How to Pre-Treat Laundry Stains & Odors

Life can be chaotic. No matter how careful we are, messes just seem to create themselves sometimes—this is especially true during meal time. Let’s face it, who hasn’t spilt or dropped something on themselves at one point or another?

Add kids into the mix and things only get messier! After all, they seem to have a real knack for creating messes wherever they go—whether it’s at home or out at the park. That’s what parents are for, though, right?

Staining Your Clothes

The thing with these types of messes is that there’s a great chance that you’re going to stain your clothes. For instance, one (accidental) push of the coffee cup is all it takes for you to get a brown blemish on your shirt. Assuming that you actually like the shirt, that can be quite frustrating! After all, it’s probably going to leave a mark if you don’t wash it off fast enough. 

The Key to Getting Rid of Stains

Don’t just toss it into the washing machine and call it a day, though—that won’t do you any good. For one thing, it’s not going to be enough to get rid of the stain. There’s even a chance that it can spread to the rest of your clothes! You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

What should you do instead? Pretreat the area. If anything, it’s your best chance at eradicating an icky stain!

Note: For the best results, pretreat the stain as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to remove as it would have penetrated deeper into the fabric. So take it off if you need to!

How to Pre-Treat Stains on Clothing

Not sure how to go about pretreating your shirt? No problem—that’s what we’re here to discuss! We’ll be going over a few different methods below. Keep reading to learn more!

Pro-tip: Using a product on a shirt for the first time? Always test it on an inconspicuous area first (e.g. seams)—that way, if anything goes wrong, your garment won’t be ruined!

Using Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent plays a key role when it comes to cleaning your clothes. After all, you can’t exactly get rid of dirt and whatnot with just plain water! You’ll need to add some surfactants (i.e. detergent) in order to separate the gunk from the clothes.

Given that, it’s not surprising to know that it can be effective at removing stains. You just need to know how exactly to use it! Here’s a tip—simply pouring detergent onto the stain won’t be enough.

Ultimately, what you want to do is soak the garment in detergent water. Start by filling a container or bowl with some lukewarm water. Add in a scoop of ACTIVE detergent* (the exact amount depends on the size of your garment) and dissolve the powder. Using a sponge or cloth, saturate the stain with the laundry detergent solution. Let it sit for at least an hour—that will allow the product to help lift the stain.

Note*: ACTIVE detergent is ideal for pre-treating stained clothes as it contains enzymes. In other words, the formulation contains special proteins that are capable of breaking down the stain. As you can imagine, that will help kick start the stain removal process.

Afterwards, rinse the stained item with clean water. Check to see if the blemish is still present on the material. If it is, you might have to do another round of pre-treatment with ACTIVE detergent. Continue until the stain is no longer visible. From there, you can wash it normally.

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is a great cleaning agent. Add in some baking soda and you’ve got yourself something that can tackle even the toughest of stains! The best part is that most of us already have them in the kitchen—you won’t have to use any type of special product!

As with the detergent method, you want to soak the stained area with the vinegar and baking soda. To do this, you want to first create a paste. In a small bowl, combine one part of lukewarm water with two parts of baking soda. From there, add in a couple of tablespoons of vinegar.

Apply the resulting paste on the stain using a sponge or soft brush. Make sure to saturate the entire area, otherwise, the vinegar and baking soda might not be able to remove the stain as efficiently. Once you’ve spread the paste on the fabric, let it sit for at least one hour. Afterwards, you can rinse the mixture off with water.

Wash the item normally if the stain is gone. If it’s still visible, you might have to repeat the steps again—continue until there’s no more discolouration on the item.

Using a Commercial Pre-treater

If laundry detergent and vinegar/baking soda doesn’t work, you might need something stronger. For instance, you can use a commercial pre-treater. Essentially, they’re products that are designed to help get rid of super-tough stains.

