How to Keep Your Clothes Looking Their Best
Updated: Apr 16
Staining clothes is a regular part of my everyday life. So much so, that I banned myself from wearing white a few years ago and basically avoided everything but black clothing. I was an art student who was constantly getting messy and constantly staining things. Now that I’m no longer in art school, I have less ink or paint stains but regardless, i’m a stain magnet and here is how I deal with it:
My top tip is to address stains immediately. If you can run it under water or try to lift the stain out with a piece of tissue before it sets into the fibres - that’s the best way to go. At this point it’s damage control: we’re trying to lessen the future impact of the stain.
The other most important things to avoid is the dryer or any heat. If you’ve stained something and it’s still stained after a wash cycle - DO NOT PUT IT IN THE DRYER. Absolutely no way! The heat from the dryer will set the stain and then it will be permanent. Let it air dry and you can try another stain remover and potentially save the garment.
Now that my two PSAs are out of the way, here are some common stains and what I do to either save the piece of clothing or avoid the stain altogether:
I don’t have many issues with deodorant stains BUT that being said, I don’t use traditional women’s deodorant. A dancer once recommended to me to use mens deodorant. She always said that Old Spice works best and the clear gel ones never stain. Honestly I’ve had no issues with it and their Wolfthorn scent is quite gender-neutral which I love!
Another thing to consider is to apply your deodorant and let it sink in a bit before getting dressed. That way it has less chance of transferring immediately onto your clothes.
These ones I think, are simply inevitable. White shirts tend to stain under the arms and no amount of bleaching or stain remover has ever helped me with this one. One tactic I use to avoid this type of staining is to choose items of clothing that are less tight around the arms or have wider arm holes. That way, there’s more room to breathe and the fabric doesn’t get affected by sweating.
Some other things you can do to avoid this are:
- Washing the shirt immediately after wearing it so that the stains don’t set in
- Wearing inexpensive undershirts to protect your nicer clothes from sweat
- Being careful with your deodorant
This one is a total clothes killer. Foundation transfers super easily onto the neckline of tops and is really hard to get out of fabric! After dealing with this for so long, I've kind of boycotted foundation. Instead, I opt to spot conceal and then use a powder foundation (which I find transfers less).
Apparently dish detergent and shaving cream also help to remove foundation stains so you could also try that!
Lipstick is another one that can easily transfer so i’ve made it a habit to remove my lipstick the second I get home and to avoid wearing it when I’m wearing turtlenecks or scarves (things that might touch my lips if there’s a gust of wind or something).
Gum & Sap
I horrendously sat in what I think was sap when I was wearing super nice Levis jeans last summer and it was such a mission to get it out. First, I started by freezing the pants and trying to scrape the frozen top layer of sap out. The rest had seeped into the fibre of the denim so I had to use a solvent. From what I remember in high school chemistry solvents dilute or dissolve the solute (in this case, the stain). The solvent and solute have to be the same “type” to work. They’re either water based or not. So, for example, if I stained my shirt with acrylic paint (which is a water soluble paint), I have to use water (the solvent) to dilute the stain.
Does that make sense? It just got way to science-y here.
Water, in this particular case did not dissolve the sap so I had to work with a different solvent and ended up using Cavi wipes (this is a medical grade disinfectant wipe) and it worked like a charm. (cavi wipes are available on amazon and at Staples - but beware - you do need to wear protective gloves when using them since it is such a strong disinfectant). I’m sure there are other solvents that would’ve worked but that’s what I had on hand (I was working at a hospital at the time).
Choosing fabrics and colours carefully
As potentially disgusting as it might sounds, I try to choose fabrics and colours that can sort of mask any potential stains. Hear me out, I make a lot of art and also teach art to kids currently, so paint and oil pastels are flying around my clothes all the time - so I need to pick clothes that are a little stain resistant. I find woolen textured fabrics are handy because you can use a dry stiff brush to kind of brush out or scrape some stains (like dried up paint) off of them.
Patterns and certain colours also mask potential stainage. Rust colours, browns and muted tones tend to be forgiving.
Tide to Go
Now, I’ve never used this but so many people vouch for those travel Tide to Go sticks. You can keep one in your car or your office drawer as a just in case option. It should remove the most common food and drink stains.
Let it go
Last but not least, I try to be forgiving and nonchalant about my clothes. As much as I want my clothing to stay pristine and last a long time, stains are a part of life and show that you're living life! When my clothes get stained at work, I don't want to shift my focus away from the kids and art-making over something that is less important in the grand scheme of things. In this case, I try to let go and keep an "it is what it is" mindset. I don't think most people care if I have a glob of paint on my denim jacket - and neither do I!
I hope this helps with any potential staining that you might deal with in the future. But I do hope that you’re not as clumsy as me and avoid stains in the first place!