Natural Stain Removal

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If you're trying to move away from harsh chemicals and toward natural alternatives, it can be tricky to tackle those stubborn carpeting or clothing stains. In order to find the best solution, it's helpful to consider the chemistry behind cleaning. On the pH scale, 7.0 is neutral. Anything above this is alkaline; anything below is acidic. Here are some examples of the pH factors of various familiar natural compounds. (Note: bleach has a pH of 12.6.)

We know that an acid neutralizes an alkaline and vice versa. Therefore, white vinegar is best used for an alkaline stain such as grass, while baking soda works best on acidic stains (and odors) such as pet urine. If pet stains are permitted to dry they will become alkaline, in which case white vinegar is optimal.

In addition to the chemistry, it can be helpful to consider the various forms of stain removal.
  • Blotting: Blotting is the best way to treat carpet stains. Blot with clean fabric or paper towels. Stand on or place heavy book on stain if needed, but do not rub. Repeat using fresh towels/fabric. When using minerals such as baking soda, sprinkle and allow to dry. Vacuum. If baking soda residue remains, spray diluted white vinegar. Allow to dry and vacuum again. Blotting may be used on some laundry stains as well.
  • Paste: Combine dry material with enough water to make a paste. Cream of tartar and baking soda work well this way. Pastes work best for stains that are set. Apply paste and allow it to sit overnight. Launder as usual.
  • Soaks: Stubborn laundry stains can be left soaking in alkaline or acidic solutions overnight. The website Safe Natural Tips suggests a general protocol of pre-soaking laundry with 1/2 cup borax in the washer. Allow to set for 30-60 minutes, then wash as usual.
  • Sprays: Liquid solutions such as hydrogen peroxide and club soda are effective stain removers. Keep a spray bottle of each on hand.
  • Soap: Rub a bar of castile soap onto stain and allow to soak, or wash as usual. Vegetable glycerin (a natural by-product of soap) is effective as well. (Our family has launched a line of all-natural products including chemical-free Coconut Castile Soap, which can be purchased at our Just So Online Store, as well as through our momsAWARE Online Store.)
momsAWARE offers a helpful list of options for specific stains such as blood, crayons, mustard, and more. See our Natural Year Challenge article, Remove Stains Naturally.