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Proven Tips for Tackling Stains on Your Expensive Linens

  • by Mary Babinski
  • 8 min read

Luxury linen is a wonderful investment that should be enjoyed often. But worry about stains may stop you from using these pieces as frequently as you’d like. This article discusses how to remove stains on your fine linen.

At Fine Linen and Bath, we offer a curated collection of the finest European and domestic home linen for bed, bath, and table. 

We wholeheartedly believe that fine linen is meant to be used and enjoyed as much as possible. After all, nobody can appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of an embroidered table cloth or hemstitched duvet cover if they’re hidden away in a cupboard. But – as we know – life gets messy. And you may be avoiding using your fine linen because you’re concerned about stains.

Your worries are over! This helpful guide will show you how to treat and remove stains so you can enjoy your heirloom linen with confidence for years to come.

How to Choose the Right Detergent and Cleaning Products for Your Expensive Linen

Before we address stain removal, it’s important to discuss the importance of choosing the right detergent for your luxury linens. We recommend using a pH-neutral detergent that is formulated to clean and care for fine linen while preserving the integrity of luxury fabric. Our suggestion is Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent, which is plant-based and made with a proprietary blend of cleaning enzymes to tackle tough stains (see below for more on laundry enzymes and why they should not be used on natural fiber such as silk and wool). You can read a comparison of luxury laundry detergents here.

Heritage Park Luxury All Purpose Laundry Detergent - Fragrance Free


You should also avoid using fabric softener and dryer sheets; these leave a waxy build up on both your linens and your machines. They can also ruin the absorbency of towels. For general laundering, avoid bleach unless it is specifically noted on the care guidelines and stick primarily to oxygen bleach. Chlorine bleach can cause white towels and sheets to yellow and colored linens to fade, so skip using it unless necessary to sanitize. You can find general care guidelines for sheets and bedding here, towel care instructions here, and table linen care tips here. Check out the “Care Guides” section of our blog for more how-to tips on caring for different categories and brands of fine linen.

Now let’s talk about stains and how to remove them.

Stain Removal Guidelines for Table Linens and Bed Linens

Read and follow the care label when you first open your new tabel linen or bed linens

This step can be easy to overlook, but make a habit of it. And tempting as it may be, leave the care labels on the item. Checking the care label should be your first step when attempting to treat any stain.

Laundery-Care-Tag-Pure-Linen-Fabric-On-White-Fabric

Identify the type or family of stain

This will help you figure out how best to proceed. Hot water, for instance, might be effective for some stains, but it is bad advice when for blood, as it can make it set further into the fabric. See the chart below; common stain families are treated similarly. For example, grass and mud stains require a pretreat and hot water wash; a grease stain or oil stain (butter, oil, mayo) can be washed with liquid dish soap; and cleaning a protein stain of any type (egg, blood) requires a period of soaking.

Act fast

Treat stains as soon as possible. In reality, this may not be practical. But leaving a stain to permeate a fabric can make it more difficult to remove.

Blot, don’t rub

Rubbing can actually cause a stain to spread further into the fabric. Your best bet is to first remove any solid and blot the stained area gently with a paper towel or clean cloth. 

Wrong is right (for rinsing!)

Rinse from the wrong side of the fabric. The force of the water will move a stain out of the fabric, back to front.

Pre-soak and pre-treat

Whether you're soaking in a light solution of detergent or letting the item sit with a spray stain remover, don't skip this step. It requires a bit of time and patience, but many stains respond wonderfully to this treatment.

Check items before washing to identify hidden stains

Check for stains prior to washing your clothes and linen. A hot dryer can cause an untreated stain to set in.

Begin gently and increase when needed

Use the least invasive method and work up from there; a blood stain, for example, may rinse out of a fabric by running it under cool water, thus avoiding the need for any rubbing or spot treatment with detergent. 

Seek professional guidance

The dry cleaner should be your first stop for any fabric that says DRY CLEAN ONLY. Also, we don't recommend using dry cleaning solvent yourself, so definitely consult a professional dry cleaner about any stubborn stain. 

How to Remove Specific Stains

Keeping the general stain removal guidelines in mind, the table below provides information on removing specific types of stains.

 

Stain-Removal Steps

Blood

Fresh blood: soak in cold water (never hot, as this will "set" the stain) and gently rub to dissolve. For persistent or older bloodstains, pretreat with enzyme-based stain remover or soak in enzyme-based liquid laundry detergent. Wash per instructions.

Body Fluids
(urine, vomit, feces)

Scrape off excess material. Soak 15 minutes in lukewarm water with a small amount of liquid dishwashing soap and tablespoon ammonia. If needed, soak an additional half-hour in enzyme-based stain remover or enzyme-based laundry detergent. Launder per instructions, using hotter water for vomit or feces. Bleach for sanitation if necessary.
Chocolate Scrape off chocolate. Soak in cool water. Pre-treat with stain remover. If needed, rub gently detergent. If stain persists, soak then launder in a solution of oxygen bleach or chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).

