Stain on a white shirt

How to Get a Stain Out of a White Shirt

Getting a stain on a white shirt means only one thing to some people – it’s time to bin the shirt! After all, nobody wants to see slimy marks or make up stains on a crisp white shirt.

However, throwing a shirt out doesn’t have to be the only option!

If you know how to get a stain out of your white shirt, you’ll be able to get hours and hours more wear out of it. Plus, it’s usually pretty easy to remove a stain too!

Read on to find out what you need to do to save your shirt from reaching the recycling centre.

Things to Remember

Here are a few things to consider when trying to remove a stain out of a white shirt:

  • Act fast
  • Try to avoid using chlorine bleach
  • Dab at stains
  • Check to see what material your shirt is made from – not all products can be used on all materials
  • Only use white cloths/paper towels to dab at stains
  • Test your chosen solution first
  • Avoid hot water
  • Oily stains will get worse if soaked in water
  • Air drying is always best
  • Try to figure out what your stain is before you attempt to remove it. For example, is it an oily stain or not?

Stain Removal Methods for White Shirts

Below you’ll find a list of different methods that you can use to get a stain out of your white shirt. Choose the method(s) that best suit your stain.

1. Bicarbonate of soda

Remove stains with bicarbonate of soda

Bicarbonate of soda is one of those products that we all have stuffed away in our cupboards! If you don’t, check out our list of places to buy bicarbonate of soda in the UK.

Good old bicarb has so many different uses, and it just so happens that one of these uses is to get stains out of white shirts.

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Sweat
  • General dirt
  • Smells

What you need:

  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Cold water
  • Dish
  • Stained white shirt
  • Clean cotton cloth

Steps to take:

  1. Grab some bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Mix the bicarb with cold water in a dish – you need to make a paste.
  3. Spread this paste-like mix over the stained area on your white shirt.
  4. Wait a few minutes – for tougher stains wait an hour or so.
  5. Dab the mix off if you like by using a clean cotton cloth.
  6. Run the shirt under cold water to remove the extra bicarbonate of soda.
  7. Repeat if needed.
  8. Wash the shirt as usual.


2. White vinegar

Remove stains with white vinegar

White vinegar, although it can be a bit smelly at times, is actually incredibly useful! Not only can you use it as a glass cleaner and as a general kitchen cleaning agent, you can also remove stains from white shirts with it as well.

If you don’t have any in your cleaning cupboard, see our guide to where to buy white vinegar for cleaning in the UK.

What stains can this mix help to remove:

What you need:

  • White vinegar – do not use brown vinegar as this will stain your shirt
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Washing machine/hand wash

Steps to take:

  1. Put ½ a cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  2. Add water to the spray bottle.
  3. Shake gently.
  4. Do a test check on the shirt to make sure the vinegar doesn’t damage the item.
  5. Continue to use the spray mix if everything is okay.
  6. Spray a generous amount of the mix onto the stained area.
  7. Soak up any excess fluid with a paper towel.
  8. Allow the shirt to rest.
  9. Open a window for air.
  10. Wash the shirt under cold water.
  11. Wash as usual in the washing machine/hand wash.

You may need to adjust the amount of white vinegar you use if you have a tough stain.

Additionally, you could leave your white stained shirt to soak in a bucket of water and white vinegar for a few hours, to loosen up harder stains.


3. White chalk

Remove stains with white chalk

Chalk may seem like an unconventional addition to this list, but it’s wonderful at removing greasy stains from shirts!

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Oil-based stains
  • Greasy stains

What you need:

  • White chalk
  • Solid surface
  • Stained shirt
  • Washing machine/hand wash

Steps to take:

  1. Grab some white chalk.
  2. Spread your shirt out on a solid surface.
  3. Start rubbing at the dried stain with the chalk.
  4. You will need to do this for a few minutes.
  5. Shake the shirt to remove chalk dust.
  6. Throw the white shirt into the washing machine.
  7. Run a normal wash with detergent/hand wash the item.


4. White wine

Remove stains with white wine

The dreaded red wine stain plagues us all at some point! It’s really annoying when you drop a lovely (and expensive!) glass of Cabernet Sauvignon down yourself… Luckily, white wine can solve the disaster for you!

Plus, you can enjoy a glass of that instead!

