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Best stain removers for clothes and upholstery

Stubborn stains, such as wine spills or tomato sauce, can ruin your favourite clothes. But there’s no need to bin them. Luckily, there are a handful of effective stain removers that can make your fabrics look brand new again. Here are the top stain removers to buy right now.

By Hannah Wilson | Last updated Dec 7, 2021

woman adding liquid to washing machine

Accidental spills, messy children or muddy pets are all part of life. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, your clothes, your children’s clothes or your sofa can still get stained.

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Some stains can easily come out in the wash, but others, such as red wine on a white cotton shirt or blood on cream cushion covers, are more stubborn to remove. This is where stain remover products can come to your rescue.

Our recommendations have all come from our Mumsnet forums and expert review sites, where every product has been tried and tested by real people treating real stains. 

We’ve selected 10 products for different needs, including budget, stain types, fabrics and application processes. So if you’re looking for an effective stain remover that’ll mean you never have to worry about stubborn stains again, here are the best stain removers for clothes and upholstery.

1. Best overall stain remover: Elbow Grease® Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray

Elbow Grease® Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray

Price: £3.97 | Buy now from Amazon

“Elbow Grease spray and Vanish soap are my go-to stain removers. For paint, always soak in plain cold water for a few hours first.” Whatsitbeen

“Elbow Grease Spray - spot clean, throw in the washer and then dry in the sunshine. Has saved my lovely white t-shirts that I stupidly wear around my two small children.” MonkeyPuddle

The Elbow Grease® Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray can effortlessly tackle tough stains (such as grease, mud or food) on all fabric types, including clothes, carpets and upholstery. The lemon-scented stain remover is solvent- and fume-free, making it safe to use and easy on the nostrils. 

The best part is that it’s easy to apply. All you need to do is spray the stain and leave it on for a few minutes, then wipe the fabric down and place the garment in the washing machine to clean as usual.

Pros

  • Suitable for all fabrics (including light and delicate fabrics)
  • Smells like lemon
  • Solvent- and fume-free

Cons

  • You must wear protective gloves when using the spray

2. Best budget stain remover: The Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray

Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray

Price: £1.50 | Buy now from Wilko

“The Pink Stuff is incredible. I'd never heard of it but saw it for really cheap and bought some. It changed my life!” BaggoMcoys

Budget-conscious cleaners can enjoy the benefits of the best laundry stain removers for just £1.50. The Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray is gentle on fabrics but tough on stains, and can be used on both white and coloured clothes.

You can only use this product on colourfast fabrics and garments, but it’s effective at removing several different stains such as mud and food. It’s easy to use - you just need to spray the stained area (on both sides) and leave for five minutes. Then wash as you normally would, either by hand or in the washing machine.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • For use on whites and colours
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Only for use on colourfast fabrics and garments

3. Best stain remover for clothing: Astonish Oxy Active Plus Stain Remover

Astonish Active Stain Remover

Price: £3.68 | Buy now from Amazon

“I use Astonish stain remover powder and washing-up liquid as a paste and scrub in. Leave overnight. Hasn't failed me yet.” VilootShesCute

Astonish Oxy Active Plus Stain Remover comes in powder form and is both cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. It’s one of the best stain removers for clothes and can be used to treat stained clothes either pre-wash, and left to soak for a few minutes, or placed in the washing machine with the scooper that comes with the stain remover.

Along with removing stains from fabrics, this product also helps to brighten your clothes, so that you can achieve that almost-brand-new look again. And, bonus - this stain remover can also neutralise smelly odours with Astonish’s deliciously fresh scent.

Pros

  • Cruelty-free and vegan-friendly
  • Multi-use product that cleans stains, brightens fabrics and neutralises odours
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Only suitable for clothing and garments

4. Best stain remover for blood: McKLords Hydrogen Peroxide 3%

McKLords Hydrogen Peroxide 3%

Price: £5.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“Hydrogen peroxide for bloodstains. There are things you can buy for mouldy smells in laundry, but maybe you just need to start again if it’s mould right through the clothes.” MrsJamPanMan

When blood stains a fabric, it can be easy to despair. But there’s no need to as McKLords Hydrogen Peroxide 3% is the best stain remover for blood. This multi-purpose cleaning product has bleach and antiviral qualities, which means you can clean tough stains as well as protect against germs.

