Don't Give Up: 4 Methods for Removing Old Stains From Clothes

Old stains may be tough to remove, but it's not impossible. Try our pro-tested methods for banishing them for good.

Updated January 29, 2024
drying t-shirt

Even if you do all your laundry right, there are times when stains persist. Rather than throw away your favorite shirt, try some of these home tricks on your set-in stains on baby clothes, pants, and shirts. From ink to blood, it's possible to get an old stain out of clothes, and we can show you how. 

Getting Stains Out of Washed and Dried Clothes

At one point or another, everyone has missed a stain. Now, that missed blood stain has set right into the fibers of your son's favorite football jersey. While you might be looking at the garbage can with despair, take comfort in the fact that most stains, even hair dye stains, can be removed even after they've set in.

That isn't to say that getting it out will be easy. It will take a bit of work. However, one of the great things about these methods is that they are natural enough to use even on baby clothes stains.

Related: 17 Secrets to Removing the Toughest Stains

collection of cleaning supplies

Vinegar and Baking Soda Power Punch

You can't get more versatile than vinegar when it comes to versatile cleaners. The slight acid in vinegar is a stain-treating master on even the toughest of stains. This method is very effective on most non-grease stains, working about 75-90% of the time. It will work best on stains that haven't dyed the material, like ink or mustard. 


  • Spray bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda 


  1. Fill a spray bottle with straight vinegar.
  2. Completely saturate the stained area.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the area.
  4. Gently rub the mixture into the fabric, respraying vinegar as necessary.
  5. Allow to sit for up to 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the back of the stain with cool water for a few minutes.
  7. Respray the area with vinegar.
  8. Fill a bucket or sink with about a gallon of water.
  9. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the water and a couple tablespoons of laundry detergent.
  10. Allow the fabric to soak overnight.

Peroxide and Dish Soap to the Rescue

Removing stains like tomato sauce and mustard can be notoriously tricky once they have set in. For these, you might need something with a bit more stain-fighting action. Since tomato and coffee can dye the fabric itself, this method might be a little less effective for getting those stains out. You are still shooting over 70%, though. 


  • Spray bottle
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Hydrogen peroxide 
  • Gloves or clean cloth


  1. In a spray bottle, combine 1 part dish soap with 2 parts peroxide.
  2. Saturate the entire area of the stain.
  3. With gloved fingers or a rag, rub the stained area.
  4. Let it sit overnight.
  5. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
Quick Tip

While Dawn is many people's go-to degreaser, you can try any dish soap.

brown coffee stain on light t-shirt

Baking Soda for Grease

Grease stains can be hard to get out before they set into fabric, but once they've been cooked in, it's even harder to get them out. This method is designed specifically for grease stains and has a pretty good success rate. 


  • Spray bottle
  • Glycerin
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda


  1. In a spray bottle, combine 1 tablespoon of both glycerin and dish soap with 1.5 cups of warm water.
  2. Shake up the mixture.
  3. Spray the stain, making sure to soak the entire area.
  4. Let it sit on the stain for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Wash in cold water and add a tablespoon of baking soda to the load. This works to soak up any remaining grease.
  6. Hang to dry.

Related: Hot & Cold Water Rules for Stain Removal

Acetone for Gum or Goo

Gum is never fun once it's ruined a favorite garment. Gum that has gone through the drying process is even worse. This method is effective for removing set-in gum or goo on materials; however, it can bleach the color out of the area. So, you'll want to go ahead with caution.


  • Acetone or nail polish remover
  • Clean white cloth


  1. Add acetone to a cloth.
  2. Rub the acetone over the goo until gone.
  3. Once all the goo is gone, launder as usual.
Fast Fact

Acetone can bleach clothing, so proceed with caution when using this method for stain removal. 

Knowing When to Give Up

If you've tried every method you can and the stain still isn't budging, it might be time to let it go. If the removal process is going to cost more than the garment is worth or would cost to replace, you might want to look for a way to repurpose the stained piece. But having an excuse to go buy new clothes isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

Need to Know

You can always check with your local dry cleaner to see if they have a method worth trying on your stained garment before you throw in the towel. 

Stain Fighting Power

Set-in stains are the worst to remove. However, with a little perseverance and hard work, you can remove most stains — even bleach stains — from clothes. If the first time fails, just give it another go. And it' important to realize when to throw in the towel.

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Don't Give Up: 4 Methods for Removing Old Stains From Clothes