Post Wash Stain Removal Of Unknown Stain

by Natalie
(Scarborough, Australia)

Here is a question of trying to remove a stain of unknown origin after it has gone through the wash.

Natalie's Question

I have a white cotton dress that I have no idea what has been spilled on it. It is a pale orange colour stain and is on the front of the dress half way down.

I sprayed the stain before normal washing but when I put it out on the line to dry I noticed the stain is still there.

I then soaked the dress in a bleach for about 15 minutes but the stain is still there. Any suggestions now? Thanks. Natalie.

Taylor's Answer:

Natalie, stains of mystery origin are some of the hardest to get out, just because you have no idea what you are dealing with.

If you can't think back and figure it out, then you need to treat the stain as conservatively as possible to try not to set it in the process of stain removal.

I notice you said you were putting it on the line to dry. That is good that you haven't put it into a dryer, because that is one of the easiest ways to set a stain -- with heat.

You didn't tell me what temperature you used to wash the item in previously. That may be important if the stain is a protein based stain, because warm or hot water can also set such a stain.

Ideally, when you don't know what the stain is you will follow the steps for how to remove stain of unknown origin that I've written an article about.

If you read that article though my first suggestion is to use dry cleaning solvent to try to remove the stain, in
case it is oil based in origin. That is because water can sometimes set oil based stains.

No matter though, even after washing your dress it really wouldn't hurt to try dry cleaning fluid or solvent now on the stain.

You can also follow the other steps in the article about removing mystery stains I mentioned above, such as presoaking and trying various acidic and alkaline stain removal solutions.

Finally, I have one more suggestion since the item has already been washed.

You didn't mention whether you soaked the dress in chlorine bleach or color safe (or oxygen) bleach, but you may want to try soaking the item in the bleach solution again, but for a longer period of time.

I wouldn't soak cloth in a chlorine bleach and water solution for more than an hour or so, because chlorine bleach can start to harm the fibers.

However, I have often soaked badly stained clothing in oxygen bleach, such as Oxiclean for several hours, or even overnight. That extra length of time can sometimes help with really stubborn stains that don't seem to be coming out any other way.

I hope these suggestions help. I would love it if you wrote back in with how they worked in the comments, and tell me what worked (or didn't).

Further, if any other readers have tips or ideas for Natalie's unknown stain removal problem, please tell us in the comments.

Remember too, you can ask for stain removal help for yourself here, or read other answers to questions already asked of me.

Photo by brandongreer

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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.