Tackling the Top 10 Stains ... and Winning

If you've got a stain, the Good Housekeeping Institute probably has a solution for removing it.

Below are tips for removing the toughest kinds of stains from Good Housekeeping's book "Stain Rescue: The A-Z Guide to Removing Smudges, Spots and Other Spills."

Candle wax: If the wax is still soft, freeze to harden, and then scrape off the excess wax. Sponge with a dry-cleaning fluid. Place the stain between clean paper towels and press with a warm iron to transfer the wax to the paper towels. Replace the paper towels frequently to absorb more wax and prevent transferring the stain to other places on the fabric. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If any color remains, rewash using chlorine bleach, if safe for the fabric, or oxygen bleach.

Wine: Sponge the spot with cool water or soak for about 30 minutes in a basin of cool water. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If it's safe for the fabric, add chlorine bleach to the wash.

Champagne: Sponge the spot with cool water or soak for about 30 minutes in a basin of cool water. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If it's safe for the fabric, add chlorine bleach to the wash.

Coffee: Sponge the spot with cool water or soak for about 30 minutes in a basin of cool water. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If it's safe for the fabric, add chlorine bleach to the wash.

Grass: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover (one that contains enzymes). Launder using the hottest water that's safe for the fabric and chlorine bleach, if safe for the fabric.

Mud: Let the mud dry, and then brush off as much as possible. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover; launder as usual.

Pollen: Gently shake the stained item to remove as much pollen as you can. Gently vacuum the fabric to remove more. Use the sticky side of a piece of tape to lift off the remaining particles. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder with fabric-appropriate bleach.

Suntan lotion: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder, using the hottest water that's safe for the fabric.

Catsup: Working from the back of the stain, flush with cold water. Pretreat with a liquid laundry detergent, tamp the stain, and let stand for several minutes. Rinse well. Sponge with white vinegar. Rinse well. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover, and then launder. If the stain remains, rub with a liquid laundry detergent, and then soak in warm water for up to 30 minutes. Launder again with fabric-appropriate bleach.

Barbecue sauce: Working from the back of the stain, flush with cold water. Pretreat with a liquid laundry detergent, tamp the stain, and let stand for several minutes. Rinse well. Sponge the stain with white vinegar, and then rinse well. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover, and then launder. If the stain remains, rub with a liquid laundry detergent, and then soak in warm water for up to 30 minutes. Launder again with fabric-appropriate bleach.

Beer: Sponge the spot with cool water or soak for about 30 minutes in a basin of cool water. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If it's safe for the fabric, add chlorine bleach to the wash.

Chewing gum: If the gum is still soft, rub it with an ice cube to harden it. Then scrape off as much as possible with a dull knife. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover; launder as usual.

How to Treat a Mystery Stain

Begin by assuming that the stain is oil-based. Sponge the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent. Let it air dry.

Gently rub waterless hand cleaner into the stain. Let it stand for about 15 minutes. Repeat this process again. Rinse well.

Soak the stain in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Mix one tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent with one cup of water. Add a few drops of white vinegar. Sponge the stain with this solution. Rinse well.

Mix one tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent with one cup of water. Add a few drops of ammonia (note ammonia can damage silk and wool fabrics). Sponge the stain with this solution. Rinse well.

Sponge the stain with rubbing alcohol. Let it air dry.

Rub liquid laundry detergent into the stained area. Let it stand for five minutes. Rinse well.

Soak the stain in an enzyme laundry product for at least 30 minutes, but no more than overnight. Launder.

The last solution for an unknown stain is to resort to bleach. Just be sure the stains are not caused by rust. The chemical reaction of rust to bleach will set the stains permanently.

If all else fails, air dry the item and take it to a dry cleaner. Just be sure to let the cleaner know what steps you have already taken.

The Good Housekeeping Institute approves of the following stain-removal products:

Carbona Color-Run Remover. For when you have a red sock in the wash of whites.

Red Erase and Wine Away. For red "kid" stains like fruit punch, or red wine stains.

WD-40. Excellent for removing crayon stains.

Rit or Whink Rust Remover.