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A foolproof guide to removing food stains

You are going to spill. Be prepared to clean up.

When you love to cook, it's inevitable: things are going to get stained. What you can control, however, is how you handle them — and whether they stick around.

First things first: Identify the stain being treated. Stains can be divided into three main categories: tannin stains, grease/oil stains, and protein/blood stains. Once you've identified the type of stain being treated, use the appropriate technique recommended per fabric/material. We've rounded up our stain-fighting strategies below.

Tannin stains: Most colored stains are tannin stains, including wine, fruit (juices), tomato sauce, chocolate, coffee, and tea.

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Pour hot water from a height, or use the pressure from hot taps on the treated area. Allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied.
  • Launder as normal.

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet.
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes — do not soak silk for longer.
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item.

Old, stubborn, and set-in stains (and previously dry-cleaned items)

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics:

  • Use an oxygen bleaching agent to safely remove dirt, stains, and odors. This is most effective when used with hot/warm water. It's safe for all colors, and is an excellent alternative to chlorine bleach.

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet.
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes — do not soak silk for longer.
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item.
  • Do not use oxygen bleach when treating silk and wool.

Oil stains: Oil or grease-based stains include cooking oils and salad dressing.

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Pour hot water from a height, or use the pressure from hot taps on the treated area. Allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied.
  • Launder as normal.

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet.
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes — do not soak silk for longer.
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item.

Blood stains

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Pour cold water from a height, or use the pressure from cold taps on the treated area, allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied.
  • Launder as normal.
  • Please note: Always use cold water when treating blood stains. Hot or warm water will cause the stain to set.

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: How to remove food stains.

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