Goops, I did it again! An idiotís guide to stain removal

Goops, I did it again! An idiotís guide to stain removal

Happiness is fleeting, we all die, and nothing is truly permanent. Nothing, that is, except for stains that you don’t get out in time (fuck you especially, red wine).

O week is full of shenanigans that can ruin your clothes, soft furnishings, and possibly your future. Luckily, Critic is no stranger to goops, gunks and bodily fluids of many origins, so we’ve put together this handy guide that can even be used to clean up after a handy, I guess.

Basic cleaning and stain treating can seem like an art lost to time, now replaced by compilations of hacks that really want you to put toothpaste and hot glue on things. In the good old days anyone could simply go down to their local chemist and purchase a 1oz bottle of ammonia or carbon tetrachloride for their domestic needs (according to a magazine we found from 1971), but turns out those will kill you dead or whatever. Since you hopefully don’t have those at home, our guide will help you make the most of whatever cheap, easy and non-explosive things you’re likely to have around your barren, depressing flat. Don’t let fear of mess stop you from unadulterated hedonism this year - just buy some baking soda and get crook without concern. 

Generally foolproof guide

Note: make sure the item isn’t dry clean only. If it is, then take it to the dry cleaners. Duh. 

1. Act immediately

The true secret is speed and efficiency. Even the most daunting of sludges can be bested by beginning the cleaning process at once. First thing: abraca-dab-ra that bitch up. Take off any chunks or thick residue with a paper towel, using a pinching or scraping motion to avoid rubbing it into the fabric. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody said it best: “Dab, don’t wipe”. Removing the stain before it sets into the fabric and binds with it properly is the key to this whole operation. Basically, it’s easiest to treat a stain before it even stains. So if you’re reading this, it might be too late. Sorry. Your fault.  

2. Rinse, bitch

Once you’ve stripped off the offending item and streaked it to the nearest sink (screaming while doing this can clear the crowd, which will allow you to remove the stain even faster), find any and all stained areas and rinse them in cold or lukewarm water.  If the item in question is of bodily origin (ESPECIALLY blood or cum of any gender) make sure you use COLD water. Dude, seriously. COLD. WATER. Hot water can cook the proteins in it, setting them into the fabric and smelling about as wonderful as you’d expect. The key to the rinsing stage is diluting as much of the stain as possible. Agitate the fabric slightly (like, mash it with your fingers, or use another piece of fabric to scrub it) and mild stains may disappear already.

3. Scrub, daddy

Once the stain is looking less concentrated you can try your hand at removing it completely with a good scrub. Anything works in a pinch with good technique–if you just chundered on yourself at a party and are washing up in the bathroom, a good amount of hand soap or even shampoo is much better than letting it set. Then take the whole bar of soap and save it as a snack for later. We recommend stain-removing enzyme bar soap though (bless up, Sard) since it’s generally more concentrated and better value than anything that comes in a bottle, plus you get some good suds. Mmmm, suds. 

Once you’ve lathered it up, scrub in all directions using a washing up brush, a rag, or your flattie’s toothbrush if they suck. Scrubbing in every conceivable way means you can properly clean the fabric’s fibres. From here, you can most likely just wash it as normal and you’ll be sweet. If you have your doubts, leave it to soak (for a good hour or even overnight) and then wash. If the stain is something that is either rank now or likely to smell fucking rank over time, pour baking soda all over that mofo and leave it to absorb the odour before washing it with scented laundry powder. 

4. Stain treating

If it’s a particularly tough stain or one that’s already set, you’ve still got a few options. One option is soda water, which some people swear by. It's an extremely weak acid and will not harm your fabric, so if you have some on hand it could be worth a shot. Blot it onto the stain with a damp cloth, repeating if necessary.

Another option is to spot treat (dab it directly onto the stain) using diluted white vinegar or diluted lemon juice, at least 50:50 for either, leaving it to absorb before rinsing. Both are relatively gentle acids so it’s a safe option, but it might not always be the most effective. Lemon juice is also better at masking odours than vinegar, which tends to create them. 

