Cherry Juice on Your Sundress? Here's How to Treat the Worst Summer Stains

Wearing your favorite sundress to an outdoor BBQ means summer's in full swing, but all that time spent enjoying yourself outdoors also means hard to treat stains are looming. Hot dogs dripping with ketchup and mustard. Full glasses of sangria sloshing while dancing. Berries bursting with flavor and splattering juices. Sunscreen. Grass marks. Grease.

Summer is the season of sunshine and seriously stubborn stains. Instead of throwing out your "ruined" clothing or spending the season wrapped in plastic like Jake Gyllenhaal in Bubble Boy, follow these tips for tackling the most common summer stains. No need to stress about a pesky bbq stain, the guide below will keep your clothes summer-fresh all season long.

Ketchup & Mustard

how to treat summer stains mustard stain ketchup stainMustard and Ketchup stainsFood & Wine

If you bite into a hot dog and get ketchup or mustard on your clothes don't panic. Instead of rubbing the stain away immediately reach for a spoon (or butter knife) and try your best to lift the condiment glob off of your clothing first. After removing as much as possible, grab a sanitizing wipe (or a wet rag) and dab water on the stain.

Hand sanitizer works well on ketchup stains if you catch the stain right away. If you have a tide pen on hand, those work well too. Mustard stains can be a little trickier to treat thanks to the yellow coloring that comes from tumeric. To get mustard stains out completely follow these steps:

  1. After dabbing with water or a sanitizing wipe, squeeze a little lemon juice over the stain and then cover it with salt.
  2. Rub the salt and lemon juice gently into the stain.
  3. Rinse and repeat before throwing in the wash.

Cherries, Raspberries, Blueberries

how to treat summer stains berry stainsStrawberries, Cherries, Raspberries, BluberriesGetty Images

Ripe, juicy fruits are one the best parts of summer but they also leave some of the most noticeable stains. To remove hard to treat berry stains try using a product designed to remove red wine from your clothes. The New York Times recommends a product called Wine Away. While it was made to treat wine stains, it also works on blueberry and raspberry stains.

To get rid of cherry stains, Martha Stewart, recommends the following approach:

  1. Squeeze lemon juice onto the stain, let it set for a few minutes, rinse, and then air dry.
  2. After using the lemon juice technique, soak your stained clothing in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, ½ teaspoons of liquid laundry detergent, and one quart of cool water.
  3. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes and then rinse with water.
  4. If the stain still shows dab it with alcohol solution and then throw it in the laundry for a full cycle.


how to treat summer stains sangria stainRed Wine SangriaGetty Images

To get sangria out a lot of people sprinkle salt on the stain. Please don't! This technique works for other summer stains but can actually make sangria and wine stains worse. The best way to treat a sangria stain is to keep an emergency spot treatment like a Wash & Stain Bar or tide pen in your purse. Instead of stressing out about removing the stain immediately, dab the spot treatment on and keep having fun! When you get home follow the steps below to make sure the stain comes out in the wash.
  1. Rub the spot treatment into the stain with a little water, using your finger or a stain brush. You can mix in an all purpose bleach to create a thicker paste and help fight heavy wine stains.
  2. Run the stained item under the faucet's hottest temperature and highest pressure setting.
  3. Soak for 30 minutes in a bath of warm water for denim, or hot water and all purpose bleach for cotton pieces.
  4. Repeat the steps for heavy stains and then throw the items in the wash for a full cycle.


how to treat summer stainsGrease stain on white shirtIstock

The most dreaded summer stain is grease! Small grease stains can be hard to spot and yet if you don't attempt to remove them right away they're likely to be permanent. Luckily the Kitchn found that liquid dish detergent was effective at removing grease stains even after they dried! Instead of saying goodbye to your grease stained garments follow the stain removing guidelines below to get them out. FYI, natural dish soap wasn't as effective as petroleum based soaps for grease stain removal.
  1. Apply the petroleum based dish soap to the grease stain. Rub the detergent in to saturate the area. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Wash the garment as you normally would in the washing machine.
  3. And that's it! Your grease stain is gone.

