Using A Laundry Pretreater: Simple & Effective Stain Removal Technique

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Whenever you get a laundry stain I bet the first thought you have is to grab a pretreater.

Well, if that's your instinct, it's not a bad one.

Often, one of the simplest and easiest ways to remove a clothing stain is to cover it with a more concentrated soap or detergent that can really get to work on the spot or spill, and then throw it in the wash to get it completely clean.

In fact, pretreating stains is one of my top 9 stain removal techniques.

How to use a pretreater to remove laundry stains, with tips, tricks, recommendations and even warnings about what to avoid {on Stain Removal 101} #StainRemoval #LaundryTips #LaundryStainsuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
The idea behind this technique is simple. Right before you wash your clothes, get some stain removing product directly in contact with the stained area, so it really has time to work (more than the less concentrated action that would occur with washing alone), and then hope for the best.

Sometimes just slathering some of the pretreater on is not enough though, you may need to combine this with some other techniques like tamping, blotting, or even light scrubbing with a toothbrush or similar soft bristled item. (This can harm fabric, so be careful, but hey, sometimes it's what you really must do!)

There are many types of products for pretreating stains. Obviously, people are familiar with laundry stain removers (click the link to see lots of reviews of these products), many of which are designed for using this stain removal technique, especially the ones in spray bottles.

Of course, you can also pretreat with liquid laundry detergent. In fact many readers favor Wisk detergent for this task, although any of them can work.

Further, you can even use this technique with regular bar soap or a laundry bar soap such as Fels Naptha. When using a bar you just literally rub it onto the stained area.

Because typically using this method for removing stains requires you to wash the item later, it is most often used for washable fabrics, and not so much for other surfaces such as upholstery or carpet, although a similar idea is used sometimes for stains on these surfaces (you just have to make sure to rinse out the cleaning solution afterward).

Although this is a general overview of this technique I know I've not covered all aspects of it. Therefore, below you'll also see some helpful hints and tips from readers about using a laundry pretreater effectively.

How to use a pretreater to remove laundry stains, with tips, tricks, recommendations and even warnings about what to avoid {on Stain Removal 101} #StainRemoval #LaundryTips #LaundryStainsuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

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Caution With How Long You Leave Stain Pretreater On Clothes Before Washing

by Mary

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Mary shared her thoughts with me about my technique for removing my daughter's purple popsicle stain with a stain pretreater (click the link to read my original post about this), but I thought it made more sense to share her thoughts on this page so I've added them here.

Mary says:

I noticed that you said you should have pretreated this purple stain right away. It is probably better that you did not, unless you were going to wash it shortly after.

The reason I say this is that sometimes leaving a pretreater on the garment for a long period of time can cause further problems, like a discoloration of the area where the stain occurred.

I know from experience!

It really depends on the colorfastness of the garment.

Since the quality of most of the clothing purchased today is questionable I probably would not have chanced leaving a pretreater on for other than a short period, i.e. right before washing, unless perhaps it was a white garment.

I am surprised that the stain came out in the first washing as well, since it appears several days had passed before washing and I do not believe that Purex detergent contains stain fighting enzymes.

Taylor says:

Thanks Mary for making sure everyone was aware of this really important point about pretreating stains.

Often, it is best from the perspective of keeping the stain from setting to put some type of stain remover on it immediately. However, you're right, that after you do this it is imperative to wash the item rather quickly to keep the pretreater from harming the fabric.

Now, there are certain products available on the market that advertise themselves as being gentle enough to leave on for up to a week. The one that comes to mind is Resolve's Spray N Wash Stain Stick.

However, other products specifically caution that you should wash within an hour or so of treating the stain to prevent harm to the fabric (or removal of dye from the fabric). An example of this that comes to mind is Shout Advanced Gel (at least for bright colors and khakis).

Therefore, it always pays to read the instructions for whatever product you are buying and using, so you don't accidentally harm something in your quest to remove the stains!

Does anyone else have any tips for using a product for pretreating spots and spills? If so, you can share them here and I will add them to the page.

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Dishwashing Liquid Is Great For Pretreating Laundry

by Dora

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Dora says:

I first used dishwashing liquid as a pretreater for greasy/sweaty shirt collars.

Then later on I discovered it worked well as a pretreater for baby oil and baby formula stains.

It is really easy to use as it is already in a squeeze bottle for easy delivery onto the fabric.

Sometimes I think that I use it more for the laundry than I do for the dishes!

Taylor says:

Thanks for sharing your tips Dora.

I know what you mean about this being a versatile stain remover. In fact, I've collected lots of uses for dish soap here if you'd like to see even more shared by other readers.

I will say one word of caution though -- don't add too much to the fabric unless you then rinse a lot away before adding to the washing machine, especially if you have an HE machine. The reason is that the dish liquid can suds a lot, which can mess up an HE machine.

If you need to use a lot go ahead and rinse away a lot of the excess in a sink so you don't cause problems in your machine.

Anyone else have some good suggestions for things you can pretreat stains with? If so, tell them to me and I'll add them to the page.

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Comments for Dishwashing Liquid Is Great For Pretreating Laundry

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Tiny Bright Red Dots on Pretreated Clothes
by: Sarah

My son is 9 months old. He often gets food on his clothes which require some pre-treating. I wash them in the sink by hand and get the food marks off. Then the wet clothing items get tossed in the 3 year old high efficiency top loading washer so I do not have wet clothes laying in my laundry baskets. Anyway, we have noticed tiny little red spots appearing all over the items and this is quite concerning. The red is much brighter/pinkish than blood or rust and I have never seen a mold/mildew of this color either. These spots are then new stains I cannot get out, although they do seem to lighten after they have been put in the dryer. I would like to know if you have ever heard of this and what causes it, as well as how I can get the little red stains out of my sons clothes?

Discoloration caused from stain removers
by: Anonymous

Every Comfort Colors brand t-shirt my children have ever gotten a stain on becomes discolored or bleached from using either spray on stain remover or the stain stick. Anyone know of a way to remove stains from this brand of tee?

Liquid Biz and water in a spray bottle
by: Anonymous

The best stain removal I have ever found. Fill a spray bottle half full with liquid BIz and add water and spray on stains before washing. I also use 1/2 capful in every wash. Very economical too!!

Pretreatment too long
by: Anonymous

I pretreated with Spray N Wash but waited three weeks to wash and now the spot is discolored. Is there any hope in saving these new $100 pair of white jeans?

Grease stain removal
by: Kimm

Goop hand cleanser (affiliate) works great on grease stains. Rub it in to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then wash in warm to hot water.

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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.