There are numerous types out there—the most common probably being the ones that involve a spray. Essentially, all you have to do is apply it onto the fabric. Gently rub it in and let it sit for a set amount of time (check the instructions—you don’t want to leave it on for too long otherwise mildew might form) before laundering as normal. Never scrub the area as that can spread the blemish further.

Another common type is the stick. Small and compact, they take up much less space compared to the spray, which makes them a great choice if you’re travelling. To use it, simply rub the stick onto the stained area. From there, you’ll want to let it sit according to the instructions. Given that it won’t be wet, you won’t have to worry about mildew. In other words, it’s perfectly fine to leave the product on your shirt for a while!

Last but not least, there are stain removal pens. Given their size, they’re easy to take with you wherever you go! If anything, that’s what sets them apart from the rest of the pre-treaters. Keep in mind, however, that they might not be enough for some stains. Still, they’re nice to keep in your bag just in case.

Best Way to Pre-Treat Odors on Clothes

Stains are icky but so are odors. Let’s face it—no one likes the smell of dirty gym clothes. As it is, sweat can easily penetrate into the fabric, which can cause bacteria growth. Ultimately, it’s this development that leads to that pungent smell! Fortunately, the washing machine is capable of tackling most of these odors. In some cases, however, you might need to do a little bit of extra work. We’ll be going over a few methods below.

Pro-tip for Getting Rid of Odors: Sweat stains can build up anywhere on your clothes but they’re most common in the armpits, neck, and groin areas. Before you do anything, you’ll want to locate the source of the smell. You can do this by checking for signs of discolouration; there might also be a slight change in texture.

Using Baking Soda

Similar to stains, you want to pre-treat the item before washing it. As far as what to soak it in—you want to use baking soda. Start by filling a sink or bucket with lukewarm water. Add in two cups of baking soda, mix, and place your garment in—make sure that it’s completely submerged. From there, all that’s left is to soak it for several hours (overnight if it’s excessively smelly).

Alternatively, you can soak it in the washer. Add the offending clothes to the wash basin and fill it with water. Add two cups of baking soda and let it soak by pausing the cycle. For the best results, you want to let it sit in there for at least a couple of hours. Afterwards, you can resume the wash cycle.

Using Vodka

Did you know that vodka can be used as a deodorizing agent? It’s true. Simply pour some into a spray bottle and apply it onto your clothes (do not dilute it with water). Keep in mind that you’ll need to saturate the area fully—just a couple of sprays won’t be enough. Once you’ve wet the area, let it sit for 30 minutes. With a little bit of luck, the vodka would have gotten rid of most of the smell!

How does it work? The alcohol content takes the offending smell with it as it evaporates into the air. The stronger the vodka, the more effective it will be as a deodorizer.

Using Aspirin

Who hasn’t heard of aspirin? It’s probably one of the most common pain killers out there. But did you know that it can also be used to remove stubborn odors from your clothes? That’s right, it can. Believe it or not but the salicylic acid in the pill is actually capable of breaking down the gunk in your sweat stains!

What you want to do is crush a couple of tablets in a small bowl (make sure that you use the uncoated type). Gradually mix in a small amount of warm water. Don’t add too much, though—the goal is to create a paste, not a solution!

Once you’ve got your paste, work it directly onto the sweat stain with your hand or a soft brush. Do not scrub the area with it; instead, rub it in gently—that way, you won’t have to worry about damaging the fibers. Saturate the entire stained area and let the paste sit up for an hour. Launder the item as usual afterwards.

Using Salt

Salt is more than just for taste, it can be used as a deodorizer too! The first step is to fill a basin or tub with warm water. From there, add in a few spoonfuls of table salt (just the regular kind will do). Next, you’ll want to dissolve it by agitating or swirling the liquid with your hand. Once it’s completely dissolved, place the affected garment in.

Make sure that the item is fully immersed in the salt solution and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. From there, remove it from the mixture and rinse with plain water. Repeat the steps again if the odor is still noticeable. Otherwise, you can launder as usual.

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