You can also use either a diluted bleaching agent such as sodium hypochlorite (generic household bleach) or hydrogen peroxide (‘oxygen bleach’ or sodium percarbonate is similar), or otherwise a storebought stain remover that contains a bleaching agent. Hypochlorite bleach is best suited to cotton and linen, and hydrogen peroxide is gentler and a better bet if you can get hold of it. Bleach is best used with caution and diluted very sparingly – start with a very low concentration (1:10) and then rinse thoroughly, leaving it on for no longer than 5 minutes. Bleach can, obviously, bleach colour out of the garment, so take extra caution and only use on light fabrics. Also don’t drink it or mix it with ammonia because that almost makes mustard gas.

High proof alcohol such as isopropyl alcohol or even vodka can also be used as a solvent to dissolve extremely harsh stains. When using a solvent, place a cloth beneath the stained item to draw the dissolved stain away, preventing it from bleeding further. Apply and blot the solvent with a damp cloth. Acetone nail polish remover may be used with caution.

If you can spare the cash, a store bought stain remover is best at this point. Consumer NZ has rated 24 different stain removal products tested on different stains, so look for the one with the best ranking for your situation. 

5. Living with it and just moving on with your life

At some point you’ve just gotta throw in the (stained) towel. Sure, you could get it cleaned professionally, but why do that when you could just, like, cut the stain out and pass it off as a y2k emocore handmade alternative aesthetic? Other options include: embroidering over it or using an iron on patch, tie dyeing the whole garment, using it as pajamas or depression wear, or just plain gaslighting people who bring it up. What stain? There’s no stain. Colour blindness is very common in our demographic. I can’t believe you thought my minimalist camo print was a stain. Might just have a floater in your eye, sweetie.

6. Furnishings and carpet

Follow the above guide, substituting machine laundering with washing using a rag and soapy water. Scrub or blot using the rag (pro tip - anything can be a rag) and wring it out in the water, changing it out for fresh water when necessary. Keep a dry towel on hand to periodically soak up excess moisture. Dry damp areas near a heater or with a hair dryer if needed. If stain remover is needed, purchase one made for your need and spot test in an easily concealable area.

Quick stain reference chart 

Best used in addition to the above guide.

Stain

Cleaning 

Tips

Blood

Rinse w/ cold water and keep scrubbing, then soak overnight in detergent. Treat with enzyme containing soap or diluted hydrogen peroxide if needed.

Rinse thoroughly and carefully to avoid spreading the stain. Listen to ‘Bloodstains’ by Agent Orange while cleaning.

All-inclusive cum 

Wipe off with a paper towel then rinse well with cold water. Launder and repeat if necessary.

Be super careful with dark fabrics. No one is above having a designated cum or sex towel – just wash regularly.

Vomit 

Scrape off the chunks with a paper towel or plastic spoon. Immediately soak in cold water with a drop of detergent. Leave damp and apply baking soda to absorb smell, wait and then wash. Repeat if necessary. Once odour has been removed, treat residual staining. 

Use a strong scented laundry detergent if you can. For bad odours, a fabric deodoriser or disinfectant spray can be purchased from most supermarkets.

Piss (urine)

Follow main guide, soaking in detergent if needed. For severe stains, rinse with diluted white vinegar.

Waterproof mattress protector, idk.

Piss (beer)

Rinse and launder immediately. See furnishing section if spilled on carpet etc.

It’s counterintuitive, but try using high proof alcohol on any remaining stains. It’s like BEDMAS but for liquor.

Wine

Minimise scrubbing to prevent spreading the stain. Instead, go straight to soaking/blotting with stain treatment.

Pray.

Coffee

Rinse with cold water, especially if non-plant milk. Soak overnight.

Energy drinks stain less and have the added bonus of killing you faster.

Grease stains (e.g. pizza, chips)

Scrub using dish soap to cut through the oils.

If a fresh stain, apply baking soda or baby powder to soak up the grease.

Makeup 

First point of call is your usual makeup remover. See solvent instructions under ‘stain treating’. Once stain is less concentrated, scrub as per guide.

Chin up queen, your crown is falling.

This article first appeared in Issue 0, 2024.
Posted 4:11pm Monday 19th February 2024 by Lotto Ramsay.