Presoaking: My Secret (& Easy) Stain Removal Weapon

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There are many stain removal techniques you can use, but one of my favorites is presoaking stains.


It is perfect for a Busy Mom like me because all I have to do is create my presoak solution and dump in my stained clothing or other fabric, and then walk away! The rest is done while I do something else, giving the solution time to work its magic.

The principal behind soaking stains is that the bleach, detergent, or other stain removers need adequate and substantial time in contact with the spot or spill to break it down and wash it away, and this technique allows that.

Often, I will have a stain I can't imagine coming out, and I let it soak, peeking at it periodically, and over time the spot fades and finally disappears.

Creating Presoak Solutions

soaking blackberry stains
It is very easy to create your presoak solution.

All you do is get a tub or bucket which can hold water and add your chosen stain remover to it, letting it dissolve or dilute in the water.

(Pictured above, on the right, is my presoaking solution when I used Oxiclean to remove blackberry stains by soaking them away.)

There are all kinds of laundry products made for this stain removing technique.

Some of the most popular include oxygen bleach powder, enzyme products, borax, or even laundry detergents.

The one you choose partially depends on what kind of stain you've got, and partially on what you've got on hand to get the job done.

Special Instructions For Using Chlorine Bleach With This Method

You can also use chlorine bleach as a presoak, but you need to be much more careful with it than with the other products I mentioned.

Whereas it would not be unusual to let products soak in a detergent solution or oxygen bleach solution all night long, if you allowed this with household bleach you'd wake up to damaged fabrics.

If you need to use this type of bleach for soaking stains my suggestion is only to soak for 15 minutes or so, maximum, and be sure to test for colorfastness first.

You can read more about how to soak stained items in chlorine bleach here, in my article about this powerful stain remover.

How To Presoak In Your Top Loading Washing Machine

While you typically use a bucket or tub to soak your stained clothing in, you can also use your top loading washing machine to accomplish the same thing. (It won't work in a front loader though.)

All you have to do is add your detergent and other laundry supplies to the water, then add your clothing, and then stop the machine to let the clothing and water/detergent mixture soak for one to several hours before turning the machine back on and letting the cycle finish.

If you're going to do this, to be effective, you'll need to add about 50% more detergent than normal to make a strong enough solution for stain removal.

Share Your Favorite Products For Soaking Stains With Me

As I mentioned above, there are several products you can use for this technique. Below I've collected some reviews and tips from readers who've shared how they've both used the technique effectively, and also what product they favor for the task.

I'd love for you to share your own favorite presoaks too, and I'll add them to the list. You can share your tips and product recommendations here.

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Presoaking Laundry Stains With Oxiclean Works For Me!

by Anne
(MA)

Anne has shared her tips for presoaking laundry stains with Oxiclean to keep her clothes looking like new.

Anne says:

I have an allergic reaction to wool worn next to my skin and I love the comfort of knits so I have many garments in cotton knit of various weights and textures which I wear year round.

Unfortunately, I have a real talent for getting food stains on my clothes. The worst are spaghetti sauce and oil and grease stains (salad oil, melted butter etc.).

If some pre-treater or additive removed the stains it also removed the dye leaving a bleached out spot. Over the years countless items have been consigned to the "only at home" pile, some after only one wearing.

A friend told me about soaking in a strong solution of Oxiclean and water. I first used hot water to dissolve the powder in a plastic bucket (like Taylor and the blackberry-stained shirt), but then added cold water to prevent shrinkage.

Taylor says: Here are links to buy this or related products. If you make a purchase I receive a small commission which helps support this site and my family.



I generally soak whites over night but check colors after a few hours. There may be some dye loss, which may or may not be obvious when the garment is dry, but since it is an all-over loss, a little fading beats seeing a bleached out spot or the original stain.

I tested this method on long set in stains and it is remarkably effective. The "only at home" pile is now very small and basically consists of comfort clothes with holes that I still can't bear to part with.

I also found the Oxiclean spray works on many fresh oil/food stains without leaving bleached out spots.

Taylor says:

Thanks so much for these great tips for presoaking laundry stains with Oxiclean Anne.

You're right, I love presoaking many types of stains because it is easy, and very effective. You just have to think ahead before you throw the clothing in the wash.

Does anyone else have a favorite way to use Oxiclean? If so, you can share your Oxiclean uses here, or read my review and uses for clothing, upholstery, carpet, hard surfaces and more here. Be sure to tell me what types of stains you've gotten out with it!

Laundry Detergents Can Be Used For Presoaking Too

I got another submission from a reader, sharing how she uses Wisk detergent to presoak stained items.

I mention this because I want people to realize they don't have to buy something specific to use the presoaking stain removal technique, but instead you can use something you most likely have in your laundry room right now will probably work, at least for many stains.

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I Presoak Laundry Stains With Biz And It Works Well!

by Robin
(Illinois)

Robin has shared how she's used powdered Biz for years for her family's laundry.

Robin says:

I started using Biz about 28 years ago when my son was a baby. (Back then Biz only came in a powdered form, and I have stuck with the powder.)

How to use the easy and effective stain removal technique of presoaking to remove lots of stains, even ones you've decided may never come out. It's both simple and works, which is why it's my secret stain removal weapon! {on Stain Removal 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
I was desperate to find something to get formula stains out of his clothes. I used it as a presoak on his clothes and was amazed that the stains came out. Then I tried it on old stains (clothing I thought I'd have to throw out) and it worked on those too.

Sometimes I soaked clothing in the solution of Biz and water, and other times I rubbed the solution into a stain (like my son's football or baseball pants). I also added it to the wash cycle with my regular detergent. I've never been disappointed with the results!

