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Meet the World’s Toughest Stains – and Learn How to Remove Stubborn Stains for Good

Some people think doing the laundry is just a case of water + detergent + dirty clothes = clean clothes. Although our stain-busting detergents mean this is almost true, we also know that sometimes your family’s active lifestyle creates the sort of stains and laundry challenges that require some serious mommy power. This article explains how to remove tough stains from clothes to help you out.  

Meet the World’s Toughest Stains

Did you know that the hardest stains in the world to remove are turmeric, banana sap, ink and motor oil? And do you know why they’re such stubborn stains? Ink and motor oil are particularly tricky precisely because their job is to stick to what they touch. Sadly ink can’t tell the difference between your child’s homework book and their school shirt, and motor oil doesn’t seem to know when it should be oiling an engine rather than a pair of jeans.

Motor oil, as well as being greasy (a top laundry nightmare), contains carbon, which can break down and deposit its black particles deep down in the fabric. And it’s a similar story with turmeric, a favourite ingredient for curry, whose fine yellow particles have a habit of finding their way into the microscopic nooks and crannies of our favourite top, then refusing to budge.

As for banana sap, not only is it sticky and starchy, it turns dark brown or black almost immediately when it comes into contact with the air (just like on the banana itself). Not the best look on a nice white t-shirt.  

How to Remove Stubborn Stains

Tough times call for tough laundry action. For most fabrics, ink can be treated by sponging it with a little methylated spirits then washing as normal (this isn’t suitable for fabrics containing acetate or triacetate though, so do always check the garment’s label).

Alternatively, you can turn to the natural bleaching effects of lemon or lime juice, squeezing it over the stain and letting it dry in the sun for an extra bleaching boost before washing. (But you’ll want to test the colourfastness of your garment on a hidden spot first, find out how here.)

To shift the greasy residue from minor motor oil spillages or turmeric curry disasters pour a little undiluted Surf excel Liquid Detergent directly onto the stain and rub in; but gently – you don’t want to damage the fibres or end up working the stain even deeper in.  

Go Bananas with Removing Tough Stains from Clothes!

To remove a tough stain like banana sap, first, you’ll need something to break down the starch. The enzymes in our detergents are brilliant at this, or you can try rubbing in a little alcohol or glycerine dissolved in water. Then neutralise the colour with the lemon juice trick above, or a bleach such as hydrogen peroxide diluted in cold water (we recommend a 20% solution, diluted 1:6), testing the garment you are bleaching for colourfastness first.

Turmeric, banana sap, ink and motor oil might be bullies when it comes to picking on your family’s clothes, but they’re no match for a mommy armed with Surf excel Liquid Detergent some laundry know-how and the determination to get her wash clean. For more expert tips on how to remove tough stains from clothes, visit our washing tips & tricks section.  

Have you got any brilliant tips on removing tough stains from clothes? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear how you take on your family’s stains.