Forget Chlorine Bleach – Put a bit of lemon juice and sunshine to work on stubborn stains.
by Rebecca Rockefeller
Do you have white linens or clothing with stubborn stains? Looking for a magical cure? Give this a try:
- Wet fabric around stain.
- Apply lemon juice to fully saturate the stain. Freshly squeezed and bottled juice both work (go for the glass bottled sort, please).
- Set in the sun. If the weather is inclement, set the item beside a sunny window inside or below your car’s back window.
- Apply a second dose of lemon juice if necessary.
- Launder as usual when the stain is gone.
Does it work? Yes it does. It may not work on all stains, but if you’ve tried other measures and are at the point of no return, ready to give up on your favorite tablecloth or white shirt, what have you got to lose? You may discover that you like this process so much, it becomes your first stain fighting step. I’ve personally used this to remove stubborn stains from cloth diapers (carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, and other stains of common baby food origin), but it works just as well on shirts, dresses, and linens.
I recently fished this beautiful white embroidered tablecloth out of a dumpster (true story, complete with the same noise from me that Carrie Brownstein’s character makes in this Portlandia episode), where it had been tossed thanks to the bright orange stains all over one corner of it. I don’t know what the stains were from – Rust? Very strong black tea? – But this worked so well and so quickly that I didn’t get a photo of the stains. I set the tablecloth into our Seattle-area sun (we’re not exactly known for strong sunshine here), and before I could make it back outside with my camera to capture the stains in all their glory, they were gone. Granted, I got sidetracked and had a cup of coffee inside then bandaged a daughter with a scuffed-up knee, but that didn’t take me all that long. And the stains were pale enough to be practically invisible to my camera; a second dose of lemon juice and another hour in the sun, and they were gone completely.
You can even give it a try on colored fabric, but only if you’re willing to risk a bit of bleaching in place of the stain. I gave it a try on these two-year old stains on one of our summer-faded outdoor tablecloths and removed the rusty-red marks from that without any pronounced bleaching…But that was on a well-bleached tablecloth – Proceed with caution on your own colorful fabrics!
Don’t despair if you have crummy weather. The sun shines even through fog and rain, and enough of its stain-fighting rays make it through standard house and auto glass that a sunny home or car window can help you fight stains year round.
You can find other plastic-free, zero waste home Reduce, Reuse, and Rethink inspiration, click through on the photo below to visit the Clean & Simple page of our Trash Backwards app.