There are a lot of ways to get stains out of your clothes, but some of the best come in the form of commercial laundry stain removers. The problem: all of them claim to be top dog. We’ve done the research, and we think that OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Free performs the best overall, but if you’re looking for something more specialized then we’ll get you going in just a moment.
Of course, there’s a little bit more to it than just dumping some powder or liquid in your washing machine, but we experimented to make sure that you’ve only got the best techniques available to you. So, let’s dive right in and discuss our favorites of the ones our reviewers tried out.
Oxi-clean Versatile Stain Remover is the best of the best when it comes to tackling everyday stains. Some might be better situationally, but we found it to be the absolute perfect washing machine additive across a wide variety of stains.
Top 5 Laundry Stain Removers
|1||OxiClean Versatile||Powder||Check Price|
|2||OxiClean Refill||Liquid||Check Price|
|3||Soilove Laundry Soil||Liquid||Check Price|
|4||Gonzo Natural Magic||Pre-treat Spray Foam||Check Price|
|5||Clorox 2||Liquid||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Laundry Stain Remover
OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Free
This is the best of the best, and we found it performed ridiculously well on a wide variety of stains. The only problem? It’s a powder which can be something of a pain for those not used to using powdered detergents.
Other than that, it seems to readily handle just about every stain out there. Wine? Gone. Coffee? Gone. Spilled formula? You bet, it’s gone.
It can be used on laundry, furniture, really just about anything under the sun. It’s a remarkably versatile stain remover overall and it does its job no matter how tough the stain is. It also lasts for a remarkably long time as long as you don’t overuse it.
Add it directly to your washer, use it as a pre-treat, handle problems on the carpet. It’s aptly named, and some of our reviewers found it even replaced their detergent entirely.
There’s no scent applied either, so it’s fine to use even if you have sensitive skin that reacts badly with detergents.
We really can’t say enough about this stuff, you’ll have to try it out for yourself to see.
One more thing: don’t let the box get wet or the chemicals will activate. This can eliminate the entire box in short order and you’ll have to get another one.
Pros and Cons
- Free of perfumes and dyes
- Handles all stains easily
- Works on carpets and furniture as well
- Lasts for a long, long time
- Powdered form is susceptible to water
- Packaging is a bit subpar, you may want to get some Tupperware to hold it
2. Runner Up for Best Overall Laundry Stain Remover
OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover Refill
The liquid version of our favorite cleaner is no slouch, and for some people it might be just the right thing. We found it had a little bit less cleaning power than its powdered cousin, but it was also easier to handle.
That said, it’s able to handle just about any stain you might come across in your day-to-day life. Even diaper stains fall apart rapidly when you use this as an additive to your wash.
Our experience did have one flaw. For whatever reason OxiClean’s packaging is terrible and of the four samples we sent out two of them were leaking. Once again we feel it’s not enough to detract from the amazing product as a whole, but it can be a bit of a pain.
If you’d prefer to use a liquid stain remover, then we strongly recommend snapping up OxiClean Laundry Stain remover. It’s all of the power with a bit less of a hassle.
Pros and Cons
- Extremely strong stain cutting power
- Easy to pour liquid form
- Can double as a laundry detergent
- No added scents
- Packaging is subpar, the bottles have a tendency to leak
- Can’t be put in a clear bottle or the active chemicals will break down
3. Best for Soil Stains
Soilove Laundry Soil-stain Remover
When it comes to soil stains, we couldn’t find anything which would outperform Soilove Laundry. It’s effective on just about everything, but soil is where it really shone.
There is one problem: it contains bleach which means it breaks down dyes in clothing. Colorfast clothing will hold tight with it, but other pieces of apparel might just call for a different stain remover.
It also doesn’t seem to do all that well against stains that have been present for a long time. This isn’t the stuff you need if you have a stack of old stains that you want to try to tackle.
But for those who find themselves frequently getting dirty, Soilove stands in a league of it’s own. Used to treat fresh stains it’s pretty much unstoppable.
Pros and Cons
- Handles fresh stains like a champ
- Budget priced
- Effective on a wide variety of stains
- Easy to use pre-wash
- Can’t be used on regular colored fabric
- Doesn’t work well on long term stains
4. Best for Blue Collar Workers
Gonzo Natural Magic Stain Remover
Gonzo Natural Magic is pretty amazing, and we found it to treat the nastiest of stains with quite a bit of ease. There’s one major problem with it however: it’s too tough for a lot of regular clothing.
While it quickly got rid of oil and pitch stains, even fountain pen ink, it also comes in a pretty small bottle for the price and it takes a good amount of work to get it done.
