We all have our little mishaps, but if you spill something on your favourite designer suit or jeans it can be a costly experience. However, it’s usually possible to prevent stains from ruining your garments if you treat them correctly. Our handy stain guide offers some tips and advice on the correct way to tackle common stains on a variety of different fabrics.

The golden rule with stain treatment is not to let the stain ‘set’. This is when the liquid or substance of the stain forms a chemical bond with the fabric, making it virtually impossible to remove without damaging the garment. Stains usually set when they dry out or are exposed to heat, so if you spill something on your clothes the best thing to do is tackle it with water straight away. Use a wet cloth and dab the mark until the fabric is wet all the way through. If you have access to salt, pour some onto the affected area and let it sit for ten minutes or so – this will help to absorb the stain. Scrape off the salt and wet the garment again. This won’t remove the stain in itself but keeping it wet will help to prevent it from setting until you can find the appropriate cleaning product or solvent to treat the stain.
Stain Removal

Treating Stains on Different Fabrics

Always check your clothing’s care label before tackling stains. Different fabrics react differently to cleaning so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you start.


Cotton can withstand most solvents and detergents, and it is also possible to bleach white cotton if necessary (although you should avoid using bleach on anything coloured).


Silk can be tricky. If you soak the stain using water, it is best to wet the whole garment to avoid water marks. There are glycerine-based stain removers available which are suitable for use on silk.

Wool and Cashmere

Wool does not react well to harsh cleaning products. Hand wash or use a specialist wool detergent and cool wash cycle. If it doesn’t shift the stain, a professional dry cleaner should be your next port of call.

Synthetic Fabrics

These can vary widely so always check the label. It is best to avoid harsh chemical treatments or bleaches as these will damage the fabric.

Stain Removal

Common Stains and How to Treat Them

Tea / Coffee

Treat the stain by applying detergent directly or some diluted vinegar. Wash on a hot wash.

Oil / Grease

This can be one of the most difficult stains to shift, however detergent or even washing up liquid can be effective. Soak the garment first in warm water with detergent, then remove and apply detergent directly to the stain. Wash separately and repeat if necessary.


Depending on the type of ink, this can be fairly easy or almost impossible to remove. Water-based inks can be treated topically with detergent and washed as normal. Permanent ink and ballpoint ink are trickier. Nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol can help to fade the stain if not remove it completely, although be careful not to damage the fabric as these can be very harsh. Lay the garment on an old towel and rub the product into the stain with a cloth. The ink should start to leach out onto the towel. Keep going until no more ink is being removed, and rinse the garment thoroughly.


Soak in lukewarm water with detergent, and treat with ammonia or an enzyme cleaner if necessary. According to some, hydrogen peroxide is highly effective for treating blood stains (but can be damaging so use carefully), or even your own spit! Rinse thoroughly and wash as normal.


Soak in warm water with detergent and agitate the fabric well to remove the worst of the marks. If there are any remaining stains, apply detergent directly and leave to soak for 20 minutes or so. Wash separately and repeat if necessary.

Red Wine

Rinse immediately and apply salt to absorb as much of the stain as possible. Rinse off the salt and apply detergent. Lay face down on a paper towel and leave for a few minutes. Rinse and wash as normal.

This advice is for guidance only and should be used in conjunction with your garment’s care instructions and the directions on your chosen cleaning product.