The Homeowner’s Guide to Removing Any Stain

Updated: May 23, 2024

Remove the most troublesome stains in your house!

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remove stains from plastic countertops
Family Handyman

Remove Stains From Plastic Laminate Countertops: Apply baking soda paste to stain

Stubborn stains on countertops can be frustrating, but they don’t have to be permanent. Standard household spray cleaners will remove most of them. Check the label and make sure any product you use is recommended for laminate countertops.

The secret to success with these products is patience; let the cleaner work for five minutes or so before you wipe off the countertop. A plastic brush is helpful on stubborn spots. If a standard cleaner won’t do the job, try baking soda.

Paste made from baking soda and a little water often removes stains left by fruit juices and other liquids. Baking soda is slightly abrasive and can leave fine scratches, so don’t scrub. Just let the paste work for one to two hours and then wipe it off gently. Learn more tricks to clean plastic laminate countertop stains.

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Maxal Tamor/Shutterstock

How to Remove Coffee Stains: Cold Water

It might seem simple, but Lauren Haynes, a cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners says it works. “Run cold water through the front and back of the stain until you manage to clean it,” says Haynes. It should work well if the stain is fresh.

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concrete stains
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How to Remove Oil Stains and Grease Stains From Concrete Garage

You can’t scrub oil and grease stains away. The trick is to draw them up out of the concrete. To do this, mix trisodium phosphate (or a TSP substitute) with water and an absorbent material to make a smooth paste. (See “Buying Absorbent Materials”.) The cleaner slowly soaks into the concrete and breaks up the old oil, and the absorbent captures it. Once the paste dries, the cleaning action stops, and you can scrape and sweep it away (Photo 3). Either throw it away or renew it with more TSP and water and reapply it for deeper cleaning. Use a nylon brush for cleanup (Photo 4). A wire brush may leave steel particles, which can cause rust stains.

Patience is the key. Old, long neglected stains may require two or three applications for complete removal. And even then, some stains might still show, or the freshly cleaned area might look slightly different from the surrounding concrete. Check out the complete details on how to get the job done.

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Sweat stains

How to Get Sweat Stains Out of Anything: The Stain Paste*

The first step in removing stains from clothing (dress shirt or T-shirt, dark or light colors) is to soak the garment in equal parts cold water and distilled white vinegar. If you have a light stain, then no other steps will be needed—just wash as usual!

If, however, your white tees still have some stubborn sweat stains, then it’s time to mix up some stain paste: 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 cup baking soda. Apply the paste directly to the sweat stain with a toothbrush, let it sit for at least and hour, and then wash as usual.

*This paste should only be used on white clothing. For all your colors, replace the hydrogen peroxide with cold water and then follow the same steps.

Small laundry room? Utilize the space the best way possible with these hacks.

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How to Get Rid of Grease Stains on Clothing: Baby Powder

If you’re wondering how to remove grease stains from clothes, baby powder will be extremely helpful to you. Frying foods can be a dangerous business—especially for your clothes. If you get a grease splatter on your clothing, try dabbing the stain with some baby powder on a powder puff. Make sure you rub it in well, and then remove and brush off any excess powder. Repeat until the mark is gone.

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Man holds toilet brush above toilet with rust stains.
Family Handyman

How to Clean Toilet Stains

To make your toilet bowl clean again and remove hard water deposits, start with a dry bowl so water won’t dilute the cleaner. To tackle difficult rust stains, skip your discount-store toilet bowl cleaner and head to the hardware store for a product containing diluted hydrochloric acid (also listed on product labels as hydrogen chloride, HCL or muriatic acid). This is a common active ingredient in such brands as The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Santeen De-Limer & Toilet Bowl Cleaner. And make sure you don’t use a bleach containing product on rust—it will set the stain.

Be sure to use a toilet brush with stiff nylon bristles in a plastic base. Those old wire brushes scratch the bowl. Once the bowl surface becomes scratched or worn, stain removal becomes next to impossible.

