, especially when it comes to launching food. It’s really amazing how far pureed carrot can travel. Blueberries may be healthy and taste great in a breakfast muffin, but those bright purplish stains are murder on light fabrics. Ditto for grape and cranberry juice. Great! If you want to go through life looking like a fruit salad that is.

How many clothes have your lost at picnics or play dates after a Little Day Out to peanut butter stains, black splotches of soy sauce and not to mention, strawberry jam! You know the drill. The toast never falls the unbuttered and un-jammed side down!

Surprisingly, dishwashing liquid and a simple bottle of hand sanitizer (which is mostly alcohol) have a lot of cleaning muscle that can take on a lot of the stubborn stains on clothes that never seem to want to leave.

Try this little test – Place a drop of oil on a plate, and smear it around. Now add a drop of dishwashing liquid. See how it starts to break up the grease? The idea is to break up the grease and hold it suspended in a water solution until it can be flushed down the drain! Spot-cleaning grease stains with dishwashing liquid is a great first step. Apply the detergent with a sponge or cloth and rub. Then rinse. When you’re dealing with a thick, sturdy fabric, scrub the spot with a soft brush (an old toothbrush perhaps). If dishwashing liquid doesn’t get the spot out completely, try rubbing it with an alcohol solution, such as hand sanitizer.

Dealing with Food Stains

Ketchup

  • Using a dull knife or the back of a spoon, remove as much of the excess ketchup as possible from the fabric.
  • Run cold water through the back of the stain as quickly as possible to force the stain back out through the fabric. Don’t run it through the front of the ketchup stain, which will only push it more deeply into the clothing.
  • Rub liquid detergent into the stained portion of the fabric. Work it into the fabric gently in a circular motion beginning on the outside of the ketchup stained area, and work inwards. This will minimise spreading of the stain.
  • If the garment is white, or you have tested it for colourfastness, apply a mild bleaching agent such as white vinegar, lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Rinse well.
  • Repeat until the stain is gone. Stains that are left to dry often become permanent and are even harder to get rid off.

Milk

  • Fresh protein stains must removed by soaking and rubbing the stain in cold water before washing. Milk stains contain other ingredients but protein needs treatment first. Never use hot water because it cooks the protein making the stain hard to remove.
  • If the stain is dried or old, scrape off any crusted matter, then soak in cold water using a liquid detergent with colour-safe bleach.
  • Soak for 30 minutes and launder in warm water with detergent.
  • If stain remains, soak for an additional 30 minutes and wash again.

Baby Food

  • Scrape off as much of the food as possible before it dries up.
  • Pre-treat the fabric with a vinegar solution (mix one part vinegar and two parts water) and apply it to the stain with an eyedropper.
  • Let it sit for at least 10 minutes. If the stain has dried in place, this may require soaking it for a few hours.
  • After soaking, wash the fabric as per normal, but do not put it in the dryer, as the heat may set any stain residue permanently.
  • Let the fabric air dry.
  • Repeat the process as needed.
  • For a stubborn stain, spot rub the stain with a few drops of an alcohol based solution i.e. hand sanitizer.
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Chocolate

  • Remove excess chocolate from the fabric using a dull knife or a spoon. Work carefully to make sure you don’t spread the chocolate more to clean parts of the clothing.
  • Using cold water, rinse the back of the stained area (this allows the stain to travel back through the least amount of fabric possible, therefore limiting the stain).
  • Gently rub in liquid detergent into the chocolate stain and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
  • Next, soak the clothing for 15 minutes in cold water and rub the stained area between your fingers and thumb every 3-5 minutes to loosen the stain.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Repeat until the stain vanishes.
  • Before drying, make sure the stain is completely gone. Sometimes due to the fats in the cocoa butter, a faint oil stain may be left over. In this case, rub liquid dish soap into the stain and washing in the hottest water safe for your garment.

Soy Sauce

  • It is important to use cold water to prevent the soy sauce from setting. Run cold water through the back of the fabric.
  • Rub liquid laundry detergent into the stain.
  • Use your thumb and fingers to gently rub liquid laundry detergent into the soy sauce.
  • Allow the clothing to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • If the stain remains, add liquid laundry detergent and soak the clothing in warm water for 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter

  • Using a dull knife scrape off any excess peanut butter from the fabric, without pushing the food deeper into the fabric.
  • Treat the stained area with a solvent-based solution (such as hand sanitizer). Allow the stain remover to work for several minutes.
  • Wash the garment in the warm water.
  • Check the stained area before drying.
  • If the stain is not gone, repeat the process.

Berry Juices

  • Stretch the fabric over a large bowl. Pour boiling hot water straight from a kettle through the fabric.
  • Rinse the stain with white vinegar, and then soak it before rinsing thoroughly and laundering with equal parts dishwashing liquid and white vinegar. (Bleach for whites also works).
  • Rub the mixture on, and leave it in place for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse with warm water, and launder the garment as you would normally.
  • You can repeat the process as needed.

Oil and Butter

  • Sprinkle flour, talcum powder, cornstarch or an artificial sweetener on both sides of the stain and let sit for 30 minutes.
  • Shake off the powder – the stain should be faded or gone.
  • Rub in some dishwashing liquid and rinse under hot water.
  • Repeat as needed.

Tomato-based Sauces (spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce, bbq sauce, pizza sauce and  salsa)

  • Never use hot water to treat tomato based stains. Heat sets tomato stains permanently. Neither put a stained, wet garment in the dryer, either.
  • Soak the stain in cold water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid.
  • Soak for at least half an hour and rub the spot to help release any lingering discoloration.
  • Rinse.
  • If the stain is still there but lighter, repeat the process above. As long as you haven’t applied heat, you still have a good chance of getting the stain out with continued effort.
  • If the stain is very noticeable, treat it with a commercial stain remover.

Jams & Jellies

  • Scrape away excess fruit using a dull knife or a spoon. Dried fruit stains will often have seeds or bits of fruit that are still stuck to the fabric. Removing these will make it easier to get rid of the stain.
  • Mix together 3 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of water together to create a thick paste.
  • Using a spoon or dull knife, apply the paste in a layer over the stained area on the fabric. Make the layer as thick as will completely cover the stained area. The thickness of the paste will draw out more of the stain.
  • Allow the paste to dry.
  • Leave the paste on the stained area for at least 15 minutes. The paste will soak into the stained area and absorb much of the stain.
  • Using lukewarm water, rinse the paste off from the back of the fabric.
  • Rub several drops of detergent directly onto the stained area.
  • Allow the area to sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing with hot water.
  • As a last resort, you can try using a mild bleaching agent (i.e. lemon juice or white vinegar) to remove the stain. Sponge solution onto the stained area and leave out in the sun for 10-15 mins. Rinse as normal.

Next Time – Art Stains!

About the Author

Priyanka Indian by birth, Priyanka grew up in Kenya and attended universities in Switzerland and the UK. After a two-year sojourn in Florida, she moved to Singapore 11 years ago. She has always had a passion for languages, reading, trying out new foods and travelling. Priyanka is a mom to six-year-old identical twin boys and together with her husband, they enjoy embarking on exciting global adventures as a family. In another lifetime, Priyanka used to be a Recruiter before finally following her passion and becoming a freelance writer. She has done freelancing for various magazines and online publications. She is also currently writing a children’s book about her twins and their favourite teddy and the adventures they have shared till now, as seen through the eyes of the little boys.

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