Old tablecloths, aprons and garments are lovely sources of fabric for various projects. Unfortunately, they often come with hard-to-remove stains. If you don't want to risk machine washing, you have a few options to banish the brown spots from old fabric. If your fabric has sentimental or monetary value, use caution when trying to remove spots and stains.
How to Get Brown Spots Out of Old Fabric
Things You'll Need
Step 1: Determine the Type of Fabric You Have
Before attempting to remove stains, it's important to know what type of fabric you're working with. Most newer products will have a tag that indicates what the textile is made from. If there is no tag, you may be able to tell strictly from look and feel. Removing stains from synthetic fabrics is difficult because you could damage them. Stain removal is easier when working with blends.
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If you're not sure if you have a synthetic or natural fiber, perform a burn test.
Most man-made fabrics do not respond well to any sort of stain removal and may fall apart with cleaning. You will have more success with cotton or a natural blend.
Step 2: Perform a Burn Test
Natural fibers are more fixable than man-made fibers. Do a burn test if in doubt: Snip off a bit of fabric from outside a seam and burn it with a match. Ashes indicate natural fabric, while melting indicates a man-made synthetic material.
Step 3: Bleach the Fabric
Determine the color or print of the fabric. Bleach solid white sturdy cotton fabric only. Soak colors and prints in non-chlorine bleach to avoid discoloration.
Step 4: Scrub With Baking Soda and Water
Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup of water, adding more baking soda or water until the mixture forms a paste. Rub the baking soda paste onto the stain with an unused toothbrush. Allow it to sit for a few hours or overnight. Then, rinse and repeat as needed.
Step 5: Apply Stain Remover
Apply a commercial stain remover spray or stick, following the manufacturer's instructions included on the package. Then, let the fabric soak in cold water overnight. Rinse the fabric and repeat if necessary.
Step 6: Apply Lemon Juice or White Vinegar
If the stain remover didn't work (or if you just prefer more natural stain removal methods), look in your pantry. Lemon juice and white vinegar are both great cleaning products that can work to lift stains. Saturate the fabric with white vinegar or lemon juice, then use a toothbrush to rub in table salt. Rinse the fabric and repeat if necessary.
Step 7: Hand Wash and Line Dry
If the stain persists after trying the above methods, hand wash it in liquid detergent and hang it up to line dry. Drying it in the sun may bleach it, removing the stain. But only do this if your fabric is white (or if you don't mind the look of sun bleached fabric).
If nothing works, consult a dry cleaner.