Consumer Reports

How to Get Rid of Tough Stains in Your Child's Clothes

Consumer Reports looked at some of the most common stains and the best ways to treat them

NBC Universal, Inc.

Back to school might look a little different this year. But some things never change, like the exceptional ability of kids to stain their clothing, whether it’s grass, gum, or more artistic stains like crayon or Play-Doh. The experts at Consumer Reports have some helpful tips on removing stains.

If the stain is still fresh, water alone may actually remove it. But if the stain has set in, a few household items and a good detergent to pretreat it can help.

For crayon — fresh or melted — remove as much as possible. Then work a small amount of dish detergent into the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rub the fabric under warm water. Afterward, wash the clothing in the hottest water temperature allowed for the specific fabric.

Use regular laundry detergent and an oxygenated bleach like OxiClean. Let the clothing air-dry and repeat if the stain remains.

For Play-Doh, on the other hand, do not use hot water. Instead, let it dry, then use a stiff brush to loosen it from the fabric. You can also wash the garment by hand with detergent and cold water.

To tackle grass stains, work in some detergent with a toothbrush. Let the clothing sit for 5 minutes. Then toss it in the washing machine at the warmest temperature the fabric can stand. If the stain is still there, repeat the same steps until it’s stain-free.

The same method may also work for chocolate, provided you remove as much of it as you can before applying the detergent. Chocolate is surprisingly difficult to remove. Only four of the liquid detergents in CR’s ratings aced the tests for pretreating and removing it.

For the best odds, CR recommends using OxiClean Max Force, a laundry pretreatment that earned top scores for removing stains like dirt, grass, and chocolate ice cream.

And some good news … to save water and time, CR says you can wash your stained clothing along with other clothes. In its tests, none of the detergents redeposited soil to other fabrics. Just remember to always check clothing before tossing it in the dryer, because the heat sets stains. And your chances of removing the stain after that are slim.

CR also has some great advice for getting out stubborn chewing gum. When it's stuck to your child’s pants it needs some coaxing. It won’t come off with just washing, and freezing and scraping the fabric can damage it. Try this instead:

1. Heat the gum with a hairdryer. Then scrape off as much as possible with a plastic knife.

2. Work in a dab of extra-strength Bengay. It dissolves the gum base. Use a zip-lock bag to pick off the resulting goo (it sticks more easily to plastic, than, say, a paper towel).

3. Launder it. Use the warmest water setting that’s safe for the fabric. Do not put the garment in the dryer until the gum is gone.

Contact Us