Remove Stubborn Stains Like a Pro

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Troublesome stains come in all shapes and sizes: an oily handprint on your ivory sofa; black permanent marker on the teak dining table; mustard on your best blouse; and yes, even a tinge on your teeth from last night’s glass of red wine. But rather than settle for all of the above in a perpetually smudged state, we sought advice from professional champions of clean on how to remove stains and keep your teeth, clothes and home in top, stain-free condition.

Perfect Pearly Whites
Coffee, red wine and nicotine are among the worst teeth-staining agents, says Sherri Worth, cosmetic and reconstructive dentist based in Newport Beach, Calif. Her whitening fix: “Once a week, use a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide blended into a paste to brush your teeth.” Worth also says eating foods like veggies, strawberries, and dairy can help strengthen teeth, kill oral bacteria and create a protective stain-blocking barrier.

All About the Brush
Dr. Michael Paesani, a dentist in Falls Church, Va., recommends reaching for a powerful electric toothbrush to minimize staining and buildup when you’re in between professional dental cleanings. “Brushing shortly before and after your morning coffee,” he says,” will greatly reduce the potential discoloration.” Another clever tip: “Keep a bottle of water on hand and rinse after you finish drinking pigment-heavy beverages,” he says.

In the Bag
A Saturday-night movie at home usually means sharing a bowl of buttery popcorn on the couch. Should an oily fingerprint or two pop up on your upholstered furniture, Meg Roberts, president of the maid service and house cleaning company Molly Maid, says all you’ll need is a brown paper lunch bag. Place the bag on the oily spot and run a warm iron over it to lift the oil from the upholstery and into the paper. 

Not So Permanent Markers
If your tot misses her target when drawing, and you’re left with permanent marker on your hardwood floors or wood furniture, Roberts says a little non-gel toothpaste on a microfiber cloth rubbed in a circular motion on the stain works wonders. For spills on carpeting, pat the stain with a white cloth and a bit of soda water. “People tend to scrub because they get anxious, but rubbing back and forth might deepen it into the carpet fibers.”

Cut the Elbow Grease
Vigorously scrubbing toilets to remove tough stains is tiresome. Instead, try a toilet-freshening trick that Roberts’ grandmother pioneered: denture-cleaning tablets, such as Polident or Efferdent. “She’d drop [them] in the bowl, walk away and let them fizz up,” Roberts says. The tablets’ fizzing action loosens grime inside the bowl, thus lessening your cleaning time and effort.

Hold the Mustard
One of the harder stains to remove from fabrics is mustard, says Mona Weiss, co-owner of detergent company Eco Nuts. To attack mustard on non-dry clean only items, use cold water to rinse through the back of the stain. Apply liquid laundry detergent and allow the garment to sit for ten minutes. Rinse and repeat as needed, then add an enzyme stain spray and launder normally. “These enzymes will eat the stain while leaving the fabric alone,” she says.

Grease Lightning
For grease stains on your clothes, Weiss recommends using dish soap. “Rub it in gently,” she says, “and let [the garment] sit at least ten minutes before washing.” Check that the stain has come out before throwing an item in the dryer, Weiss cautions. “The dryer can set that stain forever.” Also helpful for absorbing mild grease stains on clothes: rub chalk or cornstarch onto the stain and let it sit.

by Lauren Mang