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Tips for Better Stain-Fighting

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2015

Maximize the effectiveness of stain-removal products with these five tips.

Many of the stain removers in our testing (see related content) gave only minimal instructions for how to get the best results. We found that if we followed these tips, we increased the effectiveness of all the products, including our winner.

1. Act fast. Attacking a stain when it’s fresh gives you the best likelihood of getting it out.

2. Use some elbow grease. Don’t just dab or spritz on a stain remover and expect results. We recommend applying the stain remover as directed and then using a toothbrush to work it into the fibers (be careful with delicate fabrics).

3. Launder in hot water if possible. Hot water helps dissolve grease and soften chocolate, and it provides a more favorable climate for enzymes to do their work. We found that all the stains faded significantly more when we followed the stain treatment with a hot-water wash rather than using cold water (the only exception would be blood stains, which fade best in cold water).

4. Be patient. When we applied the stain remover and waited the maximum recommended time before washing, nearly all the products performed better.

5. Examine before drying. If stains remain, retreat them right away. Dryer heat helps stains become permanent, and we found that older stains often continued to fade with further treatment.