How to Remove These 6 Common Household Stains

by Michael Franco
Cute puppy sitting on carpet near wet spot

No matter how fastidious a housekeeper you are, accidents will happen. That glass of red wine will tip over, your delicious pasta sauce will wind up on your newly upholstered chairs and that lost piece of chocolate will make its mark on your sofa.

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If sticky icky substances land on your counters, tile or vinyl flooring, you're likely not to see any staining if you simply wipe them up quickly. But when they land on an upholstered chair or cushion, though, things won't be so easy.

But fear not! We're here to tell you how to lift these stains away easily and effectively so that your well-kept home can continue to look its best.

Coffee

Considering that over 500 million cups of coffee are consumed in America each and every day, it would be something of a miracle if you never tipped over your cuppa. No matter where your coffee spills, though, be sure not to rub the spot to get it cleaned. This could have the opposite effect, forcing the coffee even deeper into the material. Instead, blot it with a clean microfiber cloth or sponge. Using a paper towel can cause the lint from the towel to get embedded in your fabric or carpet, making cleanup even harder.

In terms of solutions that can help lift the stain, you can try:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with a cup of warm water
  • 1 cup of white vinegar to 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water
  • Three parts water with one part baking soda

In all cases (except the last), apply the cleansing mixture from the outside in and let it sit on the stain for a few minutes. Then, blot it with your clean cloth and repeat until the stain is gone.

In the case of the baking soda mixture, let it dry completely and then vacuum it up. As with all stain treatments, it's always best to try it out on an inconspicuous part of the material first to make sure it doesn't cause discoloration.

For a beverage that is world-famous for reducing stress, red wine can have the exact opposite effect when it sloshes onto your furniture. Again, speed is your friend if your merlot or cabernet goes AWOL and lands on your upholstery.

You don't want to rub the stain as much as blot it so that you don't spread it around. If blotting with simple warm water doesn't work, you can try adding 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent to 2 cups of cool water and then blotting repeatedly with a sponge or clean cloth until it comes clear. Rinse with clean water when done.

There are also specialty products made for removing red wine stains, such as Wine Away. These products often work on lots of other stains, including those made by coffee, grease, ink, soda and more, so if you live in a spill-prone house, having some on hand might be a good idea. These sprays are typically applied, allowed to sit for a few minutes and then blotted up along with the stain — hopefully!

Tomato Sauce

The solution here for some sloshing sauce is similar to that for red wine. It just requires a slightly stronger solution of 1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergent mixed with 2 cups of cool water. And blot, blot, blot!

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Chocolate

Few things are as rewarding as a piece of rich, creamy chocolate — unless said chocolate winds up on your upholstered furniture. If your dessert turns into disaster, you should be able to handle the stain pretty easily.

First, get as much up as you can. Use a spoon to gently scrape the confection off the material. Work from the outside of the stain inward. Then, you'll want to get the chocolate to harden up, which you can do with a few ice cubes in a plastic bag. Place it on the spot for a few minutes.

Next, turn to your trusty dishwashing liquid again and make a solution of 1 teaspoon to 2 cups of cool water. Blot with a clean cloth and continue until the stain is done. If there is still some discoloration visible after several goes at the spot, try adding some cornmeal to the stain and let it sit for about five minutes. Hopefully, it will soak up the last of the chocolate. When the area is dry, vacuum or brush the cornmeal away.

Nail Polish

Because of its viscosity, vibrant coloring and quick-drying nature, it might seem hopeless when nail polish gets on your upholstery. But there is a chance you can get the stain out by using dry-cleaning solvent, which is widely available online and should be part of your stain-treatment kit.

First, try to get up as much of the stain as possible using a carefully deployed putty knife to scrape the stain toward its center. Blot with a cotton swap to soak up the color. Then, soak a rag in the solvent and blot repeatedly until it fades. Drench the area in warm water and use a clean towel to dry.

Warning: If your upholstery contains modacrylic, acetate or triacetate, do not use dry-cleaning solvent as it could damage or even dissolve the fabric. If you're not sure of the makeup of your upholstery, it’s best not to take your chances with the solvent. Instead, try using rubbing alcohol. You can also try dousing the spot in hair spray, letting it dry, and then scraping the stain away (hopefully).

Blood

When it comes to blood stains, hydrogen peroxide is the best tool in your arsenal. Simply pour a little on the stain, and it should fade before your eyes. When it is gone, rinse with cold water to remove the hydrogen peroxide.

Of course, as with all the stain treatments recommended here, you should test the treatment out on an inconspicuous part of the furniture to test for colorfastness. If you find that hydrogen peroxide fades the upholstery, you can use — you guessed it — a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid mixed with 2 cups of cool water. If that fails, look for an upholstery cleaner that is designed to remove pet stains. Because of the biological nature of both blood and pet stains, the solution should be equally successful.

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