Taylor says:

Thanks Robin for sharing how you've used Biz. It is amazing stuff, and is actually one of my "best in class stain removers," along with Oxiclean which is mentioned above. They are both great for presoaking stains, which is quite an effective stain removal technique.

You can read more Biz stain remover reviews here, or share your own experiences with this great stain remover.

So, I'm curious, what do others believe is their favorite laundry stain remover for presoaking? You can share your laundry stain removers review here or read others that have already been submitted.

Please share more successes you've had with this stain removal technique, telling me what types of stains you've removed with it, how long you soaked, and in what product. You can share your household tips for laundry here.

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Be Sure To Do A Colorfast Test For Garments That Will Be Presoaked

I mentioned this briefly above, when discussing presoaking, but it bears repeating. For whatever you've decided to presoak, make sure you test for colorfastness.

There are lots of clothes that this works really well for, and if you think something is ruined anyway, then again, don't worry, just give it a try. It may surprise you.

But anytime something is valuable or it's a sentimental article of clothing it can be good to use caution.

how to test for colorfastness
When extreme caution is called for doing a colorfastness test can put your mind at ease more about the stain removal technique you're going to use, to make sure it won't harm the clothing you're treating.

However, for most things I personally wouldn't be concerned with soaking something in any type of oxygen bleach (which are typically color-safe), and wouldn't bother doing the test first. There are, of course, always caveats to that though (and as already mentioned above, I do think it is important to do when soaking in a chlorine bleach solution).

I've written an entire article on how to test for colorfastness which gives instructions on how to do it, and when I think it is very important to do.

I'm loving the thoughts everyone is sharing on this topics, and I'd love to hear from even more people. If you've got tips and suggestions you can share your thoughts here.

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Stain Remover Reviews: Which Products Work Best?

Laundry Supplies Reviews: What To Stock In Your Laundry Room

Laundry Tips & Tricks For Busy Moms

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Comments for Be Sure To Do A Colorfast Test For Garments That Will Be Presoaked

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I Always Do a Colorfast Test For Red Clothing
by: Liz

My experience with laundering clothes that have stains is that presoaking is the best way to get them clean. I presoak at least 2 loads per week. One load is specifically for white shirts that need whitening and stain removal. I normally use Biz powder for presoaking, but if I run short I will just use Tide powder. I normally presoak a load over night in the washer.

I would also note that I generally do not worry about doing tests for colorfastness unless the the clothing is of a deep red color. On this issue I have learned the hard way, by experience. Red just seems to be a problem child when it comes to doing the laundry, especially if there are stains involved.

presoaking best for baby clothes if you can do it!
by: Jan

Wow, I hate to think of managing all the baby laundry using a laundromat and not being able to soak clothes. I think what would help is using Shout Free to at least pretreat all of the stains that come with a baby.

presoaking is like free labor for me
by: Jenny

I use Oxiclean or Biz powder to presoak coffee stains on my uniforms, and to soak grass, mud, and many other stains from my kids clothes. They are the best products for presoaking stains. Presoaking is like free labor for me.

BIZ is my presoak of choice
by: Cathy

I have 2 loads each week that I use BIZ. One is to do a short soak and wash for my white hospital uniforms. Generally there is not an issue of stains, but I really like Biz's whitening power. The second load is my daughter's (green) uniforms she wears at a restaurant. For this load I soak them over night as they always have stains, including coffee, tea, and tomato based stains. BIZ is wonderful at getting out stains and keeping clothes white.

BIZ Is An Awesome Whitener And Stain Remover
by: Marla

I use BIZ powder for laundering white shirts, and removing tough stains like grass, blood, and various food and drink stains from all of my laundry. It is amazing what a short soak with BIZ can accomplish when it comes to stains and keeping white shirts bright. I have never had any garments ruined by presoaking with BIZ.

soaking stains
by: Becca

I am going to use the homemade stain remover. Can I spray it on my clothes and not wash them until the next day?

Stained Work Clothes From Day Care Come Clean
by: Mary

Prior to working at a day care center I rarely had stains on my clothes. If I did I would use Shout pre treater. Once I started at the day care stains and sour smells became a daily occurrence on my clothes and I quickly learned about the importance of pre soaking. My co workers introduced me to BIZ powder which is a great product for tackling formula, food, juice, and even many medicine stains. I just keep a couple of soak buckets in the laundry room and drop my stained work clothes in daily, then transfer them to the washer on wash day, adding a bit more BIZ and detergent. It is so much easier to let the soak do the work and stains do not get a chance to set, because time is such a critical factor in removing stains. If it were not for pre soaking with BIZ I would have many tops and jeans with permanent stains. I believe that BIZ is going to be selling a BIZ pen that can be used for on the spot treatment which I may be interested in trying as well, but I would never be able to give up my presoaking due to the volume of stains.

Finish Dishwasher Powder
by: Anonymous

I have great luck with all types of stains by pre-soaking with Finish Dishwasher powder (works better than Cascade.) 1/2 cup Finish + regular Laundry soap, fill machine, let dissolve by machine agitation then add clothes. Soak for 1/2 hour finish up with regular washing machine cycle.

Removing Stains from Spandex products
by: Anne

What is the best method for removing red wine and food stains from spandex table covers?

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Taylor

Hi, I'm Taylor, a busy mom with 3 kids, so I have lots of hands on experience with house cleaning, laundry and my fair share of spots, spills and other messy catastrophes. Thanks for visiting my site.

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CAUTION: This website is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided as is, without warranties or guarantees. Some stains and messes just won't come out, and are permanent. Further, some cleaning methods can harm your item, so if what you want to clean or launder is sentimental or expensive call a professional. See disclaimer of liability for more information.