Two cautions when cleaning with diluted hydrochloric acid. First, if you use an in-tank cleaner that contains bleach, remove it and flush multiple times to remove bleach residue. A combination of bleach-containing and acid containing products (toilet cleaners) produces deadly vapors. Second caution: Scrub slowly because droplets that splatter outside the bowl can harm carpet, tile, vinyl and your skin. Keep a rag and a bucket of water handy to wipe up spatters. Same goes for setting the bottle down on these surfaces—don’t. And make sure you flush and rinse the bowl immediately.

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Man sprays a cleaning product on a bathroom faucet while holding a toothbrush
Family Handyman

How to Remove Hard Water Stains From Faucets

To remove tough mineral scale buildup on chrome faucets, use a product such as Lime-A-Way according to label directions. For weekly cleaning, an all-purpose cleaner such as Comet Bathroom or Scrubbing Bubbles will work fine.

To ensure your crusty faucet will shine again, aside from giving it a vigorous toothbrush scrubbing, Apply and remove the proper cleaner as directed on its label.

If scrubbing doesn’t remove hardened mineral deposits on the aerator screen, unscrew the spout tip by turning it counterclockwise. Soak it overnight in vinegar, then scrub it with the toothbrush and flush with water before reinstalling.

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Man sprays cleaning product on shower tile
Family Handyman

How to Remove Soap Scum

Spray a cleaner on the shower tile

Coat the entire tiled surface (grout, caulk and all) with an all purpose cleaner that attacks soap scum. Wait 5 to 10 minutes to allow the product to work, which saves your scrubbing elbow.

Scrub with a nylon pad

Remove remaining visible scum and deposits by applying light pressure with a non-scratch nylon scrubber. Reapply product to difficult areas and scrub until clean.

Remove build up on grout lines

Remove stains and deposits on grout or caulk by lightly scrubbing back and forth with a grout brush or old toothbrush. Reapply product as needed.

Squeegee the tile clean

Rinse the entire tiled surface thoroughly with a dripping wet sponge. Push it back and forth across the top of the wall so rinse water streams to the bottom of the wall. Repeat until all cleaner is removed. Then, start at the top of the tile with a bathroom squeegee and move downward to remove as much water as possible.

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Jana Shea/Shutterstock

How to Remove Blood Stains: Ammonia

Rub out blood stains on clothing by dabbing the area with a half-strength solution of ammonia and water before laundering. This is a great method for how to remove blood stains, but it can also help get rid of perspiration and urine. You should also know how to whiten a yellow-stained pillow.

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How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet
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How to Get Nail Polish Out of Carpet

First things first, is the nail polish wet or dry?

Clean up a nail polish stain as soon as you notice it. The longer it has to set in, the harder it is to get out. If your nail polish is wet, blot the excess spill with a paper towel until nothing comes off. Don’t rub or wipe at the polish; you don’t want it to spread and make the stain worse. If nail polish is dry, scrape as much of it off as you can with a dull knife. Check out more tips on removing nail polish from carpet.

How to get fingernail polish out of carpet:

  1. Wet the nail polish stain with cold water.
  2. Spray a good amount of hair spray onto the nail polish stains and follow up with small splashes of rubbing alcohol. This is one of the best ways for how to get nail polish out of the carpet.
  3. Using a toothbrush or a small scrub brush, scrub the nail polish stain for about a minute. While brushing the stain, pour cold water directly onto the stain spots.
  4. Pour a non-acetone nail polish remover onto the stain and continue to brush it out.
  5. Gently blot the stain (don’t rub) with a white cloth until all of the nail polish color is gone. (While blotting, continuously switch to a clean side of the cloth to avoid smearing and spreading the stain.)
  6. Use a wet/dry vacuum around the stain spot to remove excess liquid.
  7. Repeat this process until the stain is gone and be patient. Keep in mind going in—this is not an easy task, and it will likely take you a while to get it all out.
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how to remove ink from clothes
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How To Remove Ink From Clothes

Whether it’s an office mishap or a marker-wielding rogue toddler, getting ink on your clothes is annoying. But the good news is an ink accident doesn’t mean your favorite shirt is ruined. With the proper stain treatment your garment will be as good as new. Ready to find out how to remove ink from clothes once and far all? Read on for a few simple tips and tricks.

Are you a laundry expert or laundry dummy? Check out these 13 tips for washing your clothes.

