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My trick-or-treaters come home with caramel candy on their costumes. How do I remove the stain?

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With Halloween parties, candy and costumes just around the corner, the likelihood of stains coming home with your little goblins is high. Before treating stains, be sure to read garment care and fiber content labels. Some costumes are not washable.

Consider the following stain removal tips for common Halloween stains.

Hot chocolate and caramel candy stains. Soak in cold water, treat with a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent, then launder in warm water with detergent. Rinse and inspect. If the stain remains, resoak in cold water for 30 minutes and repeat laundering.

Chewing gum. Apply ice to harden the gum residue. Remove gum by cracking or scraping with a dull knife. Saturate the area with a prewash stain remover. Rub the stain with a heavy duty liquid detergent. Rinse in hot water. Repeat if necessary, then launder and inspect the stain. Repeat the above process if stain remains.

Fruit-based stains (pumpkin, apple cider, fruit punch). These stains should be treated immediately. Remove any fruit and run cold water over the stain. Rub the stain with laundry detergent and rinse. Launder the item as soon as possible using the warmest water that is safe for the fabric.

Face makeup. If makeup is oil or wax based, remove excess with the back of a spoon. Spray or sponge the stain with a dry cleaning solvent (perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene) or treat with a prewash stain remover. Then rub with heavy duty liquid detergent and scrub in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.

Nail polish. These stains may be impossible to remove. Place stain face down on a pad of clean, white paper towels. Apply nail polish remover to the back of the stain using a cotton ball or cotton swab. Blot the stain, do not rub. Replace the paper towels frequently. Repeat until the stain disappears. If it disappears, rinse and launder. If the stain doesn’t disappear, treat it again. Do not use nail polish remover on acetate or triacetate fabrics.

Candle wax. Contrary to popular belief, ironing candle wax between blotting paper can drive the stain deeper into the fabric. If wax has dripped onto the fabric, remove the excess wax by scraping with a dull knife. Treat the stain with a dry cleaning solvent such as perchloroethylene or trichloroethylene. Then rub with a heavy duty liquid detergent and scrub in warm water. Repeat the process as needed.

The following are important points to keep in mind when removing stains:

  • Take care of stains promptly.

  • Blot excess liquid with a clean, white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids by gently scrapping or chipping with a dull knife.

  • Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth.

  • Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap can set many stains.

  • Check for stains before laundering items.

  • Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. Heat from the dryer can set a stain.

  • Before treating a stain, test stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure they do not affect the color or finish of the fabric.

  • Avoid excessive rubbing. Excessive rubbing can cause the stain to spread and/or damage the fabric.

  • Wash heavily stained items separately.

  • Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin.

Use the laundry water temperature recommended on stain removal products and detergents. Hot water should be between 120-140 F, warm water between 85-105 F, and cold water between 65-75 F. Water temperature below 60 F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.

Posted on 23 Oct 2004

Karen Biers
Entrepreneurship/Home-Based Business Specialist

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