I never knew that a DIY stain remover could change our lives until what my husband and I call “The Season of White Baseball Pants”. Our homemade stain remover has eliminated stains that most people would think impossible.
At first, I was going to be the mom who didn’t care if the pants weren’t perfectly clean. After all – they’re just going to get dirty again, probably before they ever even run on the field. I would sit at the games and listen to moms talk about stain-removing soap, bleach, Shout, Dawn dish soap, etc.
None of these health-hazardous stain removers were on my laundry shelf – especially bleach for many reasons – so I would soak the pants for a few hours, wash them with my regular eco-friendly detergent and hang to dry.
They didn’t look great, but they weren’t that bad either.
As the season went on, the stains from grass and dirt (and black bean burrito dinners after the games) was more than even I could take. I knew I wasn’t going to go the harsh chemical stain removal route, but most of the natural stain remover options I’d tried had failed to even fade the grass stain.
I looked online again and read about a mom who took her daughter’s softball pants to the car wash after every game.
“Aha! We have a pressure washer,” I recalled – a natural, DIY stain remover using only water.
My husband got it out after dinner and we lay the baseball pants on the driveway to see if it could make a dent in four weeks of stains. Well, it did! Other than some wear and tear on the knees, the pants looked brand new.
I texted the neighbors, “Stop scrubbing and come outside,” and we all stood around in astonished praise, making statements you only hear on an infomercial. For the rest of the summer, you’d often find a gathering around our driveway, chatting over the hum of the pressure washer as we took turns tackling a line of pants.
To ease my green guilt, I decided this stain removing tactic was better to use a little extra water than for five moms on our street to be using toxic chemicals, soaking, scrubbing, and adding extra cycles to their washers.
Fast forward to this year. For the regular season, both of our boys’ teams had gray pants. Score one for mom’s sanity!
But white has made its debut this summer for All-Stars.
We just moved, and most of our belongings are in storage… including the pressure washer. The first stains — I mean game — happened last night. After more stain removal experimenting, I found a natural DIY stain remover recipe that sounded promising. I added an extra ingredient since I’ve recently had luck with lemon essential oil on grout stains.
Here’s a look at my most recent before and after photos using my DIY stain remover. (These were taken at different times of day if you notice a change in the shade of white on both the pants and the washing machine.) I probably could have scrubbed the grass stains a little more, but nearly all of the field dirt came out. Around the seams can be a tricky spot as you can see from the hem.
DIY Stain Remover Recipe
- 1 part Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
- 2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide
- 1-2 drops Citrus Fresh or Lemon Essential Oil
- Mix together and spray or pour directly on stain
Note: Test a small area before applying to entire garment, upholstery, etc.
I spray this natural stain remover on, let it sit for about a minute, then gently rub the fabric together. The dirt stains disappeared almost immediately. The grass stains took maybe 5 minutes of soaking / gently scrubbing the fabric against itself. Then I was with a gentle, natural laundry soap (right now I’m obsessed with Zum’s Indigo Wild aromatherapy laundry soap) and hang to dry.
I don’t usually put baseball pants in the dryer – just in case I’ve missed a stain, because the dryer heat tends to set them forever.
If you try this DIY (or your own version), be sure to comment on how it works for you.
And here’s an update for those who just aren’t into DIY. Molly’s Suds now has a stain removing spray that passes the white baseball pants test. I used it (along with a scrubbing brush and let it sit) on grass stains from the previous season, and it took them out almost completely. That’s pretty impressive for old stains that had been through the dryer!
More Natural Stain Removal Hacks
Of course, there are other stains that can happen with life. Here are some additional ways to treat stubborn stains naturally.
Allow chocolate to harden and scape off as much as possible with a butter knife. It can help to put the garment in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden.
An enzyme pre-treatment is best for chocolate, but if you don’t have one handy, use hot water. Run hot water through the back side of the fabric (it may take a few minutes) to melt the remaining chocolate and force it out the way it came in. When you’ve gotten out as much as possible, saturate the area with dish detergent and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then gently rub the fabric to work the stain out.
Rinse the fabric. If the stain is mostly out, then launder in hot water and check the stain before the dryer – you may have to allow the garment to air dry to make sure it is gone. If the stain still remains, before the dryer you can try applying heavy cream (that’s right!) directly to the stain. Blot it on with a sponge and keep blotting on more if necessary until the stain disappears. If any greasy stains remain, reapply dish detergent to the area, launder, and allow to air dry.
Grease is a terrible offender for staining clothes. The best way to remove a grease stain is by using a dish soap. Rub it in gently and let sit at least 10 minutes before washing. Check the stain after you wash before putting it in the dryer, and if necessary, retreat with dish soap again. You may have to hang dry the garment to make absolutely sure the stain is out. The dryer can set grease stains.
Another method for mild grease stains is to rub chalk on the stain or sprinkle with corn starch and let sit. Chalk and/or corn starch will absorb the grease out of the fabric and then will wash off.
Blood stains can be tricky. You want to remove it while it’s still fresh. There are a few different methods to remove blood stains naturally.
One is saliva. If it’s a small stain, try spitting on it and letting it sit. The digestive enzymes in saliva will help break down the proteins in the blood. Let sit for 10-20 minutes, then soak the fabric in cold water. Do not use this method on silk, linen or wool, as the same protein-eating digestive enzymes may eat the fabric as well.
If it’s a larger stain, the first step is to generously rinse the fabric in cold water. After rinsing thoroughly, apply a paste of salt and cold water and rub it into the stain, rinse and repeat until gone, or you can try soaking the stain in hydrogen peroxide. Try a colorfastness test first with hydrogen peroxide in an inconspicuous area BEFORE applying to the stain, as hydrogen peroxide can damage some fabrics. Let the peroxide sit for 10-15 minutes or until the stain stops bubbling and rinse again in cold water.