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How to Remove Grass, Dirt, Clay, BBQ Sauce, and Other Summer Stains

How to Remove Grass, Dirt, Clay, BBQ Sauce, and Other Summer Stains

Summer is undoubtedly one of the most fun and dirty seasons of all. From backyard barbecues to picnics in the park to children making messy memories playing in the grass and mud. It’s all fun and games till it’s time to unload the hamper!

With all these outdoor adventures and celebrations also come the inevitable summer stains. But don't worry. Our cleaning expert Melissa Homer, a fellow working mom with messy little kids, is here to share her expert tips on how to handle even the worst Summer Stains!

closeup of grass stains on the knees of a kids jeans

Grass Stains

Grass stains, with their greenish hue, can be quite stubborn, primarily because they are a combination of protein and chlorophyll, which acts as a natural dye. Dye stains are some of the toughest stains to remove, so this may require several repeats to remove the stain fully.

With all protein stains, never put the garment in the dryer before the stain is removed, as heat sets stains, especially proteins.

Pre-treat

Apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent like Tide directly to the stain. Gently rub the fabric together or use a soft-bristled toothbrush or use a soft microfiber towel to work the soap into the fibers.

Soak

Allow the garment to soak in a basin of cold water and oxygen-based bleach, like OxiClean, for about 15 minutes. Gently scrub once time has elapsed to see if the stain is removed. Apply more detergent and soak again if the stain persists.

Wash

Wash the item in the hottest water, safe for the fabric. Remember to check the care label first!

 

Pro Tip: If the fabric is synthetic, like athletic wear, stain fighters designed specifically for synthetics, like Sweat X Sport Extreme Stain Remover, can make a huge difference in getting the stain out fully and fast. Use it instead of laundry detergent at the pre-treat stage.

a dirty white tshirt hanging up on a clothesline

Dirt Stains

Dirt might seem less intimidating than other stains, but it can be a nuisance nonetheless, especially when it is ground into the fabric hard from fun outdoor playtime and sports.

Shake it off

Remove as much excess dirt as you can by shaking or brushing the fabric.

Rinse

Rinse the stain under cold water to remove as much dirt as possible.

Treat

Apply liquid laundry detergent or use Sweat X for sportswear, then scrub gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush or a soft microfiber towel

Wash

Wash the item in the hottest water, safe for the fabric. Remember to check the care label first!

a boy catching a baseball and another one sliding to base in the dirt

Clay Stains

Nothing says summer gardening and baseball like clay stains! Clay stains can be quite persistent, especially red clay. The process of removing clay stains is slightly more complex but worth the effort.

Dry Out

Unlike other stains, it's better to let the clay dry before attempting to remove it. Once dry, brush off as much as you can.

Pre-treat

Apply a detergent or stain remover on the stain. It is especially important to use Sweat X for sportswear when fighting clay. If the stain is old, you may need to soak it in a solution of warm water and detergent for at least 15 minutes before washing.

Wash

Wash the garment as per its care instructions. If the stain remains, do not dry the item. Instead, repeat the process.

closeup of bbq chicken wings

BBQ Sauce Stains

While everyone loves a good summer cookout, BBQ sauce stains are a summer tradition that no one looks forward to dealing with! That’s because BBQ sauce stains are usually a complex mix of protein and fats from meat juice, dye stains from spices, and tannins from tomato sauce.

To get this stain to budge, you’ll have to use multiple products.

Scrape

Use a spoon to scrape off any excess sauce from the fabric gently.

Rinse

Rinse the stain with cold water from the back of the fabric to prevent it from sinking deeper into the fibers.

Pre-treat

Apply liquid detergent to the stained area and work it in gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush or a soft microfiber towel.

Soak

Allow the garment to soak in a basin of cold water and oxygen-based bleach, like OxiClean, for about 15 minutes. Gently scrub once time has elapsed to see if the stain is removed. Apply more detergent and soak again if the stain persists. Stubborn stains may require a full hour soak.

Wash

Wash in the warmest water safe for the fabric, and remember to check before drying. If the stain persists, repeat the process before drying.

four young people eating hotdogs

Ketchup & Mustard Stains

Whether it’s a hotdog off the grill or a box of fries from your favorite amusement park concession stand, Ketchup is the condiment of summer, with mustard a close 2nd place. Their telltale red tannin smears and bright yellow dye permanently grace many a shirt due to improper cleaning, so follow these instructions carefully!

Both stains have dye-like properties, so they need to be removed FAST!

Scrape

Use a spoon to remove any excess ketchup or mustard gently

Rinse

Rinse the stain under cold running water. Always rinse stains from the back to push them out instead of further in.

Pre-treat

Apply liquid detergent or a specialty stain remover (like Carbona for Ketchup and Mustard) and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse and inspect results.

Soak

Allow the garment to soak in a basin of cold water and oxygen-based bleach, like OxiClean, for about 15 minutes. Gently scrub once time has elapsed to see if the stain is removed. Apply more pre-treat and soak again if the stain persists. Stubborn stains may require a full hour soak.

Wash

Wash as usual and check the stain before drying. Repeat the process if necessary.

closeup of person applying sunscreen on their shoulder

Sunscreen Stains

While sunscreen protects your skin from the sun, sadly, nothing protects your clothes from sunscreen. Its signature yellow stains can be very frustrating, especially if you have hard water, which reacts with the avobenzone in sunscreen and causes brown rust-like stains.  

If you live in an area with very bad hard water, you may wish to wash off sunscreen with distilled water to avoid this challenging reaction.

Blot

Using a clean paper towel, blot as much of the sunscreen off the fabric as you can.

Pre-treat

Apply a stain remover or rub liquid laundry detergent into the stain. It is especially important to use Sweat X for synthetics when fighting sunscreen.

Soak

Soak the garment in a solution of water and oxygen-based bleach like OxiClean for up to 30 minutes.

Wash

Wash as usual in the warmest water, safe for the fabric.

 

Note: If you have already caused the aforementioned brown hard water and sunscreen stains, don’t despair, as they can often be removed with Rust remover, so long as the fabric is durable and color-fast.

two kids poking their stained koolaid blue tongues out

Kool-Aid Stains

Bright and sugary Kool-Aid is a refreshing childhood favorite of summer, but the bright dye stains can cause some of the most vibrant and stubborn stains of them all! Speed is of the utmost importance, so if you aren’t near your laundry room, at least blot and rinse the stain as much as you can to make your upcoming laundry room fight less brutal.

Blot

If the stain is fresh, blot as much of the Kool-Aid out of the fabric as you can using a clean, dry paper towel.

Rinse

Flush out the stain with cold water, making sure to do so from the back of the stain.

Pre-treat

Apply a specialty stain remover to the stain, like Pro’s Choice Synthetic Red Stain Remover. Basic laundry detergents won’t cut it in this case, especially if the stain has sat for any length of time!

Wash

Wash as usual, but before drying, make sure the stain is completely gone. If the stain persists, repeat the process. Never dry a dye stain with high heat until you are sure it is gone, as heat will set the stain permanently.

family of four walking away from the camera on a white sandy beach

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

By following these tips, your clothes should be able to survive the summer unscathed. The summer should be a time of fun and relaxation, not battling your laundry.

Remember, the key to removing stains is to act as quickly as possible, remove as much as possible before you start washing, never apply heat until you’re sure it’s clean, and when in doubt, consult a local dry cleaner (we pros gotta stick together!).

Enjoy the last sunny days of summer, and let the stains worry about themselves. Even if you can’t keep your family's clothes looking perfectly new, the memories are worth it!

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