Out, Damned Spot!

  • January 1, 2021
  • 2 minutes read


It’s lunchtime and you’re slurping laksa at your favourite coffee shop. Just when you thought you’ve managed to get through the bowl without a spill, the last strand of noodle slips through and some bright-orange gravy splatters across your pristine white shirt.

However careful you try to be, it’s hard to keep stains from getting on to clothes. Whether it’s curry, grass or red wine, splatters and splotches seem to find their way onto garments, despite the care we take with them. The good news is that many stains can be eliminated with the aid of common household items, saving you time and money. However, steps have to be taken as soon as possible. In most cases, the longer the stain sits on the fabric, the harder it is to remove.


Tackle blood stains while they’re fresh for the best results.

On fabrics made of cotton, linen and other natural fibres

Soak in a solution of salt in cold water for one hour. Salt helps to break down and remove the proteins in the blood and promotes stain-lifting action once you launder the item.

On delicate fabrics

Soak the garment in cold water for 10 to 30 minutes. Put some baking soda onto the stain and scrub with a nail brush. Wash the garment as you normally would.


Grass contains chlorophyll, which is responsible for the green stains on your clothes, and pigmented compounds such xanthophylls and carotenoids, which bind to the fibres of a natural fabric. It is easier to wash the stains off synthetic fabric such as polyester or nylon.

On washable fabric

Rub in a little sugar to break down those stains so they come out in the wash. Sugar contains enzymes that help break down the chlorophyll. Add just enough water to half a cup of sugar to form a paste. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash as usual.

Check for remnants before putting it in the wash as heat can set the stain permanently. If you need to, repeat the treatment and wash again.

On white clothes

To remove grass stains from white clothes, try soaking the stained item in full-strength vinegar for half an hour or more before washing as usual.


A staple in East Asian cooking, soya sauce leaves unsightly dark brown splotches when it lands on your clothes. The trick to getting it out is to act fast.

On cotton

Turn the blouse inside out and run cold water through the stain. If you are unable to remove it using water alone, wipe with a cloth soaked in white vinegar, wash and dry in the sun.

On nylon

Blot up excess sauce with a clean cloth. Soak the stain in a solution of warm water, liquid detergent and white vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse with water and launder as soon as possible.


A key ingredient in curry, turmeric is responsible for the yellow stain left behind when you drop some vindaloo on your clothes.

On washable fabric

Cover with salt and let it absorb as much of the grease as possible. Gently brush off the salt. If the stain is still visible, dab it with a cloth dipped in vinegar.

On leather, silk or wool

Blot a little cornstarch into the stain and let it sit for 20 minutes until it absorbs most of the stain.


Has a leaky pen left ink marks on your favourite shirt? Fret not — removing an ink blob is easier than you think!

Water-based ink on coloured clothes

While it’s not clear why it works, milk is a popular remedy. Soak the stained portion in milk. Wait at least half an hour, preferably longer. Then scrub the stain gently with a toothbrush and rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Ballpoint ink on white clothes

Squirt the stain with hair spray and the marks should come right off.


The tannin in red wine can make it a difficult stain to remove. The key to successful stain removal is to act quickly.

On cotton and other washable fabrics

Blot the stain with table salt while it is still damp. Salt helps to soak up the excess liquid and stops it from seeping further into the garment.

On silk

Apply a small amount of distilled white vinegar directly onto the stain and let it rest for a few minutes. Blot off with a wet towel followed by a dry towel. If the stain starts to dissipate, reapply white vinegar and let it rest for a few more minutes. Clean the garment as indicated by the care label. White vinegar’s astringent qualities and natural acidity will cause the stain to fade.

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