Person spot-treating a stain on fabric

How to remove stains from white clothes

From grass stains at recess to marinara spatters during meal prep, stains on white clothes can be difficult to remove. However, if you treat the stains early and use the right cleaning products, you can help keep your family’s white laundry looking fresh. Use this guide to learn more about removing stains from white clothes and explore laundry tips and tricks.

Person filling a stain spot treater with detergent Person filling a stain spot treater with detergent

What products remove stains from white clothing?

You can typically remove a variety of stains from your white laundry with enzyme-based detergent, stain removers, oxygen bleach, baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or grease-fighting dish soap.

However, never use vinegar with hydrogen peroxide or bleach, as it can be dangerous. Always refer to each garment’s laundry care tag before cleaning for fabric-specific instructions. Also, check the owner's manual for your machine before using non-detergent substances.

How do you get stains out of white clothes?

Some household favorites like enzyme-based detergents, oxygen bleach and stain removers can help remove stains from white clothing. Enzymatic detergents help break down stains and dirt by boosting chemical reactions. Another option to combat stains on white and colored fabrics is oxygen bleach, which typically gets the job done.

Scraping off excess food, blotting the fabric (instead of scrubbing), soaking and pretreating are all helpful when trying to get stains out of white clothes. 

Even the most stubborn stains can often be lifted using a few everyday household products like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and baking soda. Take caution not to mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together and avoid mixing other household products, as it can cause unwanted chemical reactions. Read on below to learn how to treat different types of stains on white clothing.

1. How to get yellow stains out of white clothes

Yellow stains can happen because of dyes in food, sweat, hard water and chlorine bleach. Body oils and skincare products like lotions, deodorants, perfumes and makeup can also leave stains in places like your underarms, or around your collar and cuffs, due to chemical compounds and oxidation.  

Depending on the cause of the yellow stain, using the right cleaning technique can help restore white clothes. 


  1. Whitening solutions: These solutions are made to brighten the look of your fabric by removing colors that may have bled onto your clothes. They are typically used as a presoak or with your regular wash cycle. When using whitening solutions, be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging.
  2. Oxygen-based bleach: This type of bleach has a different molecule structure that typically allows it to break down organic stains, like sweat. This method may take longer, as clothes have to soak in a solution of oxygen bleach before washing like normal. Always refer to the directions on the packaging and your garment’s care tag. Some fabrics like wool, suede and silk cannot tolerate oxygen bleach.
  3. Baking soda: You can add baking soda directly to your wash bin or make a paste by mixing ½ cup of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to apply to armpit stains on shirts. Avoid adding baking soda to your machine’s dispenser, as it can clog it. You can also use baking soda as a presoak mixed with water, and let the garment soak in it for an hour. 
  4. Distilled white vinegar: This is another option for getting white clothes white again. It is generally used for pretreating white clothes and it also works well to neutralize odors. To use, mix vinegar with hot water, letting your white clothes soak in your tub or sink for anywhere from an hour to overnight. Make sure to rinse your garment thoroughly before washing your garment in the washing machine with detergent on the warmest water setting recommended on the care tag. Vinegar should not be added to your washing machine.

Remember to always refer to your garment tag before using any stain-fighters. 


2. Removing stains from white clothes that have been dried

It may seem like the fate of your family’s white clothes is sealed when you find dried stains—especially from dark foods and beverages, such as blood, ink, tomato sauce and mud. Still, getting stains out of white clothes is not impossible, even if it’s old and dried. However, loosening the stain may take a bit more work.

  1. ​​Prep your sink or tub: Following the temperature recommended on your garment’s care tag, fill your sink or tub with water and add an enzyme detergent. Let it dissolve.

  2. Let it soak: Allow the garment to soak for a few hours before washing. 

  3. Dry it out: After soaking and washing, allow your garment to air dry and if the stain persists, try soaking and washing again. Continue this process and air dry until the stain is completely faded before placing it in the dryer, as the dryer can set the stain in the fabric. 

Hand washing or visiting your local dry cleaners might be a better option for delicate fabrics. Be sure to check the care tag for instructions.

3. How to get brown stains out of white clothes

Some stains are brown or dark because of absorption, consistency, thickness, or the chemical reaction of the fabric. Still, there are ways to help remove stains from white clothes and try to rescue your favorite garment from brown stains like dirt, chocolate, coffee and blood. 

  1. Flush it with water: If your toddler happens to drip their favorite chocolate ice cream on their shirt or your teenager has an accidental bloody nose on their hockey uniform, start by flushing the stain from inside the garment with cold water.
  2. Spot treat it: Next, spot-treat the area with an enzyme detergent, or soak it in a cold mix of water and detergent in your sink or tub, keeping it submerged for 10-30 minutes. For blood stains, leave the detergent on the stain for extra stain-fighting power.  
  3. Wash it: After soaking, wash your stained clothes with some oxygen bleach, in the hottest water setting allowed according to your garment’s tag. For blood-stained clothes, wash in cold water to prevent the stain from setting. Note that bleach should not be used in some washing machines so always check your owner’s manual.

4. How to remove tomato stains from white clothes

Dyes, grease, acidity and proteins can cause certain foods to stain. That’s why something like tomato sauce that leaves a red or pink stain can be frustrating to remove. Luckily, with a bit of dish soap and patience, you can still enjoy your favorite pizza and pasta—even if some of it ends up on your shirt.

  1. Prep the garment: Start by removing stain residue with a spoon or dull knife. Blot the area with a clean cloth, then rinse the stain from inside the garment with cold water.
  2. Add soap and soak: Add liquid dish soap to the stain, gently massage it into the fabric, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry: Rinse your garment and let it air dry to see if the stain is gone. If it’s not, repeat the previous steps and thoroughly rinse out any dish soap before washing your garment in a machine using the water setting recommended on the tag. 
  4. Check it: Make sure the stain is completely gone before drying, as the dryer can set the stain.
Whirlpool® Front Load Washer and Dryer in a laundry room Whirlpool® Front Load Washer and Dryer in a laundry room

Tips for removing stains from white clothes

When you’re caring for your family’s laundry, consider the following tips to help you get stains out of white garments and keep laundry day running smoothly.

  • Act quick: The longer a stain sits, the more difficult it is to remove. Always treat stains on white clothes as quickly as possible to help prevent them from setting.

  • Check the temp: Pretreating stains with the right temperature of water can help prevent them from setting or spreading across the fabric. Higher temperatures can cause some types of stain to bond with the fibers, making it difficult to remove completely. However, some stains, like chocolate, wash well in warmer water. 

  • Test it: Apply stain removers on a hidden location on the item to see if the treatment will affect the fabric and help avoid damage to the entire garment.

  • Double-check: Consult your garment’s laundry care label before you begin any stain-removing treatment.

Explore Whirlpool® Washers

Whether you’re shopping for a front load or top load model, Whirlpool brand has the washing machine options to help make laundry day less of a chore. Explore features on select models like the Automatic Presoak Option that helps you tackle stains without a trip to the sink, or the 360 Wash Agitator that provides multiple wash motions to help loosen soils and provide a thorough clean in different water levels.

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