The 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is ideal for cleaning bloodstains, mud stains, food stains, drink stains, make-up stains and more. And you can also use it to clean all types of fabrics, carpets, upholstery and even worktops or wooden floors. How’s that for getting your money’s worth? 

The trigger spray makes it easy to use. All you have to do is spray the stained area and wipe it away with a clean cloth, then wash your fabric as normal.

Pros

  • Removes stubborn stains such as blood
  • Cleans a variety of fabrics and surfaces
  • Easy-to-use trigger spray

Cons

  • Product contains bleach
  • You must wear protective gloves when using the product

5. Best stain remover for white cottons: Vanish Oxi Action Crystal White

Vanish Oxi Action Crystal White

Price: £5.50 | Buy now from Amazon

“Are you using branded Vanish? DH went to the supermarket with a list with Vanish on it, and he brought back Tesco’s own-brand equivalent which is useless. I find Vanish can do wonders. I use the one for whites and the Norma one in the pink tub. Apply as a paste first and then put in the wash with a scoop of it too.” WellTidy

“I also do pre-wash treatment to each stain with Vanish Oxi Action, colour or white depending on clothes, and cold water. And I Google what kind of treatment might help for the specific stain.” greenlynx

When it comes to white cottons, the best stain remover that we could find is the Vanish Oxi Action Crystal White. Whitening ingredients in the Vanish powder help to retain whiteness in your washing, making it the ideal companion if your white clothes regularly get stained.

You can use the Vanish Oxi Action powder to pre-treat and pre-soak stains, or you can add a scoop directly to the washing machine along with your stained clothes. This chlorine bleach-free stain remover is safe to use on everyday fabrics but can’t be used on wool, silk or leather. 

Pros

  • Removes stains from white clothes and fabrics
  • Helps to keep clothes bright and white
  • Can be used as a pre-treatment, soaking treatment, or in the wash

Cons

  • Doesn’t work on silk, wool, leather or finished/coated surfaces

6. Best stain removal spray: Shout Stain Removing Spray

Shout Stain Removing Spray

Price: £9.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“Shout Stain Remover. Spray on and leave for [a few] minutes before washing. It’s always got all stains out here - even stuff like tomato.” SquitMcJit

Shout Stain Removing Spray is a handy spray to have in your cupboard as it’s simple to use. Just spray the stain remover on your stained clothes or garments on both sides of the fabric, rub it in and then leave it to sit for up to five minutes. Then wash the clothing with warm water, either by hand or in the washing machine.

This two-pack of Shout from Amazon can remove food, dirt, grass and bloodstains, and we love that it works in all water temperatures, making it ideal for those who want to wash at 30 or below.  We also love that you don't have to wash the garment straight away - you just need to treat the stain when it happens, and then you can machine wash the garment up to a week later.

Pros

  • Stain remover that works at lower temperatures
  • Removes stains up to a week later
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Only works on colourfast fabrics
  • Can’t remove permanent ink, paint or dye

7. Best stain removal powder: Stardrops The Pink Stuff Oxi Powder Stain Remover

Stardrops The Pink Stuff Oxi Powder Stain Remover

Price: £4.49 | Buy now from Amazon

“The Pink stuff washing powder - it's amazing. Soak whatever in it for an hour, shove it in the washing machine and boom. Stain gone.” poorfanjo

If you’re looking for the best stain removal powder, the Stardrops’ The Pink Stuff Oxi Powder Stain Remover is a popular choice with Mumsnetters, particularly for baby or nursery clothes. This formulated powder with oxi powder is suitable for all types of colourfast laundry items and fabrics, including colours and whites. 

