Spilled wine, a splash of oil, grease, grass, and ink — these are all things that can stain your clothes. After that initial panic, it’s normal if you’re running to the internet to find out what to do.
But what if you already had one of the best laundry stain removers in the cupboard or in your bag? With our top recommendations, you can get rid of these stains easily and effectively.
- 40% more powerful than bleach
- Perfect for white shirts
- Color safe
- Doesn’t contain bleach
- No need to rinse
- Portable wipes
- No washing required
- Good for clothes & carpet
- Gets out fresh & old stains
- 70% more stain fighting power
- Handy spray function
- 100% natural ingredients
- Eliminates stains & odors
- Functional spray bottle
- Brightens colors & removes stains
- Safe for whites
- Convenient pak form
- Portable pen design
- Great for baby spills & messes
- Biodegradable ingredient
Should You Use a Stain Remover?
Stain removers are an important product to have in the laundry room. Regular detergent can do a decent job at breaking down stains during the wash cycle. But for the best results, a product designed to remove stains will be the most effective.
You can experiment with products you already have in the house. Dish soap, lemon, white vinegar and baking soda all do a good job at removing stains. But our recommendations for best laundry stain removers will tackle stains effectively.
Which Substances Cause Stains?
There are four main categories when it comes to substances that cause stains (1).
- Enzymatic stains: This includes blood, grass and chocolate.
- Oxidizable stains: This includes tea, coffee and red wine.
- Greasy stains: This includes sweat, oil, butter and many other food stains.
- Particle stains: This includes mud, soil and dirt.
Types of Active Ingredients in a Stain Remover
There are three main active ingredients in stain removers that help to break apart and remove stains.
If you have an oxidizable stain such as tea, coffee or red wine, the best way to remove it is through an oxidizing agent such as bleach.
Bleach causes reactions to form new chemical compounds and forces colored stains to become colorless (2). Because bleach changes the stain to colorless, it’s important that you don’t bleach colored items as they will fade or turn white.
Enzymes are molecules that make certain reactions faster. Some enzymes can help with breaking larger molecules into smaller pieces (3). So it’s clear why that would be a great solution for stains.
Proteases, a type of enzyme, breaks down proteins such as blood, eggs and gravy. Amylases, another type of enzyme, breaks down starches. Lipases break down fat and grease.
Surfactants are stain remover agents, commonly found in detergent and dish soap. They reduce the surface tension of water. This is what causes your clothes to actually get wet, which allows the stain remover to reach and extract the stains (4).
Surfactants have two purposes: removing water stains and oil stains. So this is a top choice for oil, food and sweat stains (5).
Each surfactant molecule has a “polar head” that mixes with water, and a “hydrocarbon tail” that dissolves grease. When these two molecules work together, the stain can easily rinse away.
What to Look for in a Laundry Stain Remover
Each stain remover is made of different chemicals and active ingredients. In fact, most are made for specific types of clothes and specific types of stains.
We’ll break down some of the key details to consider.
What Stains It Removes
Each product has a different range of stains it can tackle based on the active ingredient. Check the type of stains it can remove and choose one based on the stains you experience most frequently.
Take note of the active ingredients to make sure your stain remover will tackle the typical stains you get. Also, note whether the product contains bleach. If so, it will not be suitable for colored items.
There are also a few natural and eco products on the market, so look out for those, too!
Stain removers come in different types: liquid, spray, powder, pods, pens and wipes. If you’re on the go a lot, you’ll love having a pen or wipe option in your bag.
Spray stain removers are very convenient at targeting the affected area. Pods on the other hand, are pre-measured, eliminating the guesswork for you.
Stain removers are very useful, but they don’t work on every fabric type.
For example, some are a no-go for delicates like wool and silk. Others can treat these fabrics with care. So always check the fine print on a stain removal product to note which fabrics it’s compatible with.
For some folks, fragrance is a must. Others don’t want their stain remover to smell at all.
If you have sensitive skin, we recommend a fragrance-free product. Synthetic fragrances can be an irritant for people with sensitive skin (6).
The Best Laundry Stain Removers of 2020
Hours of extensive research have gone into this list. We’ve looked at product details, real customer reviews and expert advice. Using our specialized insight as well as popular reviews, we’ve put together a list of the best laundry stain removers on the market.
1. OxiClean White Revive Stain Remover
The OxiClean White Revive is our top pick for white shirts. Sick and tired of yellowing underarms and prominent food stains? OxiClean will zap away the stains, bringing brightness back to your whites.
