How to Get Common Stains Out of White Clothes

Step one: Stay calm.

woman in white clothes

Stocksy / Unsplash / Design by Hallie Gould

Nothing says classic and cool quite like a crisp white piece of clothing. It can help you to stand out in a crowd and also have you looking effortlessly chic. If you don't believe us, try to remember how Kerry Washington commanded attention when she entered every scene as Olivia Pope while wearing white. She was a woman on a mission, and we loved it.

The only bummer about white clothing is that they often don't look as bright or vibrant after a few washes or spills. The good news is all doesn't have to be lost due to a few accidents or one too many spins in the washer and dryer. Since we know how frustrating it can be to maintain bright whites, we reached out to Risa Kostis, co-founder and CEO of the Rescue Kit Company, which specializes in kits that help prevent and solve fashion emergencies. Below, her tried and true tricks to battling any stain on white clothing.

Meet the Expert

Risa Kostis is a stylist and style consultant. She is the founder of Rescue Kit Company, which offers curated kits to solve common wardrobe mishaps.

Tools Needed

  • White towel
  • Gentle scrub brush or unused tooth brush
  • Bowl for soaking
  • The Rescue Kit Closet Kit
  • Laundry detergent
  • Grease-cutting dish soap
  • The Hate Stains Co.'s Chateau Wine Stain Removing Wipes or Emergency Stain Rescue's Little Red Wipes
  • OxiClean
  • Baking soda
  • White chalkboard chalk

Grease Stains

"Basic white chalkboard chalk is a great tool to use when working with grease stains," says Kostis. Other chalky substances such as baking soda or white chalk can also help to soak up the grease. Pre-treat by sprinkling baking soda on the stain and letting it sit for about 10 minutes. Then scrub with a gentle brush. Check to see if the stain has been removed. If not, repeat.

You can also remove grease stains by treating them with dish soap like Palmolive or Dawn. Use a few drops of soap with warm water and then hand wash. Rinse and repeat if needed.

Wine: Red and Pink Stains

There are several options to remove wine stains. Start by saturating the stain with cold water. Then blot it dry with a white cloth and try to soak up/absorb any wine. Then apply salt and let it sit for five minutes. Rinse with cold water and blot it once again with the cloth. If the stain has lifted, wash as you normally would using detergent and a product like OxiClean. You can also substitute salt for baking soda.

Food Stains

"Most food stains will require a cold water soak, so start there," says Kostis. "It's a safer move than hot, as hot can sometimes set a stain depending on the fabric," she says. For a great multipurpose cleaner, mix one part water with two parts white vinegar in a spray bottle. It is gentle enough for delicates, and the acid is strong enough to break up stains.

Spray it on food stains such as ketchup, mustard, chocolate milk, or fruit. In the case of ketchup and mustard, blot the vinegar mix until the stain has disappeared and then launder with stain lifting laundry detergent like Tide. For the other stains, spray on the vinegar mix and let it sit for 20-30 minutes, then launder as usual. When washing delicates, a mild yet hard-working detergent such as The Laundress will lift away tough stains. "Do not put your clothing in the dryer until you're sure the stain is fully gone," stresses Kostis.

Coffee And Tea 

"You have to catch coffee and tea stains very quickly," says Kostis. "I like using a clean stain removing spray by Grove Collaborative for large stained areas, and the ESR stain wipes [for smaller spots]," she says. They both can work in one step to lift stains before they set in. Ensure that your garment is well saturated with the stain remover. Let it sit for about five minutes, and then assess how much of the stain was removed. If you got most of it, pour liquid detergent onto the stain, soak in cold water, and then launder.


"I feel that OxiClean White Revive does the trick with dirt on whites," says Kostis. "I like the liquid form of this product specifically because you can pre-treat by scrubbing and using it as a soak," she says. Allow your garment to soak first, then add more product and gently scrub with a non-abrasive brush to work on the stain. If the dirt is really heavy, repeat the soak and scrub up to three times and incorporate a stain-removing product in between soaks. Launder after soaking and scrubbing, but again: Never put stained clothing that you're working on in the dryer until you're sure the stain has been fully removed.

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