Pretreating Stains on Linen

Folk Art Border Print Kitchen Tablecloth

Folk Art Border Print Kitchen Tablecloth

Last week I posted on the do’s and don’ts of cleaning linen and fine cotton.  This post is about pretreating stains.

The proper pretreatment of stains depends on the stain.  Here’s a brief set of instructions for 4 different types of stains.

  • Food Stains
    To pretreat a table cloth, start in one place and put a laundry pretreatment product on each spot,smudge or spill that you find. You can use a product in stick form or spray/liquid form, but the stick form is better if you can’t launder immediately.  It can be left on the fabric for several days and begins to work on the stain immediately. If food is glopped, gently remove the excess before pretreating. Products reccommended include Spray N Wash, Shout and Zout for tough stains.
  • Wax Stains
    Start by scraping off all the excess wax that you can.  Sometimes placing the item in the freezer can make the wax easier to chip or peel off. Then place the fabric between two absorbent paper layers (paper towels,blotting paper or kraft paper) and use a hot iron to heat the wax and let it be absorbed by the paper. Change the paper until no more wax comes out. Then treat the area with a solvent stain remover, like Carbona or Goof-Off,both to remove residual wax and any color left behind by colored wax.
  • Rust Stains
    Rust stain removal requires lemon juice and sunlight (or another form of heat, like boiling water) or oxalic acid.  Rust marks seem more daunting than they actually are.  Commercial products like RoVer, Whink or Zud contain oxalic acid.  Rit Rust Remover combines sodium hydrosulfite, sodium bisulfite and sodium carbonate.
  • Ink Stains
    Ink is very tough and if it’s a big spot or important to get it out, you should consult a really good professional dry cleaner.  If you try to remove it yourself, you must first know the kind of ink. If you have on hand a commercial ink removal formula for the specific type of ink, use it following the instructions exactly. Amodex claims to work on all types of ink and comes recommended by several pen makers.  Crayola recommends it for removing crayon stains.  It also claims to work as a spot remover on a wide range of food stains, plus toner, hair dye and scorch marks.  However, it may affect colored fabrics, so test before using. Ballpoint ink is removed with plain alcohol (rubbing or denatured), drugstore glycerin or a solvent spot remover followed by laundering.  Drawing ink often cannot be removed by home methods, particularly after it has dried, but you can try flushing with cold water with an absorbent material underneath to take up the pigments, then applying liquid detergent and washing it out several times, and next soaking in warm water with soap and ammonia, followed by laundering in the hottest water.  For felt-tip ink, which is equally difficult, pour water through the stain to remove pigment, then let the article dry and treat remaining stain with a solvent spot remover, followed by the steps for drawing ink removal of repeatedly rubbing liquid detergent into the stain and washing out, then the soaking and laundering steps.  For mystery ink, carefully test one part with water, the other with a solvent cleaner to see which method might work.  Martha Stewart has detailed instructions for treating ink stains on her website.


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