How to remove stains using household items

Three pairs of folded white jeans with stains on the pockets placed in a laundry cart

When Madewell reached out for tips on how to get stains out of white jeans, Corinna and Theresa were happy to share their knowledge! Being confident in your stain treating abilities means you don't have to worry about favorite pieces getting ruined when you spill coffee down your shirt, sit on something in the park or forget to wear an apron while cooking.

In this video Corinna and Theresa demonstrate how to pre-treat stains using household items such as white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and bar soap.

They stained three pairs of white Madewell jeans with coffee, olive oil and lipstick (gasp!) to show us different techniques for tackling acidic, oily and waxy stains. Don't worry, no jeans were harmed in the making of this tutorial. 😉

If you can't access Instagram to watch the video, here are the tips they shared:

◼️ Coffee stains

Coffee stains are acidic stains, in the same family as red wine, tea, fruit juices, etc. What you'll want to do is 'fight like with like': Take white vinegar and douse the stain (make sure you're using white vinegar—the clear kind—and not apple cider vinegar) and let it sit for a couple minutes. You should see the stain start to lift fairly quickly. Flush it out under running water, and then machine wash as usual.

Corinna and Theresa stain white jeans with coffee and prepare to treat with hydrogen peroxide

Another product that you probably have at home is hydrogen peroxide. You can use this the same way you would use white vinegar to treat acidic stains. Feel free to repeat the douse-and-rinse process as many times as necessary before machine washing.

A third product that works wonders for acidic stains is oxygen booster. Not everyone will have this at home, but if you do, wet the stain with a bit of water and drizzle on the grainy powder to cover the stained area. Add a little more water to turn this into a paste, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. You should see oxidization happen almost immediately. Take an old toothbrush and work the paste into the stain. If necessary, repeat this process before machine washing.

◼️ Olive oil stains

For greasy and oily stains, you'll also want to treat like with like. Take a simple, colorless oil-based bar soap (in the video Corinna and Theresa use vegetable soap) and rub it into the stain that is wet with water. You can use an old toothbrush to work the soap into the stain. Oily stains can be a bit tricky because you might not be able to see the stain lifting, but if you do a couple applications before machine washing, you should be good to go!

If you don't have a laundry bar, you can also use a bar of hand soap, but make sure it's unscented and steer clear of anything with essential oils. If you don't have a bar soap you can also use liquid unscented castile soap.

◼️ Lipstick stains

Lipstick, eyeliner and other kinds of waxy makeup can be some of the toughest stains to get rid of. Luckily, we have a super effective trick: good ol' rubbing alcohol!

Take a clean cloth—not one of your nicer washcloths, but something you use for cleaning like an old towel or a cut up t-shirt—and make sure it's a light color so you don't transfer color onto your white jeans and clothing.

Use a gentle dabbing motion to slowly remove the makeup. Avoid any rubbing motions, which could result in the makeup stain spreading. As you're dabbing, you'll see the stain slowly transferring onto the cloth. Move to clean areas of the cloth as you continue to dab.

Once the waxy pigment has almost disappeared from the garment, you can treat this as an oil stain. Add a little water and use bar soap or liquid castile soap to gently work at the stain with an old toothbrush before machine washing.

Corinna and Theresa Williams laugh and smile while perched next to sleek looking dryers, wearing white Madewell jeans

A few things to remember:

The number one rule of stain treating: Get to the stain as soon as possible!

Don't put it off, and don't let it sit for days (or weeks). If the stain has time to set, it's going to be much harder for you to get out.

The second rule of stain treating: Don't panic!

Even though you want to get to the stain as soon as possible, take the time to identify what kind of stain it is (acidic or oily or waxy) and make sure you have everything you need to make your stain treating a success. Don't reach for whatever's closest to you, like conventional dish soap. These often contain dye, which for white jeans might result in a faint blue or green stain that's even larger than your original stain.

Lastly, don't expect the stain to come out on the first try.

With household pantry items, you may or may not need a few rounds of application, but a little elbow grease never hurt anybody. When you see the stain lifting, you'll know that you're on the right track. 😊

In case you're wondering, Corinna and Theresa were able to save these white jeans from ruin so they could rock them all summer! Big thanks to Madewell for donating their white jeans to the cause. If you like what you see, you can check out Madewell's Do Well Shop, where the jeans are Fair Trade Certified.

To read Corinna and Theresa's feature in the Ladies We Love series, published by Madewell during Celsious' first year of business, go here.

Tips by Theresa and Corinna Williams
Photos and text by Mutia Adisoma

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