Sept. 12, 2002

Cornell publication provides lab-tested ways to remove 250 different stains from clothes and textiles

ITHACA, N.Y. -- To remove a grass stain, would you use banana oil, detergent, ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or bleach? Or, would you just give up?

A new publication by textile experts at Cornell University -- also available online in Adobe Acrobat format at -- provides laboratory-tested details on removing almost 250 different stains, from adhesive tape and antiperspirant to wax crayon and wine with products that can be found in most grocery stores or pharmacies.

"Every single stain has been tested, and if the directions are followed, the chances of removing the stains are very good," says Judy L. Price, a retired extension educator from Monroe County, N.Y. She has updated a 1975 Cornell publication, Removing Stains at Home, with Ann T. Lemley, professor and chair of textiles and apparel in the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

The 12-page booklet includes descriptions of the various supplies needed for stain removal, such as solvents (dry-cleaning solvent, paint-, oil- and grease-remover and amyl acetate); lubricants for water-borne stains, such as dishwashing detergent, glycerin and pretreatment sprays; lubricants for greasy stains, including lard, mineral oil and dry spotter; and acids and alkalies, such as ammonia and vinegar; bleaches; and enzyme products.) The authors include specialized procedures for stains such as ballpoint ink, black walnut, candle wax, evergreen pitch, grass, lipstick, rust and scorch marks.

As for the grass stain? The correct answer is all of the above: Blot first with banana oil (amyl acetate), then blot with detergent solution and flush with water; blot with ammonia solution and flush with water; blot with vinegar solution and flush; sponge with alcohol, blot and flush; remove final traces with bleach solution as many times as it takes, flushing with water after each application; apply vinegar solution to remove excess chlorine, then flush with water. It works most of the time, especially if the stain is fresh.