10 of the best stain removers for clothes
Get rid of those pesky oil, poo, grass and food stains with our pick of the best stain removers for clothes
It's unbelievably easy for stains to happen and it can be frustratingly difficult to remove them. With children, it's even more likely for stains to occur, whether they're playing in muddy puddles, rolling about in the grass or throwing their food about, clothes don't stay pristine for long. Then if you're using cloth nappies or your child is toilet training, you will have poo stains to battle with. And then, of course, there's blood stains from cuts, grazes and nose bleeds.
You can try and get away with throwing clothes in the washing machine with a strong washing powder or letting it dry outside to let the sunshine work its magic. However, this is not always enough and you will need a good stain remover in your armoury.
To help you remove any type of stain you can think of, we have researched the market and asked our Top Testers Club which stain removers they use and recommend. We particularly considered effectiveness, ability to remove different types of stains, form, quantity, ease of use and value. We also asked Laundry expert Lisa Williams her top tips for choosing an appropriate stain remover.
Best stain removers at a glance
- Best stain remover for poo stains: Napisan Powder, £4.49
- Best stain remover for oil stains: Elbow Grease Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray, £2
- Best stain remover for on-the-go: Procter & Gamble Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover, £5
- Best stain remover for tough stains: Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray, £1.50
- Best stain remover for sensitive skin: Fairy Non-Bio Sensitive Skin Stain Remover Powder, £16.99
- Best stain remover for whites: Vanish Fabric Gold Oxi Action Powder Stain Remover Whites, £8.50
- Best stain remover for tomato stains: Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Fats & Sauces, £3.14
- Best stain remover bar: Vanish Pre-wash Stain Remover Bar, £4
- Best natural stain remover: Ecover Built In Brush Stain Remover, £3
- Best stain remover for colours: Vanish Fabric Stain Remover Oxi Action Powder Colour Safe, £5.49
What to consider when choosing a stain remover
Stain type – Before you tackle the stain, consider what kind of stain it is. You can get lots of different stain removers which are effective for different type of stains so it's a good idea to get one that is suitable for your particular stain.
Form – You can get a stain remover in lots of different forms, from liquid and powders to pens and bars and some are easier to use than others. Liquid stain removers can be used to pre-treat the stain and are brilliant for setting into the stain. A powder is slightly messier as you have to mix the powder with water if you are going to do a pre-wash treatment. Pens are good for instant stain removal but they may not be as powerful as other stain removers.
Quantity – Some stain removers seem quite expensive. However, you need to consider the quantity as some come in big pots or boxes and will actually last a very long time making them better value for money than they first look. Always consider the quantity when assessing the value.
Ease of use – Spray and bar stain removers are particularly easy to use and are mess-free compared to liquid and powder stain removers. You can also get stain removers with built-in applicators that are really useful. Have a look at your options and choose a stain remover that you think is going to be the most convenient for you.
Fabric – As well as considering the stain, you need to think about the fabric the stain is on. Even though most stain removers are suitable for all fabrics, there are some that are not suitable for delicate fabrics. Make sure you check this before you use them on your favourite jumper.
Our pick of the best stain removers for oil stains, poo stains, tomato stains and more
1. Napisan Powder, £4.49
– Best for poo stains
Quantity: 800g | Form: Powder
Napisan is an antibacterial stain remover, brilliant for poo stains and cleaning cloth nappies. Parent tester Sammi said, "Napisan tackles baby poo stains really well if soaked ASAP."
The stain remover works at just 30°, so no need to worry about shrinkage. It also kills 99.9% of bacteria.
It should last you quite a while as you only need to use 2 teaspoons of Napisan each time.
Parent tester Ionela also uses Napisan and said, "Napisan has saved me so many times."
Pros: Antibacterial, great for poo stains and cloth nappies, works at just 30°
Cons: Harder to pre-treat than a liquid
Available from: Amazon, Wilko and Ocado
2. Elbow grease Pre-Wash Stain Remover Spray, £2
– Best for oil stains
Quantity: 500ml | Form: Spray
Oil stains are incredibly difficult to get out and are very common as so many different foods are oil based. This Elbow Grease spray is easy to use and suitable for all fabrics. For tough oil stains, take a look at our guide on how to get oil out of clothes.
Home tester Ellie said, "Elbow Grease spray works wonders, spray it on the stain and then wash with your washing detergent".
You can also use this stain remover around the home, spray onto rugs, carpets sofas and other upholstery.
The 500ml spray bottle should last you for quite a while.
Pros: Great for removing oil stains, easy to use, can pre-treat, can be used around the home
Available from: Homebase
3. Procter & Gamble Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover Pen, £5
– Best for stain removal on-the-go
Quantity: 10ml | Form: Pen
Stains can happen anywhere, especially with children about. This Tide Stain Remover Pen is great for treating stains in an emergency.
It's small enough to fit in your handbag or changing bag, ready to pull out when needed.
All you have to do is remove the excess residue from the strain and press the tip of the pen onto the stain several times, then rub the tip gently across the stain and voila, the stain should be gone.