OxiClean uses oxidizing agents such as sodium carbonate to break down stains. But keep in mind it is chlorine bleach free! In fact, according to OxiClean it works 40% better than chlorine bleach.
It lifts away stains, restoring brightness so that your white shirts look as good as new. However, it’s also color safe so you can use it to remove stains and brighten colors, too.
Customers praise this stuff for turning their white shirts from dingy and dull to bright and white. You can use this in every wash by adding it to the drum before your clothes. Or you can use it as a soak to remove stains by submerging the clothes in the solution for six hours.
- 40% more powerful than chlorine bleach.
- Perfect for white shirts.
- Color safe.
- Works with every wash.
- Only works in warm or hot water.
- Strong chemical smell.
|Stain Type||Any stain|
|Ingredients||Active oxidizing agent|
|Fabric Type||Whites and colorfast — but not wool, silk, leather or dry clean only fabrics|
2. Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover
These small and compact stain remover pens are perfect if you’re on the go. Keep it in your pocket or bag while you’re travelling or even just out for dinner. It’s always important to treat stains immediately, and now you can!
These pens are suited for fresh food and drink stains. If the stain has been setting, these might not do the trick. But for right after you’ve spilled juice onto your jeans — these are perfect.
It works by breaking down grease stains. The powerful, biodegradable cleaning solution works on most fabrics. The microfiber pad on the pen lifts and absorbs stains. You can now be prepared for any situation.
The Tide to Go stain remover uses surfactants and oxygen bleach — but it does not contain chlorine bleach. Therefore, you can use this on colorfast fabrics of any material. Just check in an inconspicuous area first.
- Compact enough to fit in pockets.
- Doesn’t contain bleach.
- Works on fresh food and drink stains.
- You don’t need to launder after use.
- Doesn’t work on blood or ink stains.
- Takes some time to use.
|Stain Type||Fresh food and drink|
|Fabric Type||Any (check color fastness first)|
3. Shout Wipe and Go Portable Towelettes
For a product that is mightier than the stain, try the Shout Wipe and Go portable towelettes. This is our top pick for a stain remover wipe — they’re super convenient. Just keep them in your bag and use them as you go.
When you spill something down your shirt, all you need to do is blot the stain to remove the excess. Wipe with one of these from the outside of the stain into the center. And voila! You’re good to go. No washing required.
You can get out textured stains, juice, blood and red wine. And not just on your clothes, but on your carpet and car interior, too.
It’s safe for all colorfast and washable fabrics as well as whites. It will tackle the stain while being gentle on your clothes, so you can trust this with your delicates.
- Portable wipes.
- No washing required.
- Good for clothes, carpet and car interior.
- Safe on colorfast and washable fabrics.
- Work better if wetted.
- Disposable, so increases waste.
|Stain Type||Juice, blood, wine and other tough stains|
|Fabric Type||Any colorfast and washable fabric|
4. Shout Spray and Wash Stain Remover
Many prefer gel solutions because they’re thick and don’t run as much as liquid. The Shout Spray and Wash stain remover is our top pick for a gel option.
This gel is specially formulated to remove stubborn and set in stains. It uses stain fighting surfactants to tackle stubborn stains. It has 70% more stain fighting power than previous Shout stain removers.
So if you have an old stain, this could do the trick. However, it also works on fresh, everyday stains, too. We love that it handles both tough stains such as wine and makeup as well as everyday stains like food, drink and blood.
The handy spray function makes it easy to use. Simply spray the affected area until the stain is saturated. Then thoroughly rub the fabric with a cloth or clean toothbrush. Leave for five minutes or overnight, depending on the manner of the stain. Launder with your regular detergent at the warmest water possible for the fabric.
- Gets out fresh and old stains.
- 70% more stain fighting power.
- Handy spray function.
- Safe for whites and colorfast fabrics.
- Customers find it doesn’t work on every type of stain.
- Nozzle can be faulty.
|Stain Type||Everyday and set in stains|
|Fabric Type||Whites and colorfast clothes|
5. Better Life Natural Stain & Odor Eliminator
The Better Life natural stain and odor eliminator is our top choice for a natural stain remover. If you’re going green in the laundry room, this is a must-have.
Formulated with 100% plant-derived cleaning and fragrance products, you get a totally safe and eco-friendly stain remover. Soap bark, soy, and coconut are the active stain removers in this spray.
