How to remove stains from T-Shirts

SANVT Journal

Who hasn’t experienced it? One lapse in attention and you have a horrible stain on your clothing. But how should you remove stains? No matter what, before starting to remove the stain remember the the first rule: keep calm!

If a nasty stain has spread on your perfect white T-Shirt, this doesn’t have to be a reason to throw your beloved garment directly into the bin. Depending on type of stain and its intensity, stains can be removed in a variety of ways. In this article we’ll cover some house-remedies (that actually work) on how to best remove 5 common stains from T-Shirts:

  • Ketchup & tomato sauce
  • Coffee
  • Oil & grease
  • Sweat & deodorant
  • Red wine


The question of how easily or effectively you’ll manage to remove stains depends largely on what material it is and what caused the stain. In any case, you should first consult the care label of the garment in order to avoid any mistakes right from the start. Fabrics made of silk or wool, in particular, can end up ruined quite easily if treated too aggressively. If you want to be able to wear your beloved silk scarf again, you better treat it with caution.

No matter what kind of stain, it is fundamentally important to start and remove stains as quickly as possible and rinse the area with plenty of water. Mild soap or detergent can usually be used for soaking: standard detergents are always helpful as a first emergency aid. If this initial pre-treatment has been successful, it is usually best to rinse the garment immediately in the washing machine and get rid of any left-over detergents.

In well-stocked supermarkets you’ll usually find a large number of special products and all-purpose stain removers for the treatment of “minor stains”. However, we swear on various household remedies, which work often even more effectively and, above all, are usually much more textile-friendly than commercial stain removal products.


Tomato sauce has not only landed on your plate but also on your perfect white T-Shirt and has left some terrible stains? Before putting the tee into the washing machine, it’s wise to pre-treat the garment.

  • The best way to do this is carefully remove any residues of the sauce from the material with a spoon or knife.
  • Then rinse the T-Shirt with cold water. Make sure that the water is cool or lukewarm at most. You should avoid rinsing it with hot water as this could cause the stain to penetrate the fabric even more.
  • You can add detergent to the rinsing water, which also acts as a solvent and might improve the result.
  • Now, put the T-Shirt in the washing machine and the stain should be forgotten. 


What’s the worst way to start the day? Exactly, with a coffee stain on a crisp white T-Shirt. If this has happened, you should take the garment off as quickly as possible (not always possible if it just happened during your morning stop at the coffee shop) and rinse it with plenty of water. The longer the stain sits in the material, the deeper it will penetrate the fibres. Then, take the following steps:

  • Liquid detergent can easily be added to the moistened area. Afterwards you should leave the shirt to settle for at least five minutes.
  • If necessary, this procedure can be repeated several times.
  • Then place the garment in the machine and wash it at the maximum temperature indicated on the care label of the garment.


In case of grease and oil stains, the garment should:

  • Be treated quickly with cool sparkling water. The more carbonic acid, the more effectively the stain is removed from the fibres.
  • If this is not enough because the stain has already dried or is more persistent than expected then the next step is to sprinkle the garment or stain with talcum powder (or potato or corn flour) so that it can absorb the fat.
  • The stain should then be carefully rubbed out with a brush.

Fat and oil stains can alternatively be treated by soaking them in cool water and a little detergent. Finally, this can also be put into the washing machine for thorough cleaning.


Probably the most unpleasant of all stains: sweat or deodorant marks. It is interesting to know that sweat itself does not leave any stains. These blemishes are produced and thus made visible by deodorant and particularly the aluminium salts it contains, which react chemically with sweat.

Here’s an easy tip to avoid this kind of problem in the future: wait until the deodorant is sufficiently absorbed and your skin is completely dry before putting on your shirt.

However, as soon as the annoying yellowish stains under the armpits are in your shirt, there are pretty hard to get out and simple washing is definitely not solving the problem. In the worst case, the surfactants contained in the detergent will intensify the stain. When removing deodorant stains, you should – as always – act quickly. Depending on the colour of the stain, there are two ways to remove it:

  • Deodorant usually leaves yellow stains on white or light-coloured textiles. These can be pre-treated with citric acid. To do this, dissolve 10 grams of citric acid in a litre of water and soak the garment overnight. Denture cleaners and baking powder, which are either used for soaking or applied to the affected area and rubbed in lightly, are also well suited for yellow deodorant stains.
  • White deodorant marks on dark textiles: You can remove stains like this with vinegar or gall soap. It is advisable to check the material for colour fastness beforehand to avoid possible damage. After testing, gently rub in, or soak in, dissolved vinegar essence.

After such a pre-treatment, the garment should be washed in the washing machine.


The classic culprit among stains: The red wine spot! But: don’t panic, the party doesn’t have to be over yet. Lemon juice, salt and mineral water, are everything you’ll need to remove the stain effectively – and almost every household has these simple items. However, under no circumstances should the stain dry out nor should the garment be placed in the washing machine without pre-treatment.

  • Pre-treatment is also very simple: sprinkle the stain with lemon juice, then add salt and let the red wine absorb. 
  • Finally rinse gently with mineral water and off into the machine.


You generally should never get too frustrated about a stain on your favourite shirt: no matter how terrible it looks, there is (nearly) always a solution.

However, to act quickly and choosing a suitable pre-treatment. By doing so, you can remove most stains successfully and enjoy your perfect T-Shirt for the time to come.