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How To Remove Stains From Artisan-Made Clothing

A common misconception about long lasting garments is that it singularly depends on the quality of the fabric, but 75% of energy in the lifecycle of a garment is spent in it’s aftercare, and if we clean it correctly, it’ll extend its lifetime. Artisan-made clothing often uses natural materials like cotton, and are made using traditional techniques passed down from a time when fast fashion didn’t exist.

To care for your artisan-made clothing, be sure to give your care label a read. One of few times we look at the care labels on clothes is right before we wash them, to make sure we don’t end up ruining them. Ideally, you should actually read them before you buy the garment so that you know beforehand how to care for them. By reading the instructions, we can ensure our garments have a long life, without us needing to buy more and more.

First things first, no matter the damage, the most important thing is to prevent the stain from setting. Once it goes from freshly ruined to ‘oh yeah it’s ketchup from this morning’ – the permanence often means more complexity in its removal. So if you made a stain on your clothing, dab it down with lukewarm or cold water before you move to Google to search for your next steps. Granted, it’ll make the stain way more visible, but it’ll also prevent it from becoming permanent, saving you garment repair or replacement in the long run.

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Here are 5 common stains and how to remove them:


1. Protein stains

The culprit: Protein stains is just a fancier term for stains that are organic in nature. Think blood, sweat, vomit, and all things dairy. As it’s organic, that means it’ll harden and set over time

The solution: Soak your clothing cold water for at least 30 minutes, then wash it according to the care label. If the stain has already dried, soak it up for several hours in cold water with a detergent that has enzymes. (Quick science lesson: enzymes break down proteins!)

2. Oil stains

The culprit: Salad dressing, lipstick and everything greasy.

The solution: Apply liquid detergent directly to the stain and allow the item to stand for 15 minutes before washing it. The thing with oil stains is that you should never throw them in the laundry immediately, that’ll only set the stain and make it harder to remove. If it’s a stubborn oil stain, put a piece of cardboard under the stain then pour a molehill of baking soda over it. Scrub it with toothpaste until it clumps and pills, let it stay like that for the oil to absorb then brush it away. At this point, most of the oil should have transferred to the cardboard. Then add liquid detergent and rub it gently in circular motions before throwing it in the wash.

3. Dye stains

The culprit: These are the easiest stains to remove, but also the hardest once they’ve set. Dye stains range from grass (compliments of nature) to colour foods like blueberries or mustard.

The solution: Pretreat the stains with a direct application of detergent, then wash in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric. If it’s a stubborn stain, soak your clothing in a solution of cool water and a laundry detergent that has enzymes for at least 30 minutes (longer if you’ve let the stain age). After soaking, wash it in warm water as per usual.

4. Tannin stains

The culprit: Tannin is a natural vegetable dye found in plants such as grape skin and bark. You’ll find it most often in wine, coffee, tea. Some other common tannin stains may include soft drinks and fruit juice.

The solution: Pretreat them by soaking in cold water, then wash in the hottest temperature appropriate for the garment. If the stain had time to set, soak it in cold water then gently dab the stain with detergent or vinegar diluted in water before washing them in the hottest temperature according to your care label.

5. Tomato-based stains

The culprit: Ketchup, pasta sauce, sun-dried tomatoes. Self explanatory, right?

The solution: Remove any excess carefully with a butter knife or a spoon. Dab liquid detergent onto the stain, then rinse with cold water from underneath the stain. This will force the stain out from the back of the fabric. Launder normally, according to your care label. If it remains, go back to another wash and rub detergent into the tomato stain. Remember, once a stain dries it’s more difficult to remove. Soak it in warm water for 30 minutes and rinse well.

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Artisan-made clothing uses natural materials and at times they’re also made with natural dyes, but there are also communities that use synthetic dyes, because it’s much more affordable, or azo-free dyes (a less chemically intensive alternative). From material to dye, these details are all important to know when caring for your clothing. Reading a care label before your purchase may make you spend 30 extra seconds, but you’ll also know more how to care for your clothes well.

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