I own two aprons—a cute one for company, and another for the hard-core cooking duties, like cutting up chicken and making stock. The sad truth is that I almost never remember to wear either of them. So, much of my clothing ends up spattered with grease, liquid, and bits of fruit and vegetable.
While stain-removing sprays, sticks, and pens are all effective to a certain extent, they have two drawbacks—they're expensive and sometimes I need to use them in large quantity, like when a piece of eggplant lasagna goes rogue and sends a wave of tomato sauce down my shirtfront.
Also, sometimes I encounter old stains on a tablecloth or napkins that I missed the first time around. Almost no stain-removal substance has been effective on those.
Fortunately, there's an army of stain-obsessed cheapos like me out there, and the solution soon became clear—dishwashing soap and hydrogen peroxide. Many web sites specifically recommend using original blue Dawn dish soap as being the most effective, but I've had pretty good success using Seventh Generation unscented dishwashing soap.
You can also add baking soda for extra scrubbing power.
Mix one part dishwashing soap to two parts hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, saturate the stained area, rub in well, let sit for as long as you can stand, wash, and voilà!
People have used this solution with great success to clean up all kinds of messes, from carpets to bedspreads to bathtubs. I've used this on all kinds of stains (grass, oil, dirt, coffee, grease, lipstick, and tomato sauce) with great success. It hasn't torn up my clothes or my tablecloths, either.
In my opinion, it works for two reasons. Firstly, dishwashing soap is usually hardy stuff, since it has to be formulated to cut through food debris and grease. However, it tends to have a PH level of about 7 to 8, making it neutral in terms of acidity vs. alkalinity. This means the soap is fairly gentle on cloth fibers, even as it kicks ass on breaking down soilants.
Secondly, hydrogen peroxide speeds up the oxidation process. If you've read our article about how to improve wine, you know that oxidation, in simple terms, usually means oxygen is being added to something, resulting in the process of breakdown.
However, hydrogen peroxide is gentler than chlorine bleach. It's actually considered a "green" cleaner since it's composed of water and oxygen (technically, it is almost identical to water except it has an extra oxygen molecule).
However, make sure you pick up the basic brown bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, available at any drugstore, rather than seeking out 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide, which is way too strong. You can get more tips about multiple ways to clean with good ol' H2O2 at The Greenest Dollar.
What if you're so lazy that you can't be bothered to rub this magic solution into cloth? Or have a hard-to-clean, hard-to-rinse spot like an area rug or stained carpet?
Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring have great suggestions: add more hydrogen peroxide and/or less dishwashing soap so there's not as much foam and not as much to rinse.
Once, when I was in a rush and couldn't be bothered to hand-scrub some stained clothing, I made a variation on this solution and combined one part dish soap, two parts H2O2, and a tablespoon of Biokleen oxygen bleach.
I filled the sink with water, added my cleaning solution, threw two horribly messed-up pieces of clothing in the sink, and went about my business. At the end of the day, I went to check on my grass-, dirt-, and oil-stained dresses, and all the stains were gone, without me having to scrub my knuckles raw like a washerwoman.
While H2O2 is gentler than chlorine bleach and is sold in diluted solutions, it's also less stable than bleach. It's tempting to make a big batch of homemade stain solution so you can have it handy, but you might be better off making small, fresh batches to make sure you're getting the most cleaning power possible.
What homemade solutions do you use to keep your kitchen and house clean?