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How to: Get every stain out of a white t-shirt

How to: Get every stain out of a white t-shirt

Sometimes it feels as though a white t-shirt or shirt is a magnet for every glass of red wine, squirt of ketchup or dribble of olive oil in its vicinity. And once such a stain is absorbed by a white top, getting it out can seem impossible.

Which is why Thread stylist Alice Watt set out to test the best ways to get these three stains out of one favourite white t-shirt. Before we share the three winning techniques (the first of which comes from Martha Stewart herself), here are a few things we learned from smearing stuff on lots of t-shirts and then struggling to clean them up:

1. Once you've spilled something, dab or blot it as quickly as possible to try to soak up any excess liquid before it sinks in. Dabbing involves quick up-and-down movements with a clean cloth or paper towel; rubbing or scrubbing will push the substance deeper into the fabric.

2. If you're worried a stain's set in really deeply, add a scoop of stain-removing enzyme when you put it in the wash. You can pick this up for a few quid at any corner shop.

3. It's not always possible, but stains are easiest to remove if you begin treating them before they're dry. 

And with that, we share the three winning stain-removal techniques.


STAIN 1: Red wine

What you need:

  • Salt—any kind will do
  • A bowl
  • Water—both cool and boiling

This technique can also work on: Sweat and blood stains

Step 1: Stretch the stained area over a bowl 

Step 2: Poor cool water over the stain

Step 3: Completely cover the stain with a millimeter or two of salt

Step 4: Leave it for five minutes

Step 5: Pour boiling water over the salt-covered stain

If you think the stain will be stubborn, leave it to soak in the salty water for 10 minutes or so.

Step 6: Throw it in the wash


STAIN 2: Oil

What you need:

  • Washing-up liquid. E.g., Fairy liquid. It works because it's made to cut through oil and grease

This technique can also work on: Anything greasy or oil-based, even yellowing around the neck of a white shirt (which is caused by oil from your skin).

Step 1: Cover the oil with lots of washing-up liquid

Step 2: Fold the t-shirt so the liquid is soaking into the stain, and let it sit for a few minutes

Step 3: Throw it in the wash


STAIN 3: Ketchup

What you need:

  • Vanish spray. We're not affiliated with them, but the product's available at most shops and really works. 

This technique can also work on: Any food stain

Step 1: Spray Vanish all over the stain

Step 2: Dab it into the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then throw it in the wash

Voilà! Three white t-shirts, good as new