Coffee or Tea

Blot the tea or coffee stain with a paper towel, run under cold water. Pre-treat with stain remover or enzyme-based liquid laundry detergent. (Alternatively, soak in warm water in a solution of a capful of liquid dish detergent and tablespoon of white vinegar). Launder immediately. If stain remains, wash with oxygen bleach. 

Cosmetics/Lipstick Stain

Pre-treat a makeup stain with stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or laundry soap bar. For stubborn stains, treat again with laundry detergent. Wash immediately; repeat with oxygen bleach if needed.

Dairy Products (milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt)

Pre-treat or soak using an enzyme-based stain treatment or detergent. Launder immediately in fabric-appropriate temperature.

Egg

Soak at least 30 minutes with an enzyme-based stain remover or laundry detergent. Wash in enzyme-based detergent.

Fruits, Fruit/Vegetable Juice

Jam, Jelly

Soak in lukewarm water with a capful of liquid dishwashing detergent and tablespoon of white vinegar. If needed, pre-treat or pre-soak in enzyme-based stain remover. Launder. If stain persists, use color- bleach. (Note: fully rinse fruit stains out before laundering as sugar in fruit juice can develop a brown stain when heated in the dryer, even if the juice is not visible on fabric.)

Grass and Mud

Pre-treat with or pre-soak in enzyme-based stain remover. Can also pre-treat with a laundry soap bar. Launder in hot water with enzyme-based detergent (tip: for extreme stains, grate bar of laundry soap and toss a small pile of shavings into the washing machine with the item). 

Greasy Food (butter, oil, mayo)

Light stains can be pre-treated with stain remover and laundered in the hottest water that is allowed for fabric. For heavier stains, use liquid dish soap (dilute to dissolve color) and scrub with a toothbrush. Rinse in white vinegar. Then pre-treat with stain remover and follow directions above.
Ink Blot with a paper towel. Spot treat on the "wrong" side of fabric with denatured alcohol or pre-treat with stain remover or laundry detergent. Ink stains can be difficult to remove.
Ketchup, Tomato Sauce, BBQ Sauce Remove excess with a spoon or knife. DON'T dab or rub as this can spread the stain. Run cold water through the back of the fabric to "flush out" as much stain as possible. Saturate with a pretreatment laundry stain remover; for heavy stains, add laundry detergent to the pre-treatment. Wash immediately. If stain remains, soak in either color-safe bleach and repeat laundering.
Mustard Run under cold water to loosen the stain and pre-treat immediately with stain remover or liquid detergent. Can also soak the item in a solution of warm water and oxygen bleach. Wash in the hottest water permitted for fabric; if the fabric can be bleached, use oxygen bleach in the wash cycle.
Prespiration/Sweat Pre-treat with enzyme-based stain remover or bar of laundry soap. If fabric color has changed due to perspiration, apply white vinegar to new stains and ammonia to old stains. Wash in enzyme-based laundry detergent in the hottest water safe for fabric.
Salad Dressing Saturate with pretreatment stain remover and allow the product to penetrate fabric for at least a minute. For severe stains, treat directly with laundry detergent. Wash as soon as possible.
Wine Stain This type of stain will commonly occur with table linens so you should be able to act fairly rapidly. Blot stain with a towel. Pre-treat with stain remover OR cover stain with salt and pour club soda on top, let sit for an hour and brush off the salt before laundering. Can also soak in lukewarm water with a capful of dishwashing detergent and a tablespoon of white vinegar prior to laundering.

Enzyme Laundry Detergent and Stain Removers: What You Need to Know

Many stain treatment sprays and sticks as well as laundry detergents contain “laundry enzymes.” Laundry enzymes have been around for some time, but have increased in popularity in recent years as a “natural” alternative to harsh stain removers. Similar to the enzymes found in saliva, laundry enzymes are natural compounds that work to break down and remove stains. Laundry enzymes break down protein, which makes them quite effective at tackling protein-based stains such as egg, dairy, grass, body fluids, and more. 

However, some fabrics – silk sheets, washable wool sweaters, and cashmere to name a few – are protein-based themselves. Prolonged laundering of these fabrics with an enzyme detergent will eventually damage the integrity of the fibers. For this reason, we always recommend using a non-enzyme formula like Heritage Park Silk and Wool Laundry Detergent for these items. (Note: it is acceptable, on occasion, to treat a stain on silk or wool with a diluted concentration of enzyme detergent; just test on an inconspicuous area first). Click here to read how to regularly care for silk pillowcases, sheets, and bedding.

Heritage Park Silk & Wool Laundry Detergent

The Fine Linen and Bath Team: Here to Help

The Fine Linen and Bath design team is here to help you with any care questions or concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us if you are stumped by a stain and we will try to help you find a solution for removing it.

Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals. Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We would love to get to know you!

Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. Browse our website to access an expansive collection of bedding, bath, table linens, and accessories from the world's premier brands.

When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist you. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals.

Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We'd love to get to know you!

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