If you don’t mind the scrubbing, however, and you’re using it on tougher clothing then you’re in luck. It’ll take care of just about any stain it comes across.
There’s nothing quite like Gonzo Natural Magic Stain Remover, and for niche usage with ridiculously tough stains it’s the absolute best. Outside of that, however, we recommend snatching up one of our other choices for a better experience.
Pros and Cons
- Handles literally any kind of stain
- Pre-treatment for spot treating clothing
- Takes care of odors as well
- Environmentally safe
- Comes in a small bottle for the price
- Too tough for delicate clothing
5. Best Budget Laundry Stain Remover
Clorox 2 Laundry Stain Remover and Color Booster
Clorox comes to the rescue for those of us on a tight budget, with a great little liquid stain remover. It might not be Oxi-Clean but it’s enough for the average household in most instances.
It’s also great at making sure your whites stay bright due to the color boosting, although it’s safe to use with your dark colored clothing as well.
The fresh scent was one thing our reviewers kept pointing out. While most of our favorites were fairly odorless, this one has a pleasant, almost floral-scent which sticks with clothing for a little bit once it’s been pulled.
While it’s not the best of the best, Clorox 2 is a great addition to most homes and has one of the best cost-to-quality factors we were able to find.
Pros and Cons
- Handles most stains readily
- Easily measured liquid
- Low-priced for the amount of staining it will remove
- Also brightens white clothing when used in a washer
- Not as powerful as most of the others on our list
- Doesn’t handle smells very well, mix it with a standard detergent for best results
Why You Should Use a Stain Remover
Upfront: most stains can be removed with common chemicals.
The problem here is that it requires a good knowledge of chemistry and care in order to remove stains in the most efficient and least damaging way possible.
Even if you have the knowledge, sometimes it’s nice to just be able to handle stains without any kind of additional effort on your part. As long as you pre-treat things well enough, many products will do a good job at taking care of whatever remains.
The biggest thing you’re looking at is time-savings. Even if you know exactly how to remove even the most stubborn stains, you’ll still have to spend a considerable amount of time tracking down the chemicals and taking care of things.
We’ll go over the ways you can cover things a bit later, but first let’s discuss the makeup of stains a little bit to get you familiar with what you need to know.
Types of Stains
The first thing you need to know when you’re looking into using a laundry stain remover is that there are a lot of different types of stains. Different products will affect each type of stain differently.
The main types of stain are the following:
- Protein Based Stains- These most frequently occur on clothing from things like eggs, although blood and the like could also be included in this category. Baby formula and vomit are also common causes of this kind of stain.
- Oil Based Stains- Oil based stains are usually caused by grease or salad dressing. Spilled lotion and other substances containing a lot of immiscible compounds are usually primarily oil based as well.
- Tannin Stains- The most common example of this kind of stain is undoubtedly the dreaded red wine stains. You’ll also run into these with coffee and soda spills, and they’re exceptionally troublesome to remove in many cases.
- Dye Stains- Dye stains are some of the most stubborn but they’re also not exceptionally common outside of certain professions and hobbies. If you regularly work with paints, markers, and other sorts of art supplies you’ve undoubtedly got some clothing which has suffered from these stains, of course.
Each stain requires a slightly different approach due to their differing chemical make-ups.
Of course, rarely are the things that we come into contact with entirely based in just one area, combination stains are the usual culprits of those which just won’t go away. That’s why we recommend picking up an all-around cleaner and only going with something hyper-specialized if you frequently come into contact with it.
Each stain is an individual mess. A bit pretty on the chemical level, but pretty irritating when you’re trying to keep your clothing nice.
Fabrics and Stains
Of course, the type of fabric which you’re working with is also going to determine what the best way to remove stains is.
- Cotton is remarkably resilient to treatment. Avoid the temptation to apply bleach on a regular basis, it’ll effectively handle some stains but it will also damage the cloth and should be considered a last resort since it’s a remarkably harsh chemical.
- Wool can be damaged by both bleach and acids permanently, be very careful when selecting a stain remover to use on it.
- Synthetic materials generally don’t respond very well to harsh chemicals like bleach, but can take a beating when it comes to pre-treatment.
- Silk is… silk is horrible to deal with. Try to avoid getting stains on it in the first place, if you treat it with water make sure you rinse the whole piece, and if you need to step things up then you’ll want to only use glycerin-based stain removers.
Before the Stain Removal
While we’re sure that you have some clothing which has set-in stains, treating your clothes properly is the best way to ensure that you’re able to get the stains out fully with less effort later.
There are three main things to do each time you encounter a staining substance:
- Treat the stains with water. This will help remove any water soluble substances immediately and can even catch other substances before they congeal or integrate with the fibers.