Pros: Removes stains instantly on-the-go, portable
Cons: May not be as powerful as other stain removers
Available from: Amazon
4. Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray, £1.50
– Best for tough stains
Quantity: 500ml | Form: Spray
The Pink Stuff is known for its ability to get rid of tough marks and dirt throughout the house. Their stain remover for clothes is no different, making it ideal for the tougher, harder to remove stains.
Not only is it tough on stains and gentle on clothes, it's also super affordable.
Similar to the Elbow Grease spray, just spray on both sides of the stained fabric and leave for no longer than 5 minutes. Then, hand wash or machine wash as usual.
Parent tester Emma said, "The Pink Stuff Oxi Spray is great! I then use some soda crystals in the washing machine too."
Pros: Affordable, tough on stains, easy to use, can pre-treat
Available from: Wilko and Ocado
5. Fairy Non-Bio Sensitive Skin Stain Remover Powder, £16.99
– Best for sensitive skin
Quantity: 1kg | Form: Powder
If you have sensitive skin then it's a good idea to opt for a non-bio stain remover designed for sensitive skin, such as this one from Fairy.
At first look, it may seem expensive but you do get 1kg worth of stain remover so this should last you a very long time, depending on the size of your family (and how messy they all are).
It's important to note that non-bio stain removers are often not as powerful as biological stain removers. So, for extremely tough stains this may not be the best option.
Pros: Great for sensitive skin, large quantity
Cons: Difficult to pre-treat, more expensive option
Available from: Amazon
6. Vanish Fabric Gold Oxi Action Powder Stain Remover Whites, £8.50
– Best for whites
Quantity: 1.5kg | Form: Powder
This stain remover doesn't just remove stains but it also makes your white laundry whiter.
You can use it in a cold wash and it has a freshness booster perfume to leave your clean clothes smelling fresh.
The large 1.5kg should last a good amount of time
Pros: Whitening booster, has a fragrance, can be used in a cold wash
Cons: Difficult to pre-treat as powder, one of the more expensive options
Available from: Amazon, Wilko and Asda
7. Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Fats & Sauces, £3.14
– Best for tomato stains
Quantity: 50ml | Form: Liquid
Tomato stains are extremely difficult to remove. If you're a tomato pasta lover or your child likes to throw spaghetti bolognese down themselves then you will know the pain all too well.
This Dr Beckmann stain remover is specially designed to remove stains from fat and sauces, including the dreaded tomato sauce.
To remove the stain, moisten it with the stain removal liquid, leave for 10-15 minutes and then wash as usual.
Pros: Designed for specific stains including tomato, easy to use
Cons: Only 50ml so may not last as long as others, need different stain removers depending on stain
Available from: Amazon and Robert Dyas
8. Vanish Stain Remover Bar, £4
– Best for a stain removal bar
Quantity: 75g | Form: Bar
A stain removal bar is a brilliant mess-free way to remove stains.
This Vanish bar has 'power enzymes' to break down all your stains.
It's very quick and easy to use, just rub the bar directly onto the stain and wash as usual. You can also use this for emergency stain removal by quickly rinsing the fresh stain with cold water and then blotting it dry.
Pros: Mess-free, easy to use, can be used for instant stain removal
Cons: May not be as powerful as other forms of stain remover
Available from: Ocado and Amazon
9. Ecover Built In Brush Stain Remover, £3
– Best natural stain remover
Quantity: 200ml | Form: Liquid
This stain remover is for the eco-conscious and is made from plant-based and mineral ingredients.
It has a handy built-in brush to scrub away the stain.
To use, moisten the stain, apply the liquid to the stain and rub it in with the built-in applicator.
The only downside to this stain remover is it's not recommended for delicate fabrics due to the applicator.
Pros: Has a built-in applicator, plant-based and natural ingredients, can pre-treat stains, easy to use
Cons: Cannot be used on delicate fabrics, such as wool and silk
Available from: Sainsbury's, Ocado and Amazon
10. Vanish Fabric Stain Remover Oxi Action Powder Colour Safe, £5.49
– Best for colours
Quantity: 1kg | Form: Powder
This Vanish stain remover is very similar to the Vanish Oxi Action Whitening Booster Powder, the only difference is, it doesn't whiten clothes but it does help keep coloured clothes keep their colour.
It works in a cold wash and can be mixed with water to pre-treat. The 1kg tub should last quite a while too.
Pros: Protects colours, works in a cold wash
Cons: Harder to pre-treat a stain compared to liquid alternative
Available from: Amazon
How did we choose our 10 of the Best?
When testing and selecting the best stain removers, we considered effectiveness, ability to remove different types of stains, form, quantity, ease of use and value.
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.
Our expert's advice when choosing a stain remover
We asked Executive Housekeeper of The Grand, York, Lisa Williams to give us her best advice for choosing a stain remover. This is what she said:
"When choosing a stain remover, consider your lifestyle and what you would typically use it for. In my opinion, a spray bottle stain remover is a lot easier to use than a pour bottle or any sort of stain removing stick. So, if you're looking for convenience, opt for a spray bottle. However, if you are a sporty family or one that loves to cook, your stains might be a little more resilient than others. If so, I'd recommend a gel stain remover that comes with a scrubbing attachment, this way you are really working the product into the stain before washing".
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About our expert
Lisa Williams is Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, York and knows everything there is to know about laundry and cleaning.
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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