Guy Fawkes Night: how to banish bonfire night stains

bonfire night stains
6 tips to banish bonfire night stainsBogdan Kurylo - Getty Images

With Bonfire Night just around the corner, many of us will be gearing up to put on a few extra layers of warm clothing before heading to a fireworks display. But once the last rocket has rocketed and the last sparkler has sparkled, you may discover you're heading home covered in grease stains and ketchup from the hot dog you bought from the van or mud from standing around in a field.

In this round-up, we share the tips and tricks you need to remove these classic Guy Fawkes stains.

Tomato sauce or ketchup stains

Place an absorbent pad under the stain and use a blunt knife to gently remove any remaining residue. Blot the stain with white paper towels to remove as much of the rest of the stain as possible.

Apply a few drops of solvent such as methylated spirit and blot again, moving frequently to clean areas of the absorbent pad and changing the area of the paper towel as soon as it has colour on it. Keep repeating until no more of the colour shows on the towel. Let the solvent evaporate completely.

If the stain is dried on, soften with a solution of equal parts glycerine and water. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then rinse.

For washable fabrics: after treating with solvent, apply a few drops of mild detergent solution and work it into the stain. Leave for five minutes, then flush with lots of cool water.

For cotton, wash at 40°C with biological detergent. For washable silk and wool, wash at 30°C or cooler. As a last resort, soak the item in a colour-safe, oxygen-based bleaching product to remove any last traces of the stain. Check the fabric care label and test for colourfastness on an inconspicuous area first.

how to deal with ketchup stains and other bonfire night mishaps
VankaD - Getty Images

Barbecue sauce stains

Gently remove as much of the sauce as possible using a blunt knife and white paper towels, as above. Dab at, rather than rub, the stain.

After blotting, rinse the stain under plenty of cold running water until no more colour is removed. For cotton, rub a small amount of liquid detergent into the stain and let it stand for five minutes. Follow with a 40°C machine-wash, using biological detergent. For silk, spot-treat the stained area by blotting thoroughly with a baby wipe and follow with a 30°C machine-wash on the delicates cycle if the item is machine washable (check its care label to find out). Allow to dry naturally.

Barbecue sauce stains are especially tricky to remove from wool and to have any chance of success, you really need to treat the mark within fifteen minutes of it occurring. After rinsing with cold water, cover the affected area with Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Fat and Sauces and work it gently into the fabric. Use a damp cloth to lift as much of the stain as you can, moving to a clean area of the cloth regularly. Use several applications if necessary. Finish by working a small amount of delicates detergent into the stain, then wash at as high a temperature as the care label permits. Allow to dry naturally.

If the stain is not completely removed, try soaking the item in an oxygen-based bleach suitable for wool, following the manufacturer's instructions and checking for colourfastness first.

how to deal with ketchup stains and other bonfire night mishaps
Mike Harrington - Getty Images

Fat, grease and oil stains

The grease that dripped from your hot dog or burger will come out if you act quickly and use the right approach. The main thing to remember is not to sponge with cold water, as this can set the stain.

Gently scrape off as much residue as possible with a blunt knife. Apply a few drops of methylated spirits to the stain and blot with white paper towels or a clean, white, lint-free cloth until no more of the stain appears to be transferring to the towels. Allow the solvent to evaporate completely.

For cotton, rub a little washing-up liquid into the stain, then machine-wash immediately at 40°C with biological detergent, or at whatever the maximum temperature stated on the care label is. For machine washable silk and wool, machine-wash at as high a temperature as the garment allows, or hand wash handwash-only items, using a detergent for delicates.

Toffee stains

Bonfire night is the one time in the year when toffee apples are readily available, but you don't want to be wearing that sticky stain until Christmas.

To clean sticky toffee stains, first remove any hardened residue with a blunt knife. Then try rubbing the stain with washing up liquid before popping machine washable items in the washing machine. The stain should come out when you wash using biological detergent on as high a temperature as the fabric allows.

bonfire night stains
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Soot stains

If you’re trying to get rid of a soot stain, try these stain removal ideas. If you don’t manage to fix the problem yourself, some dry-cleaners offer special treatments to remove smoke and soot damage.

Soot particles can be very fine and you may cause further damage by trying to brush them away. Instead, use the nozzle attachment of the vacuum cleaner to pick up the residue. Sprinkle talcum powder over the area to absorb the stain, rub in lightly, then vacuum away the deposit.

After vacuuming up debris, wash as normal at as high a temperature as the fabric allows. Keep the load small, so that the clothing has plenty of room to move about, and don’t use fabric conditioner until all odours have been removed, otherwise it will mask them. If the stain remains, carry on laundering the item until it disappears – you may have to rewash several times. Try not to let the item dry out between washes.

Stubborn stains: soak garments overnight in a suitable pre-soak, or for 30 minutes in an oxygen-based, colour-safe bleaching solution, following the manufacturer's instructions. Check the garment’s care labels first.

Mud stains

Mud can vary dramatically, and contains a mixture of soiling agents: clay, loam, proteins and pigments, even grease. Enzyme-based stain removers tend to work well on the organic components in stubborn mud stains, but remember that you can’t use them on silk and wool. Act fast, particularly with delicate fabrics, or you may have a permanent souvenir.

Allow the mud to dry, then remove as much as possible by brushing or vacuuming the affected area.

Often, the stain will come out of cotton simply by machine-washing it at 40°C with a biological detergent. For more stubborn stains, try a biological pre-soaking product. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, then wash the item as normal. For silk and wool, try rubbing a little washing-up liquid into the affected area before washing as normal. If this doesn’t work, spot-treat with Dr Beckmann Stain Devils Nature and Cosmetics, according to the manufacturer's instructions, then wash as normal.

As a last resort: Soak the item in an oxygen-based, colour-safe bleaching product. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and check the garment‘s care label first.

GHI Tip: If you come home smelling like smoke, sprinkle your clothes with bicarbonate of soda, leave them overnight, then wash separately to your other clothes.

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