10 back to school stains and how to tackle them

back to school stains and how to beat them
How to deal with back to school stains SolStock - Getty Images

It's that time of year when new school shoes get their first outing, social media is flooded with 'first day back' photos of children in their smart new school uniform, and parents collectively breathe a sigh of relief after the childcare juggle of the summer holidays.

But as every parent knows, that smart new school uniform is likely to start looking the worse for wear sooner than you might hope. 'Back to school' stains like whiteboard pen on school jumpers, grass and mud stains on trousers and school dinner splatters down crisp new white shirts all take their toll.

To help you take them on, we've rounded up 10 common 'back to school' stains and how to banish them.

1. Mud

Whether it's from playing football on the school field or splashing in puddles on a rainy walk home, most children mastered the art of getting covered in mud. Luckily it's not difficult to remove, as long as you act fast.

Allow the mud to dry, then remove as much as possible by brushing or vacuuming it away. On washable fabrics like school uniform, the stain will often come out simply by machine-washing it at 40°C with a biological detergent.

For more stubborn stains, try pre-treating the area with some liquid biological laundry detergent then wash as normal. For silk and wool, try rubbing a little washing-up liquid into the affected area before washing as normal.

If this doesn't work, spot-treat with Stain Devils Nature & Cosmetics according to the instructions, then wash as normal. As a last resort, soak the item in an oxygen-based, colour-safe bleaching product. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and check the garment's care label first.

2. Ink

Ink is not the easiest stain to remove and there are many different types.

Our advice is to keep a bottle of Stain Devils Pen & Ink in your laundry cupboard, it’ll come in handy for these types of stain. Follow the instructions for use on the bottle, then wash at as high a temperature as the fabric allows using a biological detergent.

3. Glue

It's quite amazing how sticky glue can end up all over clothing and shoes. The best way to remove it is to quickly and gently scrape off the glue residues with a blunt knife and paper towels.

The next step depends on the type of glue. School children are most likely to use very mild paper adhesives which should come out in a normal 40oC wash. For anything stronger, try dabbing the area gently with acetone nail polish remover until the glue has dissolved.

4. Paint

Painting is a fun activity for children, but it's difficult to confine their creativity to the page. If the paint on their clothes is still wet, blot with paper towels to remove as much of it as possible. If it's dried on the way home, try to find out what type of paint they used.

For acrylic paint, wash out with detergent and water. If the stain has dried, place an absorbent pad under it and dab with paper towels moistened with methylated spirits. Flush with cold water, then wash at as high a temperature as the fabric allows.

Sadly, oil-based paint is almost impossible to remove but you can try holding an absorbent pad under the stain and dabbing it with white spirit. Afterwards, wash at as high a temperature as the fabric allows.

For water-based paint, rinse out fresh marks with cold water, then launder as you usually would. Dried on water-based paint is difficult to remove, but treating with a proprietary paint remover may fade marks.

5. Sweat

Kids left their sweaty PE kit at school for a little too long?

To remove old sweat stains on cotton, immerse in an enzyme-based pre-soaking agent or pre-treat with a liquid biological laundry detergent. Scrub affected areas with a nail brush, and then machine-wash with a biological detergent, adding an in-wash stain remover to the load. For stubborn stains, treat with Stain Devils Antiperspirant and Sweat Mark Remover before washing.

6. Grass

Grass-stained uniforms aren't the best look for a day in the classroom.

Place a clean white cloth under the stain and thoroughly moisten the stained area with Stain Devils Nature and Cosmetics which is specially formulated to remove grass stains, then machine-wash at 40°C with biological detergent. If the stain is really bad or you don’t have the Stain Devils product to hand, soak in an oxygen-based bleaching agent, following the manufacturers soaking instructions before washing with biological detergent.

10 back to school stains and how to beat them
Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd - Getty Images

7. Blood

Grazed knees are a rite of passage for school kids, but blood is easy to remove if you treat it quickly.

Gently blot up as much of the stain as possible with white paper towels or a clean, white, lint-free cloth. Dab, rather than rub, at the stain.

As a protein-based stain, it's better to wash it at low temperature. If the stain has dried, soak first in a solution of biological laundry detergent. For cotton, machine-wash at 40°C with biological detergent.

For wool, try Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Fat & Sauces. It’s effective at removing blood (despite the name) and is safe for use on wool and silk, follow the instructions on the pack. Follow with a 30°C machine-wash on a delicates cycle.

8. Correction fluid

Mistakes can be made while trying to hide them, leading to correction fluid being spilled down school jumpers. Some brands of correction fluid are water-based and should come out with normal washing. Others are made with petroleum, which can cause problems. Dry-cleaning is recommended, in this case, although you may find it costs more than the item of school uniform did.

To remove it, let it dry and pick off as much of the deposit as possible, taking care not to snag the fabric. Dab the affected area with paint remover or turpentine to help fade the mark. Flush with water, then treat with a spot treatment stain remover such as De.Solv.It according to the manufacturer's instructions. Machine-wash on as high a temperature as the fabric allows.

9. Shoe polish

Whether they've attempted to polish their own shoes or you've managed to get shoe polish on your own clothes, it's not too difficult to remove.

A small stain on cotton will often come out simply by rubbing in a little liquid dish washing detergent and washing as normal. For larger stains, pre-treat with Stain Devils Lubricant and Grease according to the manufacturer's instructions, then wash at 40°C with biological detergent. For wool, spot-treat as above and wash at 30°C on the delicates cycle.

10. Chewing gum

It can end up all over everything and, sadly, chewing gum is difficult to remove.

First, you should put the entire item in the freezer and leave it until the gum is brittle enough to be picked off with a blunt knife. If that's not possible, place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas over the gum until it hardens, then pick off as much as possible.

After this, for cotton, machine-wash at 40°C using biological detergent. For wool or silk, spot-treat the area with Stain Devils Lubricant and Grease, following the manufacturer's instructions, then machine-wash at 30°C on the delicates cycle.

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