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REMOVING STAINS FROM FABRICS

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Oops! You've just stained your favorite suit.

Take a valuable, nonwashable garment to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible. Explain what the stain is and what you've done to it. You can often tackle other stain-removal jobs yourself. But do it without delay. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove the stain.Whether the fabric fibers are natural or man-made, Here are some tips on removing stains:

In General

- Gently pat the stain with a clean cloth or tissue to absorb any excess. Don't press the stain further into the fabric.

- Flood a non-greasy stain with cold water to keep it from setting. Sprinkle a greasy stain with an absorbent material such as cornstarch, talc or baking soda; after 10 minutes, brush it away.

- Carefully follow all care instructions on the label.

Washable Fabrics

- Test any cleaning agent on a hidden part of the garment - a seam allowance or facing. Alcohol, ammonia, vinegar - and especially bleach - may affect dyes. Apply several drops of the remover to the fabric. Rub gently with a white towel. If color transfers to the towel, or if a color change occurs, don't use the remover. Consult a dry cleaner.

- When using bleach, flush the fabric with cool water as soon as the stain disappears. If the stain remains, flush it with water after 15 minutes anyway.

- Use enzyme pre-wash products for treating protein stains - milk, blood, egg, meat juices, grass, urine, vomit - on washable fabrics. Chlorine bleach can be used to remove the last traces of a stain on white and colorfast washable fabrics.

- Use denatured or rubbing alcohol only when labels indicate it's OK. On fabrics containing acetates, dilute the alcohol with two parts water.

- Avoid setting stains. Don't use heat or hot water on protein stains, or bar soap or flakes on tannin stains, such as tea, coffee, tomato or fruit juices, cola drinks, jellies, clear fruit drinks, washable ink and wine.

- Don't use chlorine bleach on silk, wool, spandex, urethane foam or rubber.

- If you can't identify a stain in a washable fabric, soak the item in cold water and rub the stained area together. If the stain remains, rub heavy-duty liquid detergent into it, then rinse thoroughly. If the stain persists, use a bleach solution safe for the fabric, then wash normally.

- If no spot remover is available for a stain on a washable fabric, try using a paste of automatic dishwasher detergent. Apply it with an old toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly.

Caution

- When applying a spot remover, always work in a well-ventilated room away from any gas or electric appliances or open flames. Don't smoke. If you spill solvent on your skin or clothes, wash it off immediately.

- Don't use metal spoons or containers when working with bleaches.

- Never combine chlorine bleach with ammonia or rust removers. The mixture may produce toxic gas.

- Wear rubber gloves when using enzymes and solvents. - By Reader's Digest Books for AP Special Features