With a fresh smell, this stain remover, which is tough on stains but gentle on fabrics, is easy to use for both on-the-spot stain treatment and washing-machine treatment. For stubborn stains that you need to get out immediately, add a scoop of the powder into a sink or bowl with three litres of water and leave to soak for an hour, then wash as normal. If you want to use the washing machine, simply add your usual detergent before adding a scoop or two of The Pink Stuff Powder.

Pros

  • Removes tough stains
  • Leaves clothes smelling fresh with The Pink Stuff fragrance
  • Two ways to use it: soak or wash garments straight away in the washing machine

Cons

  • Only works on colourfast fabrics

8. Best eco stain remover: Ecover Stain Remover

Ecover Stain Remover

Price: £3 | Buy now from Amazon

“Ecover makes a non-bleach scrub on stain remover, [which is] great for most stains. I use Bio-D liquid (non-bio eco liquid) from health food shops or online. Add their laundry bleach as needed, though in your case I would buy a bio powder, pre-treating first and possibly soaking (don’t bother with pre-wash).” Nsky

This environmentally-friendly stain remover from Ecover is a cruelty-free product that can combat stubborn stains on a variety of fabrics, including cotton and polycottons. We also love that it has a lavender scent.

It’s simple to use as all you need to do is moisten the fabric, generously apply the Ecover liquid over the stain, rub it in with the brush (provided), and then hand wash the item of clothing or fabric. This stain remover is ideal for both parents and pet owners because it works well on fresh and dried-in stains.

Pros

  • Environmentally-friendly - great for eco-conscious buyers
  • Lavender-scented
  • Easy to use stain remover

Cons

  • Contains enzymes (might not be suitable for sensitive skin)
  • Can’t remove make-up or pen marks
  • Can’t be used on delicates, such as silk

9. Best stain remover for upholstery: Vax CDCW-CSXS SpotWash Spot Cleaner

Vax CDCW-CSXS SpotWash Spot Cleaner

Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon

“I've got pale grey sofas and two boys aged three and 18 months. I bought a VAX carpet/upholstery cleaner and it's great - hasn't failed to remove any stains yet. I find the worst stains are actually just watermarks on the seat pads (both kids have been extremely dribbly as little ones), and all you have to do is wet the whole cushion and then suck the water out.” istheresomethingwrongwithme

“I’ve got a Vax machine. I’ve just used it today on the hall carpet. [...] It’s fantastic and leaves the old hall carpet looking (almost) new. I use it three or four times a year, put the heating on and it’s dry in a couple of hours.” Wellgothenidontcare

Looking for something heavy-duty? The Vax CDCW-CSXS SpotWash Spot Cleaner is a popular choice for cleaning upholstery, carpets and hard floors. This machine, with its powerful suction and deep-cleaning settings, can remove tough stains with minimal effort.

The slim design is great for cleaning the stairs and the machine’s compactness will work well if you’re limited on storage space. It also comes with two attachments for easy cleaning and a free 250ml bottle of Spot Washer Cleaning Solution. It also has a self-cleaning function that flushes dirt and debris out once you’ve finished cleaning.

Despite the cost, this cleaner is definitely worth every penny, especially if your children are relentlessly trampling dirt into the carpets or dropping drinks on the sofa.

Pros

  • Works on both upholstery and carpets as well as hard floors
  • Removes stains and spills without hassle
  • Easy to empty with a self-clean function for easy cleaning
  • Ideal for pet owners
  • Long hose to tackle harder-to-reach areas

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can only use it with Vax’s Spot Washer Cleaning Solution

10. Best stain remover for carpet stains: Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover

Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover

Price: £2.79 | Buy now from Amazon

“Dr Beckmann's carpet stain remover sometimes works for stuff like this.” artisanscotcheggs

“100% try this [Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover]. I use it on everything. I dropped nail varnish on the carpet and it got the lot out! Glass of red wine dropped on the pale grey sofa - this totally removed it. And huge black marks on the velour sofa from hair gel and it got the whole lot out. It's amazing.” Surfingtheweb

The oxy formula of Dr Beckmann’s Carpet Stain Remover and the handy built-in brush can help to tackle tough stains, such as red wine, coffee, fruit juice, chocolate, grease and mud. It also works well on carpets and upholstery for both new and dried-in stains.

