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7 Cardinal Rules of Stain Removal

By Arianne Cohen

No matter how conscious you are about cleanliness, sometimes there’s no good way to avoid common household spills. But with a few stain-busting tips, fighting back can be a cinch. From what kind of paper towel to use to the amount of stain remover that’s really necessary, read on for our quick guide on how to start winning the battle against your toughest cleaning woes.

1. Treat immediately. Always. The longer you wait, the longer you’ll have the stain—potentially forever.

2. Check the tags. All furniture and rugs come with cryptic tags that actually tell you exactly how to treat stains! (Imagine that.) You’ll see one of three letters, W, S or X.

W: Clean only with water-based cleaner (detergent or dish liquid).

S: Use dry-cleaning solvent only.

X: Clean only by vacuuming or brushing; don’t use liquids.

3. Attack from the back. If you can access the back, such as on a pillow with a removable cover, work from there so you’re not rubbing the stain in further.

4. Start with club soda. When in doubt, absorb as much as possible with white paper towels, then dampen paper towels in club soda and blot on stain (as long as the fabric is rated W, as most are). Colored paper towels could stain your carpet.

5. Research. Pause to look up the best stain removal tactic for the stain at hand. It gives multiple step-by-step stain removal options for numerous culprits so you can clean with whatever you have on the shelf. Or keep a book like Natural Stain Removal Secrets by Deborah L. Martin on hand.

6. Blot. Never rub. And use a white cloth, so there’s no risk of the dye from the cloth running onto the stain.

7. More is not better. Extra soap or chemicals won’t help! Read (and follow!) the instructions when using any stain remover.

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