- Avoid heat. Heat will cause protein-based stains to congeal within the clothing’s weave, dry out oil and dye based stains, and cause tannin stains to “stick” by drying into the clothing.
- Avoid applying pressure while treating them with water. It’ll press them into the cloth and make things harder to remove later.
From there, you’re best off treating things as quickly as possible, especially with delicate materials which require more care to work with.
Your best bet after this is to follow the directions on the stain remover’s container, since they generally know best.
Water Temperature and Stains
When you’re specifically setting out to remove stains, you’ll need to know which temperature to use for the best results.
Stains are remarkably complex, especially since most of them are produced by complex organic solutions. Each staining material is a little bit different, which can lead to some problems if you’re not totally sure what to do.
Protein and oil based stains should be soaked in cold water. These materials can actually be removed with a cold soak in cotton and wool materials if you’re in the position to get them in water swiftly.
Hot water will cause problems with these, however, causing oils to congeal and proteins to “set” firmly in the cloth.
Tannin based stains should be treated to a soak in warm, but not hot, water before washing. The slightly higher temperature of the water will make things cleaner, but hot water can cause unforeseen chemical reactions which will require more work later.
For dye-based stains, you’re going to want to use room temperature water… and treat them as quickly as possible. It’s not always possible to get them all the way out of clothing without causing damage, so you may want to
As a general rule: avoid hot water if you’re going to do a pre-soak.
For more complex stains, always go with the lowest possible water temperature. If you can sort out, for instance, an oil-based stain but you’re left with a bit of leftover coffee then you’ll be able to handle it afterwards.
There’s one rule to this, however: don’t use the dryer on existing stains or you’ll just create yourself a larger problem.
Pre-Treatment vs. In the Washer
There are two main types of laundry stain remove available: those added to the washer’s cycle and those used outside of the washer.
Pre-treatments tend to be quite a bit stronger and they’re often more specialized than you’ll find in those added to a cycle. Use them sparingly, many of them can “cook” weaker fabrics, but used correctly they can form a formidable first line defense against stains.
On the other hand, those added to the washer directly have the advantage of being a lot simpler to use and usually being less harsh on clothing overall.
Or, in extreme cases, you might want to utilize both in order to make sure that you cut through all of the stains.
If you find yourself getting particularly dirty frequently then combining methods can keep even the nastiest clothes clean for a long time to come.
Handling Laundry Stains
If you don’t have a laundry stain remover already on hand, you’ll be delighted to know that many of the possible stain relievers out there are probably in your home already.
Improvising is a good skill to have and can help in a pinch, but if you’re running into frequent little stains you’re still going to want some stain remover around.
Quick Chemistry Lesson: As a general rule, solvents are what you’ll need in order to clear up stains. Solvents can be divided into polar and non-polar varieties and which works the best is going to depend on the type of stain.
As far as your clothes go: polar solvents like water handle dyes and tannins the best. Non-polar solvents do the best job on grease and protein stains.
What does this mean for you?
It means that with some elbow grease and forethought you can figure out a lot of staining problems on your own.
The following are just some ideas, but if in doubt just resort to the premade stuff in order to make sure you don’t damage your clothing.
Mixed in equal amounts with water, vinegar makes a great presoak for treating many stains. Vinegar is actually a weak acetic acid solution and can break down quite a few of the common staining materials you might run into.
Laundry or Dish Soap
Both of these make great pre-soaks, and they have the additional benefit of being unlikely to damage clothing. Just soak for a half hour or so in the wash tub before running the cycle and you’ll be surprised at how many things you can break down.
This basic solution is great for breaking down protein based stains on white clothing. Mixed with water it can also be used, carefully, on light colored clothing. Blood stains are one of the most common uses for this one, but wine, chocolate, and other nasty stains can be made to fade away.
Don’t soak your clothes in this, instead dab at the stain using a rag wetted with the solution for the best results.
When it comes to handling tough stains, tooth paste stands out mightily. Thanks to the same granular action which scrubs your teeth, it’ll make short work of many of the common stains you might run into.
Just grab a spare toothbrush and go at it before you throw things in the wash for the best results.
Rubbing alcohol is your go to nonpolar solvent. The biggest usage for it is to lift off the stains made by markers or paints, keeping them from permeating the fabric any further than they already have and welcoming the natural color of the cloth back.
It’s worth a shot on a lot of things, actually, and it’s virtually harmless for the clothing that it’s being applied to.
Whatever you might find yourself using, stain removers are essential parts of the laundry room. If you’ve never used them beforfe, you might just be surprised at just how well you can handle the various things which might come into contact with your clothing. And if you have, then give our favorite a shot to see what can really be done with a serious laundry stain remover by your side.