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How Not to Labor Over Labor Day Stains

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August 29, 2012

It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to end, but it’s true. So as we prepare to celebrate Labor Day and summer’s swan song, here are some tips and tricks to deal with those stains that bind us coast to coast and slob to slob (and they only cost pennies to treat!)

Note:  If all you have handy is lemon, white vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide – nine times out of ten they will remove these stains. Or you can carry a stick stain remover with you in the car. I love the Clorox Bleach Pen and/or Tide to Go.

First a few stain-removal musts:

  • Pre-treat pronto
  • Test on small area
  • Blot never rub
  • Always put a cloth under the stain so you don’t wind up with two stains
  • Don’t put in dryer ‘til it’s 100% out unless you would like it to be there permanently

And before we start, check out this quick clip of Julie on TODAY with Kathie Lee and Hoda!


For those of you who are curious what kind of stain mustard is, it’s a tannin stain.  The dye comes from the tameric seed which gives it that oh some yummy yellow cast that can seem impossible to remove.  Here’s a way to deal with it using hand sanitizer with alcohol.  The glycerine will help lift the stain while the alcohol helps to remove it.  Do not use hot water or it will set in the stain. 

  • Scrape off the mustard with knife working from outside to inside of stain to prevent spreading it.
  • Put a dab of hand sanitizer with alcholol onto the stains and use a toothbrush (preferably not the one you brushed with this morning) to gently work the sanitizer into the stain.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes then launder par usual.


We all know ketchup is going to wind up on one of your family’s clothing.  No fear – here’s how to put a squeeze on it using lemon which is a natural bleaching and disinfecting tool due to it’s high acid content.  If you don’t have lemon, white vinegar is a good substitute.

  • Gently remove excess ketchup with a spoon, wiping from outside of stain in to prevent spreading it.
  • Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the stain.
  • Use the rind as a gently scrub until stain disappears.
  • Rinse with cool water and/or launder pronto.


Summer BBQ’s, and corn on the cob with melted butter are one of those simple yummy finger lickin’ good tastes … even when some of that butter drips onto your shirt or shorts.  Just head for your bathroom cabinet and grab some baby powder and shaving cream.  The baby powder will help absorb the oil while the shaving cream will help rid the stain – since afterall it’s compressed soap.

  • Use a microfiber cloth or clean paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
  • Sprinkle powder on spot and let sit for 5-10 mins.
  • Shake off powder.
  • Apply a dab of shaving cream to stain and gently work in w/toothbrush.
  • Let sit for 30 mins.
  • Repeat as necessary.
  • Rinse with cool water and/or toss in laundry


Refreshing on a hot summer day, iced tea, as well as iced coffee, are another one of those tannin stains. So time to bring out that household multi-tasker, baking soda, and mix it with another household staple: Hydrogen Peroxide to bleach out the stain. (By the way, if you were wondering why HP comes in that ugly looking brown bottle it’s because the liquid is very sensitive to light and its potency is diminished when exposed to it. That’s another reason you should keep it in the cabinet or under the sink.)

  • Use a microfiber cloth or paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
  • In a rubicam sized bowl, mix a small amount of baking soda w/warm water to make a paste.
  • Let sit for 15-30 mins.
  • Remove paste with a knife and launder par usual.


There’s nothing that says ‘lazy, hazy days of summer’ to me like sipping a glass of sangria with my friends, family or myself.  Of course red wine is a much more difficult stain to remove than white wine. Once again, that bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide (HP) comes to my rescue along with my non-gel white toothpaste.

  • Blot away as much as you can with microfiber cloth or paper towel.
  • In a small bowl, make a paste using 1 tsp HP and a small squirt of non-gel white toothpaste.
  • Apply and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove paste with a knife and launder par usual.


I wish I had those stain resistant cushions but alas I have fabric ones. So when the food or sangria misses anyone’s clothing those cushions become their next resting place.  The good news is I recently discovered a classic home cleaning product that’s less then a $1.00 and has been around for over 100 years – Fels Naptha Soap Contrary to my usual DO NOT USE BAR SOAPS because they will set the stain, this soap does the opposite. Just wet the stained area and gently rub with the end of the bar. It’s great for removing clothing stains too.

As always, please share any tips, tales or tools you have here, via tweets or on Facebooks! And make sure to visit or read my bi-weekly parenting column in Scholastic’s Parent & Child Plus free iPad app! Happy Labor Day.

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