Being a caregiver means dealing with a lot of literal blood, sweat, tears, urine and feces. These bodily fluids have an unpleasant tendency to get everywhere, including clothing, furniture, linens and mattresses. Those who are caring for loved ones who are incontinent and/or prone to bleeding have an especially difficult time keeping fabrics sanitary and looking clean.

How to Get Rid of Stubborn Stains

Three basic rules hold true for stain removal. First, the sooner you locate and treat a stain, the easier it will be to remove. This is particularly important for blood, urine and fecal matter. Second, avoid mixing powerful chemicals when pretreating and laundering soiled items. For example, if you treat a stain with ammonia, you should avoid using bleach when you wash it. This mixture of cleaning products can produce toxic fumes. Lastly, make sure you are aware of the cleaning instructions for the particular fabric and type of stain before attempting any cleaning solutions. When in doubt, conduct a spot test on a hidden area of the item to ensure a cleaning agent won’t do more harm than good. For additional information, the American Cleaning Institute provides a stain removal chart, a guide to garment care symbols and other helpful consumer resources on its website.

Spot-Treating Clothing

There are a variety of products that you can use to get stains out of clothing. Windex, white vinegar, WD-40, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia diluted with water, bleach, a paste made up of cornstarch and cold water, and enzyme-based products are all viable options for spot-treating soiled garments. When spot-treating, you’ll want to let whichever substance you decide to use sit on the stain for anywhere between ten and thirty minutes before laundering the item as you normally would. For particularly stubborn stains, you may need to repeat the cycle of spot-treating and washing more than once. Prior to drying the clothing, make sure that the stain has been removed to your satisfaction. Drying will set any existing stain, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

Cleaning Mattresses and Upholstered Furniture

If your loved one has an episode of urinary incontinence and their mattress has been stained, try applying a liberal amount of vinegar to the affected area and then blot any excess away with a clean, dry cloth. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and let it sit overnight. This will help soak up the odor so that the mattress doesn’t end up smelling like urine. After letting the baking soda sit, vacuum up the excess.

For other stains, like blood, feces and sweat, you can apply one of several different variations of soap and water mixtures to the spot. You can combine water with laundry detergent, dish soap or even non-seasoned meat tenderizer and dab at the stain until it has disappeared. Other possible stain-lifters that are safe to use on a mattress include ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. After you’re satisfied with the results, take a clean, damp cloth to the area to soak up any excess cleaning agents from the mattress fabric. To prevent mold from growing, be sure to let the mattress air dry completely before replacing your loved one’s bed linens. These same techniques can also be used to clean stains on upholstered furniture.

Unconventional Stain-Removal Options

If you’ve tried more common stain removing techniques to no avail, there are some less traditional stain-removal options. Here are a few unorthodox suggestions that may help you refresh your fabrics and furniture:

  • Soak a bloodstained garment in cola overnight to help erase a stubborn spot. On the following morning, wash the garment as you normally would.
  • If an outfit is dry-clean only, you can try to lift a still-wet stain by removing the doughy insides from a loaf of bread, rolling it into a ball and blotting the affected area with it. Wash the outfit as soon as you can after blotting.
  • To remove offending blotches from colored clothes, try soaking them overnight in milk. The next day, just throw the clothing in the wash to get it completely clean.
  • Use table salt or cornstarch to absorb liquids before they set, then brush them away before laundering.
  • If possible, spray a stain with hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice or diluted bleach and hang outdoors in direct sunlight.
  • Use a clean cloth soaked in vodka to blot stains on fabric or bedding. Vodka can also be used as a disinfectant and deodorizer. The high alcohol content naturally eliminates odors as it dries.

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