14 Best Stain Removers for Clothes, Carpet, and Mattresses

Stains are a frustrating fact of life, and stain removal can be tricky. In a perfect world there would be a universal stain remover that would work on any type of stain you could find, but the world is an imperfect place and no such miracle product exists.

Unfortunately, no such product will likely ever exist, and here’s why: stains have different chemical compositions, making it nearly impossible to formulate a single solution to remove them.

We spoke to experts and pulled from our own stain removal expertise to identify the best products to treat common stains ranging from coffee and salad dressing to blood and vomit.

It can be frustrating to take a garment out of the wash only to find that yesterday’s tomato sauce stain is still there. Unfortunately, regular washing alone will not remove most stains. Instead, stains must be dealt with before an item goes through the washing machine.

Generally speaking, says Lindsay Jones, brand manager for new products at Maytag, “When applying any treatment to a stain, work from the outside in to prevent spreading.” And, depending on the cause of the stain, the approach to stain removal will vary.

Wayne Edelman, President of Care of Meurice clothesa high-end dry cleaning service in New York specializing in interior and cabinet cleaning services, says, “A liquid spill will typically require blotting the area with a clean white towel to remove as much of the possible liquid.

  • Liquid stains should be blotted before applying stain repellent treatments to prevent the stain from spreading.
  • To treat stains caused by solids, start by removing as much solids as possible, then apply a treatment product.
  • Powdery stains, such as dirt, ash, flower pollen, etc., should be gently brushed or blown onto the surface of the garment prior to the application of stain remover treatments.

After applying a stain-repellent treatment, wash the garment according to its care instructions. Very delicate items can be washed by hand.

The same type of stain remover used for clothing can be used on upholstery and carpets, but the removal technique will be different. “When a liquid stain is on furniture, the process takes longer because you can’t effectively break down the stain and rinse it away like you would your stained pants,” says Edelman.

As with clothing, mop up spills or remove solids from furniture or carpets before treating the stain. A highly absorbent towel is ideal for work, but paper towels, tea towels, bath towels, etc. also work. Blot until there is no more liquid absorption, then treat any stains or odors.

Bissell Spot Clean Professional Handheld Carpet Cleaner

When deep cleaning is needed or to deal with stubborn, set-in stains, a carpet and upholstery cleaning machine is the right tool for the job. “For furniture, I highly recommend a home upholstery machine to help with that or a small wet vacuum to remove the material,” Edelman says.

What are protein stains? Well, protein stains are some of the most common you will encounter in life. They include bodily defilements of all kinds, both human and animal: blood, sweat, drool, urine, feces and sexual fluids.

Zout Laundry Stain Remover Spray, Triple Enzyme Formula

Protein stains can be tricky, largely because they tend to be coarse! – but there is a trick to remove them: use an enzymatic stain treatment product to break them down and remove the protein stains from the fabric.

Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover Laundry Pre-Treatment

Grass, mud, dirt and clay are also protein stains and should be treated with an enzymatic stain treatment product.

OxiClean Multi-Purpose Household & Laundry Stain Remover

OxiClean Multi-Purpose Household & Laundry Stain Remover

When it comes to removing protein stains like sweat from white clothes, Jones says, “You might be tempted to bleach sweat stains, but bleach can actually make sweat stains worse. making them darker. Jones recommends using an oxygen bleach like OxiClean instead, “which has a different chemical structure that easily removes protein stains.”

Plant-based tannin stains, such as food, coffee, tea, and wine, can be treated with a variety of products and methods.

Dawn Ultra Original Dishwashing Detergent

When confronted with a fresh food or liquid stain, remove the solids and/or blot up the liquid, then try rinsing the garment under cold running water – often this alone does the trick. Massaging a small amount of dish soap on a fresh stain and rinsing it under cold running water can also help remove it.

Shout Laundry Stain Remover Trigger Spray

Shout is one of the best all-purpose stain removers, and it’s especially effective on food stains like chocolate, tomato, hot sauce, and soy sauce.

wine outside

Wine Away is an excellent stain remover for those dreaded red wine stains. It also works extraordinarily well on cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry and coffee stains.

The best stain removers for oil and grease stains

Oil and grease stains from butter, salad dressing, pizza grease, bicycle chains, etc. are particularly difficult to eliminate. “Many oil stains don’t come off with regular washing,” says Edelman, “even if they’re pre-treated with a spray stain remover.” When washing a garment with a grease stain, it is best to avoid tumble drying so that the heat from the dryer does not set a grease stain that has not been completely removed in the wash.

Lestoil Intensive Multi-Purpose Cleaner

Lestoil is one of the best products for removing oil and grease stains. Dab a small amount directly onto the stain before washing as usual.


Pine-Sol is a similar product to Lestoil – it’s also a great choice for treating oil and grease stains (and it may be easier to find in stores).

K2R stain remover

K2R Stain Remover can be used to remove grease stains from non-washable items like accessories, furniture or carpets.

Heavily pigmented ink, dye, pencil and makeup stains are easier to remove than you might think – and some surprising common household items can be used to remove them as you go.

Solimo 91% Isopropyl Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is excellent for removing dye and ink stains. It also works great for removing makeup from clothes – if you smear makeup on the collar of your shirt when you pull it over your head, use a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to quickly remove the stain.

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel

Hand sanitizer, which has a high concentration of alcohol, will also remove stains – which is useful to know as many people have hand sanitizer on them which helps to remove stains at the fly.

OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover Spray

OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover is great for removing a variety of makeup stains like lipstick, mascara, foundation, and concealer from clothes, towels, and sheets.