Everything You Need to Know About Stain Removal

Yesterday morning I woke up to what looked like a crime scene. There was blood all over my living room because my cat was severely bleeding from his mouth. 

Luckily, I am somewhat of an expert in stain removal (and not just because my 4th grade science project was “Which stain remover works the best?”). And my mother is the absolute master. Getting paint stains on my uniform (and bed, rug, carpet-you  name it) was a weekly occurrence for me growing up. Not much has changed, to be perfectly honest but luckily I have learned a thing or two from all of my spills. When you paint as much as I do you get really good at stain removal. 
The WORST STAIN I have ever encountered was when I was housesitting for a family that went on summer vacation. They were getting ready to sell their home and asked me to do a specialty finish on their garage door. I’ll spare you all the details (plus, it makes me queasy if I think about it for too long) but in short, an ENTIRE CAN OF MINWAX JACOBEAN (one of their darkest colors) spilled on their driveway. Their driveway was super light, almost white concrete. I tried everything from pressure washing, to stripping it, bleaching it, and I even called Minwax to see if they had any insight. 
But low and behold, I decided to try this paint brush cleaner and it worked! It is Windsor Newton’s Paint Brush Cleaner and Restorer. I usually get mine from Binders in Atlanta (Samflax does not carry it)and I always have it on hand. It’s intended purpose is to get hardened paint out of brushes (both oil and acrylic) but I use it to get dried paint stains out of pretty much any textile.
I could go on and on about all of my spills and the processes I have taken to remove stains over the years but in short this is what I have learned.
Products That I Recommend:
  1. The Bissel Little Green Upholstery Cleaner. I think every house should have one of these on hand! It is absolutely amazing. It cost less that 100$ and it gets almost every stain out of carpet and upholstery. It is 1,000x better than wetting and blotting stains- I feel like that almost never works. Trust me, you should get one of these as soon as you finish reading this blog post. It’s also great for spills in your car. All of the products mentioned below should be used with this little upholstery cleaner! It comes with a liquid solution that you mix with water and it works great but most of the stains I encounter and that I mention below need a little more heavy duty stain treating.
  2. As I mentioned above, the best thing for dried pain stains is Windsor Newton Brush Cleaner and Restorer.
  3. For those that prefer all natural products Whip It is a very good, effective product. However, it will not get the toughest stains out but it is excellent for food spills, wet paint spills, and anything that is not greasy or oil based. 
  4. Dawn dish soap is the best for greasy or oil based spills (such as dark wax, oil based paint, makeup, sauces and other greasy food spills). I recommend putting dawn full strength on spills and then using the Bissell Little Green Upholstery Cleaner to remove the Dawn as well as the stain. 
  5. Huggies baby wipes get stains out of leather and other smooth surfaces. I have purchased every type of baby wipe and tested the different brands and Huggies is about the only one that will help in any kind of stain removal. They are especially good to wipe up spills on hardwood floors. So if I spill something on tile or hardwoods or marble, I reach for a Huggies Baby wipe first. I also use these wipes to clean my hands after I do any kind of oil painting.
  6. Goof off and Goo-Gone are both excellent products. They are very strong so I usually try other things before I reach for either of these products. You absolutely should use the Bissell hand held upholstery cleaner if you are going to use either of these products on your upholstery or rugs. 
  7. Shout spray is my favorite spray gel for laundry as well as upholstery stains. Although I have used it for carpet and upholstery stains it is not the first product I will reach for.

Products I do not recommend:

  1. I love Oxy Clean for anything that can go in the washing machine. However, despite what the label of the powder product says, it is NOT safe to use on anything that cannot actually go in the washing machine. Just, trust me. It will make the stain 10x worse and cause an entire stain of it’s own. Or at least that has been my experience. Absolutely use the spray and the powder for laundry but keep it far away from your rugs and upholstery.
  2. I have never had much luck with any Resolve products. My theory is that they leave a large amount of residue and tends to collect dirt and stay discolored. Their high traffic foam is probably my least favorite product on the market.
  3. Nature’s Miracle for pet stains is not very effective in my experience  but Amazon reviews disagree with me. I reach for Whip it or Shout Spray (as long as you have an upholstery cleaner!) for pet stains. 
  4. Any plant based products, all natural products and products that are organic in general have not worked very well for me with exception of Whip It as mentioned above. 
Tips and Tricks:
  1. Do your research. Call the company that made the product you spilled as well as the company that made the product that the spill is on. I do this all the time and honestly, it’s always very helpful! They may not know exactly what you should do but they almost always know what you shouldn’t do.
  2. If you need to buy some time to do some research or gather supplies, place Saran Wrap over a wet stain.
  3. If a pet has a pet poops or has diarrhea LET IT DRY. Especially, diarrhea. I know it’s absolutely disgusting and can take a few days but I am telling you, I have never seen a poop stain come out of a light material that has been watered down, scrubbed and blotted. I have successfully gotten diarrhea stains out of seagrass rugs because I let them dry. It’s a lot easier to pick out hardened chunks out of a braided, textured or woven rug than it is to get the poop color out. The stain always gets bigger and worse. A lot of the time, you can peel big chunks of diarrhea up at once. you do not want to do anything that will cause the stain to seep down into the rug and wetting the stain will absolutely do that. You can’t even pick up these messes without pushing some of it into the carpet.  

So on that lovely note, I hope you all learned a thing or two and that you will go buy a Bissel Little Green Upholstery Cleaner! Stay tuned for my next post on treating your rugs and upholstery to prevent stains.

Virginia Harper


Virginia Harper

I definitely need to get the Bissel Upholstery Cleaner and some Huggies baby wipes!

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