The Stain Removal Trick That Saves Kids Clothes, Money, and My Sanity

This was a good night. A really good night.

Johanna LOVES to eat. With her fingers. Exactly what we are eating. While yanking off her bib.

My three year old still desperately needs a bib at mealtimes, though he fights it. My 5 1/2 year old ought to wear one permanently. Just for walking, talking and breathing. Here’s her shirt from today:

Again, this was a good day. Only a few small paint stains? Bravo! Hip hip hooray!

For the longest time, I was just losing it over the daily clothing massacre that was occurring in our household. It felt so needless, so wasteful, yet I seemed to be powerless to put an end to it.

I’ve been using natural stain removers for a long time, and I was coming to grips with the fact that they just didn’t seem to cut it. Oh yes, I carefully sorted through the dirty clothes, pre-treated everything while I got my piles of laundry ready to go and my washer filled up. It didn’t matter, though. Inevitably there was at least one permanent stain left behind for all of the others that came out each time I did laundry.

I wasn’t willing to switch to something stronger and more chemical-filled. I also couldn’t afford to keep replacing my children’s clothing.

This little spray bottle became the answer to my dilemma.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about it. It is filled up with:

I’ve also made this work using my homemade stain remover, but I’ve decided that ultimately the Bac-Out works just a little better and is just as cost-effective because I buy it when it goes on sale and I water it down by half.

Here’s my trick:

I got my husband to buy three of these little bottles at the dollar store one day. I decided that I needed to put them in 3 important places:

  1. The kid’s bedroom
  2. Our bedroom
  3. The laundry room

My line of thinking is this: When you use chemical stain removers (like Shout or similar) you can usually just apply them 5 minutes before you wash, giving them a good spray or scrub, etc. These powerful removers can work quickly like that.

Natural stain removers don’t work like that. They need time to work and they need to be applied right away.

I was initially concerned about using an enzyme-cleaner like Bac-Out and leaving it sitting on our clothes for possibly days before I got around to washing them. It hasn’t been a problem. I have not noticed any marks or wearing out of clothes in places where I have sprayed them and let them sit.

Here’s me spraying Abbie’s paint-adorned shirt tonight, up in our family closet, where we keep everyone’s clothes together (look for an upcoming video of how we’ve organized our family closet!).

(Note that I am too busy taking a picture to actually spray the stain.)

Nothing dirty is allowed to go into the hamper without being looked over and sprayed first. That’s my new rule. Then they sit as long as they sit. Half a day, 5 days, it doesn’t seem to really make a difference.

The end result?

When I do actually focus my aim and pre-treat all stains immediately when clothes come off (or even immediately after the stain occurs, if I catch it that fast), something miraculous happens in the wash. Even in the cold water, natural detergent wash.

Stains come out! Hallelujah, jubilee!

It works for me, it will work for you, too. Get thee to a dollar store, get as many bottles as you have bedrooms, fill them with Bac-Out (or your favorite natural stain remover) and spray away. Soon you will be singing “oh happy day” along with me.

How do YOU ensure that stains come out of your children’s clothes, without using strong chemicals, and without taking a lot of time and effort to get them out?

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About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. Jennifer says:

    Which bac out product is used for the stain remover?

  2. I had never heard of this. I picked it up yesterday at WF. The old stain on one of my favorite camisols is almost gone. Another few hours of soaking and I’ll be able to wear it again!

  3. Can you tell me more details about your stain remover? When I go to the product page, there are several types of products. Can you narrow it down? Thank you!

  4. Hello everybody. I was wondering where to get bac out in california?? Also, would bac out work on automotive greases?? I spaced out and wore my favorite white shirt while doing a motor swap :'( I’ve soaked it, scrubbed with blue Dawn dish soap, washed with cascade dishwasher powder/vinegar/bleach/gain powdered detergent. I didn’t want to use bleach, but wanted to try and get the stains out before they set in. The shirt is still bright white, but has light gray stains that used to be black. It looks OK but it was a Christmas gift, and although it is a car show shirt, is my favorite shirt. I want to make it look like it never happened. Thank you all for any and all advice :)

  5. Great idea! My friend and I have a laundry service from our homes. We normally try to use a white vinegar mixture on stains. I think I’ll try this out at my house and maybe start using it on client clothes as well. I love the idea of having a bottle near each laundry basket! Thanks for sharing.
    Philadelphia Laundry Care

  6. I LOVE your new rule! Looks like I’ll be breaking out my beloved laminating machine to stick this one on our hamper! Soon, our whole house will be plastered full of these lovely little “reminders” :)

  7. I picked up Bac-Out this weekend from Whole Foods, looking forward to testing it out on ALL of our clothes. Our daughter manages to get stains on both hers, my husbands, and my clothes too!

  8. Oh.. This is so awesome.. Now only if I knew how to get my hands on it here in india.. Or is there a substitute that I can look for? I’ve been scrubbing the clothes as soon as they get dirty but it doesn’t always work, especially when we’ve done baking and my toddler’s liked the batter bowl clean:-0
    Please, does anyone know how I can substitute Bac-Out or get something similar here?? Thanks!!

  9. So, is bac-out all natural?

    We use shout just because we couldn’t find anything else decent enough and I got tired of trying things that I wouldn’t ever use again. BUT, I just bought my girls (3 and 1 year old) the cutest new outfits and guess what…they immediately got stains on the tops. ARGH! I shouted them out (the spray, not verbally…although thought about it!) and the stain is still there. Not as obvious but still there and they were bRAND new :*(

  10. I LOVE Bac-Out! It smells so good! But this idea is absolutely brilliant for this mom of 9! I have all sorts of little spray bottles that I’m going to press into service. And I’m so glad to know that watering the Bac-Out down works, too. I had done that for the little people to clean bathrooms so they wouldn’t go through too much. However, I thought it had to be full-strength. Woohoo! (happy dance)

  11. I’m sooo trying that for my four little messies!

    Oh, and how do you use Bac Out for cloth diaper stinkies? Like still smelling some poop kind of stinkies. I’m having that issue all the time lately. I’ve tried stripping and changing detergents and natural soaps and everything. Water softener, you name it. I have moderately hard well water and a front loader. Any advice? A year ago I started using pocket diapers when before I’d only had cotton prefolds and Bummis covers. Don’t remember having major stink issues with those.

  12. I usually just put a bit of concentrated laundry soap right on the stain, scrub a little (perhaps with a pinch of water) and then wash normally. Usually does the trick for me! :)

  13. Lisa Guinn says:

    I’ve tried Bac-out before but I have actually found that Hydrogen Peroxide works the best for me and it’s not as expensive. I’am not sure if you consider that a chemical or not but I do know that Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions says you can use it on your veggies to clean them so it can’t be that bad right?

  14. Kate Ferry says:

    Oh my goodness! This might be the best post yet – I hate seeing ruined clothes, but my daughter is a messy eater, a rough and tough player and a budding artist. Stains happen ALL-THE-TIME and I feel helpless… The natural stuff doesn’t cut it and I refuse to use chemicals – so, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!


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