Determine the Type of Ink

Not all pens and markers are made with the same type of ink. And, in order to treat the stain effectively, you’ll need to know what type of ink you’re dealing with. Here are a few every-day pen inks you might come in contact with.

Oil-Based Ink: Ballpoint pens use oil-based ink. Oil-based ink is a little tricky to remove and it’s fast drying, making the job even more challenging.

Water-Based Ink: You’ll find water-based ink in fountain pens, rollerball pens, washable markers and gel pens.

Alcohol-Based Ink: This is the type of ink used in permanent markers and is the most difficult ink to remove from clothes.

Check out the complete guide to removing ink from clothes.

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How to Get Rid of Salt Stains in Your Car

If you live where winter is a five-month-long ice and snow storm, wait until the melt is over and then give your car a well-deserved deep cleaning. While cleaning out the interior, you may notice unsightly road salt stains. Here is how to get rid of salt stains in your car.

One option for how to get rid of salt stains in your car is to use vinegar.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

  • 1 spray bottle
  • 1 bottle of household distilled white vinegar
  • Hot water
  • Scrub brush with hard bristles
  • Dry cleaning cloth
  • Wet/dry vac

Step 2: Make the solution

  • In the spray bottle, make a cleaning solution consisting of 50-percent vinegar and 50-percent hot water.
  • Spray the solution onto the affected areas (carpet and floormats will likely have the most salt stains).
  • Let the solution sit for a few seconds, then scrub vigorously with the scrub brush.
  • Soak up the remaining mixture with a dry cleaning cloth.
  • Use a wet/dry vac to suck up any remaining solution and salt residue.
  • Hang floor mats to dry. If parked inside, you can keep the windows rolled down to air out the vinegar smell.

Get your vehicle looking like new with these simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.

Check out additional methods on how to get rid of salt stains in your car.

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HH lemon remove highlighter stain
Family Handyman

How to Remove Highlighter Stains

Ever wish you could remove highlighter marks from a book? Lemon juice fades highlighter enough to make it virtually undetectable. Cut a lemon in half and get some juice on a cotton swab. Run the swab over the highlighted text and watch the color fade.

Lemon juice from a container also seems to do the trick. Though not quite as well on the pieces we tested, and the older the mark, the more stubborn it is to remove. Plus, check out these secret cleaning tips from the pros.

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Family Handyman

Suck Up the Red Wine, Coffee or Tomato Sauce Stain Mess

How to get wine stains out of carpet or tomato stains: Push the hose directly onto the carpet fibers and leave it in place for several seconds. Don’t rub or drag the hose over the carpet. Move to an adjoining tomato sauce stain spot and repeat as many times as required to remove as much of the spill as possible.

Learn all the details of cleaning up carpet stains.

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Family Handyman

Remove Tough Vinyl Flooring Stains

Isopropyl alcohol, sold as a disinfectant at drugstores, is a mild solvent. It’s the best cleaner for heel marks and works on other tough stains too. You can also use lighter fluid or mineral spirits. Remember that all these products are flammable; turn off any nearby pilot lights and hang rags out to dry before throwing them away. Check out what else you can do to remove vinyl floor stains.

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How to Clean Leather

How to Remove Ink From Leather Couch

For ink-based leather stains like ballpoint pen and marker try rubbing alcohol. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, and gently rub along mark until ink begins to lift. Change cotton swabs often to reduce bleed. Once the leather stain is removed, wipe away excess alcohol with clean, damp cloth. Check out more leather furniture cleaning tips.

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HH hand sanitizer remove permanent marker
Family Handyman

How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains From Wood

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do a good job of removing permanent marker ink. They reactivate the ink, allowing you to easily wipe the stain off. Cover the entire ink stain with hand sanitizer. Let it sit for about 30 seconds and then wipe off the ink with a soft rag. Plus, check out these Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros.

How to remove the stain:

  1. Cover the ink stain with hand sanitizer. Use enough hand sanitizer to cover the stain entirely.
  2. Scrub at the stain with a paper towel to remove the loosened ink. Continue until the stain is gone.
  3. Wipe off any leftover hand sanitizer.