It works on carpet, furniture, athletic gear and clothing. It’s safe on whites and colors. It can remove grass, dirt, blood, sweat and grease stains. Saturate the affected area before laundering as usual.
Even though it doesn’t contain enzymes, oxidizers or surfactants — this stuff is powerful. Customers swear by this product. They’ve used it for heavy ink stains, bad pet smells, cigarette smells and grass stains, amongst other types of stains.
- 100% natural ingredients.
- Eliminates stains and odors.
- Useful for clothes, athletic gear, furniture and carpets.
- Functional spray bottle.
- Not ideal for old stains and odors.
|Stain Type||Grass, dirt, blood, sweat and grease|
|Fragrance||Eucalyptus and lemongrass|
6. OxiClean Color Boost Stain Remover Paks
OxiClean Color Boost stain remover paks are a top choice for removing stains on colored clothes. This product uses active oxygen power to penetrate fabric fibers quickly and safely. It then breaks up and removes the stains.
We love that it brightens colors, too. So that dingy striped t-shirt at the back of your closet? Bring it back out and try OxiClean Color Boost on it! The built-in optical brighteners bring vibrance back to colors.
Want more? It also works on whites! It will restore their brightness and remove stains.
The paks are pre-measured so you can just toss them into the drum of your machine. Use these in every load if you’d like — just make sure to add them before adding your clothes. This gives water the opportunity to get to the pak first so it can dissolve.
- Brightens colors while removing stains.
- Safe for whites, too.
- Convenient pak form.
- Useful for every load or pre-treatment.
- Might irritate skin.
- Not suitable for cold washes.
|Stain Type||Dirt, soil and food|
|Ingredients||Active oxygen power and enzymes|
7. Downy Dreft Pretreater Portable Stain Pen
If you’re looking for a stain remover pen, the Downy Dreft Pretreater is an amazing product. We especially recommend these if you have a baby.
These handy little pens can fit into your backpack or pocket. They remove tough stains including baby foods, milk and diaper accidents.
To use, just blot the stain with a napkin or cloth, getting rid of as much residue as possible. Then use the pen like an eraser, while squeezing, to eliminate the stain.
The ingredients aren’t disclosed but they do state they’re biodegradable and derived from natural sources. So this product will be kind on your baby’s clothes.
Although it’s designed for baby messes, you don’t need to have a child to use this stain remover pen. It works on tough stains such as food, blood and other messes. So try it out if you’re looking for a portable option.
- Portable pen design.
- Great for baby spills and messes.
- Biodegradable ingredients.
- Amazing for diaper stains.
- Bottles prone to leaking.
- Might discolor white items.
|Stain Type||Most tough stains, especially baby messes|
|Product||Best||Stain Type||Ingredients||Type||Fabric Type|
|OxiClean White Revive Stain Remover||White Shirts||Any stain||Active oxidizing agent||Powder||Except wool, silk, leather or dry clean only|
|Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover||On-The-Go||Fresh food & drink||Active surfactants||Pen||Any|
|Shout Wipe and Go Towelettes||Wipes||Juice, blood, wine & other tough stains||Active surfactants||Wipes||Colorfast|
|Shout Spray & Wash Stain Remover||Gel||Everyday & set in stains||Active surfactants||Spray gel||Whites & colorfast|
|Better Life Stain & Odor Eliminator||Natural||Grass, dirt, blood, sweat & grease||100% natural||Spray liquid||Any|
|OxiClean Color Boost Paks||Colors||Dirt, soil & food||Active oxygen power & enzymes||Paks||Any|
|Downy Dreft Pretreater Stain Pen||Pen||Most tough stains, especially baby messes||Biodegradable ingredients||Pen||Any|
What Happens If You Leave Stain Remover on Too Long?
Using too much stain remover or leaving a stain remover on for too long can damage your clothes. It can make the area much harder to rinse, clean and dry. But also — the stain remover could end up actually leaving a stain, especially if it contains bleach.
Get any stain to stay away with one of the best laundry stain removers on the market. Always check the type of stain each product can remove before you buy.
For baby stains, we recommend the Dreft stain remover pens. For white shirts, you’ve got to try the OxiClean White Revive. If you like gel, the Shout Spray and Wash is a top product.
Overall, always consider the active ingredients and the fragrance to make sure that the product you choose will be kind to your skin.