BBQ Sauce

BBQ SauceTasty Kitchen

It's hard to avoid BBQ sauce during prime grilling season. And why would you want to? It's finger licking good. Forgoing utensils for BBQ ribs, drumstick, kabobs, and more means you're likely to accidentally rub saucy fingers on your clothes. Here are six quick steps from The Spruce to get those tangy stains out.
  1. Gently remove the excess sauce with a spoon or butter knife.
  2. Run cold water through the back of the stain as quickly as possible. Avoid hot water, it can make the bbq stain harder to treat. Run the cold water over the stain for several minutes until it fades.
  3. Rub a liquid detergent like this one into the stain. Work it in with your fingers so that both sides are soaked through. Let the detergent sit for 10 minutes and then rinse with room temperature water.
  4. If the garment is white, rub the stain with a mild bleach, a little white vinegar, or lemon juice. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat step 3 and 4 until the stain is gone.
  5. Next apply a stain remover like this one and let it sit. Wash the garment within 15 minutes of applying the stain remover.


how to treat summer stainsSunscreenTravel & Leisure

Sunscreen can leave annoying stains on your sundresses and beach coverups. Skipping sun protection during the hottest months isn't the answer. Instead stain removing expert Gwen Whiting recommends pretreating your clothing items. Especially areas where sunscreen is likely to stain like straps, waistlines, underwire, cuffs, and collars.

Here are Whiting's tips for getting sunscreen out of your favorite summer clothes. She also suggests hand washing delicate garments like silks, synthetics, and blends.

  1. Wet a spot treatment, work into a lather and apply directly to the stain. Let the garment soak in a bath with cool to warm water for 30 minutes.
  2. To get the sunscreen smell out of your clothes add scented vinegar to the bath.
  3. Next fill the tub or sink with cool water add two capfuls of Delicate Wash or similar detergent. Turn the garment inside out and submerge, gently agitating the water. Soak for another 30 minutes.
  4. Run the garment under cool water until it's no longer soapy, gently pressing out the water. No wringing!


how to treat summer stains grass stainsGrass stain on blue jeansRush Order Trees

The combination of spending more time outdoors and wearing lighter colored clothing during the summer can result in some serious grass stains. Luckily if you act quickly with the right tools it's possible to get rid of them. Here's a foolproof guide to removing those pesky grass stains from Real Simple:

  1. Pre-treat the grass stain:
    Apply a pre-wash stain removal treatment to the stain and let it sit for about 15 minutes. For a more natural approach, use a solution made of one part white vinegar to two parts water.
  2. Lightly scrub your stain:
    Use a toothbrush (or a rag or nailbrush) to work liquid into the area.
  3. Launder with like fabrics:
    Finish with a wash using an enzyme detergent (most standard laundry soaps are enzyme-based), which will break down proteins and lift the stain from your garment.

Ice Cream

how to treat summer stains ice cream stainChild eating icecreamThe Spruce

I scream, you scream, we all hard to remove ice cream stains? You can't get through summer without a delicious but very drippy ice cream cone. Because of the protein in ice cream removing these stains is a lot like blowing out trick candles. Just when you think it's completely gone, a light brown ring shows up after you take the item out of the laundry. Don't panic if you notice dried ice cream stains on your clothing though. The spruce has a guide to tackling fresh and dried stains:

Fresh Ice Cream Stains:

  1. Treat ice cream stains as soon as possible for the best results. Put the stained fabric into cold water for 5 to 10 minutes or longer if the stain is dried. Avoid hot water which will set a protein stain.
  2. If you can still see any remains of the stain, rub liquid laundry detergent into the stained area and soak in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Rub the stain gently every few minutes. If you don't have liquid laundry detergent, try dish soap.
  3. After rinsing the clothing, add a stain remover to the stained area. Allow it to sit for 7 to 10 minutes before rinsing completely.
  4. Repeat the soaking and stain remover steps until no ice cream is left in the clothing. Be sure you don't see any remaining stain because once the fabric is dried, it will be nearly impossible to remove it. Wash the clothing according to the fabric directions.

Dried Ice cream Stains:

  1. Try to remove as much of the dried ice cream as possible using a spoon or dull knife.
  2. Rub liquid laundry detergent into the stained area and allow the stain to soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Gently rub the stained area between your fingers every 3-5 minutes in order to allow the liquid detergent to fully penetrate the stain.
  4. Now, repeat the step listed above for fresh stains.

It wouldn't be summer without a few pesky stains. Don't let all that time spent enjoying yourself outdoors ruin your clothing. Learn how to treat some of the most common summer stains to preserve your favorite summer outfits for next year.

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