To clean spills and stains, simply blot up any excess liquid or remove debris, then shake the bottle and squeeze it onto the brush head attachment. Hold the bottle so it’s flat against the stain and gently squeeze the bottle (being careful you don’t saturate the carpet), then lightly work the liquid into the stain. Leave the stain remover on for three minutes and remove any residue with a damp cloth.

Pros

  • Cleans upholstery with ease
  • Removes tough stains and spills such as wine, coffee and food stains

Cons

  • Can’t be used to remove stains from clothes

How do I choose the best stain remover?

There are several things to consider when choosing the best stain remover:

  • Type - There are many options when it comes to the type of stain remover you can get. However, there are no one-size-fits-all because every fabric and every stain is different. You can choose from: 
  1. Stain remover sprays
  2. Stain remover powders
  3. Stain remover machines
  4. Laundry detergents
  5. Stain removers for carpets
  6. Stain removers for upholstery
  7. Stain removers for clothesThe ingredients used in the products might also be something to consider before you buy them. Most stain remover sprays use strong chemicals, some are designed for sensitive skin (such as non-bio laundry detergent), and some are more environmentally-friendly (such as the Ecover Stain Remover).
  • Fabric -  The type of fabric should determine which product and cleaning methods you use. For example, cotton clothing can be pre-treated with or soaked in several stain remover products before being put in the washing machine, or line dried after being handwashed. This process can be repeated several times, as cotton can endure multiple cleanings and strong chemicals better than other fabrics, such as wool or silk.
  • Application -  The application process of the stain remover is another thing you need to consider. Some come with an easy spray mechanism, while others have a designated scrubbing brush. As well as the type of application, you should think about how long the stain remover needs to be left on the clothing or upholstery for. Some products require long, ideally overnight, soaks or to be left on for several hours, whereas others are quicker and can be cleaned up after just half an hour.
  • Price - Another consideration is your budget. There are so many products available, which means, no matter what your budget, you’ll be able to find and choose an effective stain remover. And the good news is that some of the cheaper products work just as well, if not better than some of the big-name brands that cost more.

What is the best stain remover for clothes?

The best stain remover for clothes is the Elbow Grease® Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray. This spray is effective at removing stains from most types of fabrics, as well as from carpets and upholstery. We also love its lemon scent, which helps to keep your things smelling fresh. It’s a solvent- and fume-free household cleaning essential that all parents need at their disposal.

How do you get old stains out of clothes naturally?

The best time to get a stain out of any fabric is straight away before it sets into the fibre. But sometimes missed stains can happen and, when they do, you don’t need to panic as there are several ways to treat old stains and get them out of clothes naturally using a variety of household products. 

We recommend using white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to get tough and non-greasy stains out of clothes. Follow these steps:

  1. Pour white vinegar onto the stain and make sure it is completely saturated with it.
  2. Then sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda over the stain and rub the mixture into the fabric.
  3. Leave the mixture to soak into the fabric for about 30 minutes, then rinse the back of the stain under cold water for a couple of minutes more.
  4. Apply some more vinegar onto the stained fabric.
  5. Fill a sink full of water and add 125ml of vinegar and a tablespoon or two of laundry detergent. 
  6. Leave the piece of clothing to soak for several hours, ideally overnight. Then you can either wash the garment by hand or put it in the washing machine and leave it to air dry, preferably in sunlight.

How we chose our recommendations

We dedicated hours to researching the best stain removers and scouring our Mumsnet forums to find products that we know are reliable, practical and effective at removing stubborn stains. Many of these stain removers for clothes and upholstery have been tried, tested and are loved by our Mumsnet users, which is why you can be sure that these products work.

As well as checking out our Mumsnet forums, we also researched the best stain removers for clothes and upholstery using trusted consumer websites and review sites to get a better idea of the types of products that are popular home cleaning essentials.

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