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Red wine

What you need:

  • A red wine stain on a white shirt
  • White wine
  • Paper towels
  • Washing machine/hand wash

Steps to take:

  1. Act quickly – particularly if you have just dropped red wine on your white shirt.
  2. Dab at the stained area with paper towels – no scrubbing required.
  3. Pour a small amount of white wine onto the red wine stain.
  4. Allow it to rest like this for a few minutes.
  5. Use paper towels to soak up the moisture.
  6. The stain should be loose enough for a normal washing cycle to remove it.
  7. Wash your white shirt in the washing machine/hand wash as usual – use detergent.


5. Hydrogen peroxide and washing up liquid

Remove stains with hydrogen peroxide and washing up liquid

Hydrogen peroxide is pretty strong stuff, so it’s great at working out difficult stains from shirts. Be very careful when you use it though!

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Oily stains
  • Greasy stains
  • General dirt
  • Food stains

What you need:

  • Eye protection
  • Gloves
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Washing up liquid
  • Small bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Funnel
  • Paper towels
  • White shirt
  • Cold water

Steps to take:

  1. Pop some eye protection and gloves on – keep kids and pets out of the way as well.
  2. Add 3 parts of 3-4% hydrogen peroxide into a small/medium sized bucket.
  3. Pop 1 part of washing up liquid in the bucket.
  4. Mix the products together.
  5. Pour the mix you’ve created into a clean spray bottle – use a funnel if need be.
  6. Pop some paper towels down on the surface you plan on working on – it’ll protect it.
  7. Lay out your shirt on top.
  8. Do a test first – spray the solution on an area of clothing that you can’t see properly.
  9. If all works out well, continue to work with the product.
  10. Spray the mix onto the white shirt’s stain – don’t go overboard with the spraying.
  11. Wait a few minutes.
  12. Rinse your white shirt under cold water.
  13. Repeat these steps for tougher and bigger stains.
  14. If a stain is very stubborn you can try gently rubbing at the stain but be careful.
  15. Wash the white shirt when you’re done.

You may need to leave more difficult stains to soak in the hydrogen peroxide and wash up liquid mixture for a little longer.

Simply add 3 parts of hydrogen peroxide to a bucket, followed by 1 part of washing up liquid and finish off by adding hot water.

Pop your shirt in and leave it to soak. Rinse well with cold water or repeat the process above, if need be. Finish up by washing the shirt as normal.


6. Bleach

Remove stains with bleach

The ‘go to’ traditional stain remover is typically bleach!

Bleach has been around for years and it can get some pretty impressive results when used correctly. So, it’s no wonder why it’s used by so many to remove stains from shirts.

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Mildew
  • Odours
  • General dirt
  • Older stains

What you need:

  • Oxidising bleach
  • Gloves
  • Kitchen towel
  • Cotton wool
  • Washing machine/hand wash

Steps to take:

  1. Pop some gloves on.
  2. Open a window.
  3. Keep kids and pets out of the way while you work.
  4. Pop a clean kitchen towel down on the surface you’ll be working on.
  5. Grab some oxidizing bleach – it’s weaker than chlorine bleach.
  6. Tip a tiny amount of bleach onto a piece of cotton wool.
  7. Test the product out on your shirt before you go ahead and use it. If all works out okay carry on.
  8. Flip your white shirt over – so the stain is facing down on the work surface and you’ll be working with the back of the stain.
  9. Dab at the area – no scrubbing required.
  10. Allow the product and the shirt to sit like this for a few minutes.
  11. Pop the shirt into the washing machine/hand wash and wash it as normal.


7. Salt

Remove stains with salt

Another unusual addition to this list is salt! Salt is pretty good at aggravating stains to remove them. Plus, salt can usually be found in our homes, so it’s a cheap solution to try out.

What stains can this mix help to remove:

  • Rust
  • Red wine
  • Grease

What you need:

  • Medium sized bucket
  • 4 tablespoons of salt
  • Cold water
  • Long spoon
  • Stained white shirt
  • Liquid detergent
  • Washing machine/hand wash

Steps to take:

  1. Grab a medium sized bucket.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of salt to the bucket.
  3. Pour cold water into the bucket – 4 to 5 litres is enough.
  4. Stir the mix with a long spoon.
  5. Pop your stained white shirt into the bucket.
  6. Leave the shirt to sit in the bucket for about 4 hours.
  7. Pull the shirt out.
  8. Try and get the water out of it – but don’t twist the shirt around in case you spread the stain around.
  9. Grab some liquid detergent – the one you would use in the washing machine.
  10. Pour a tiny amount of detergent onto the stained area.
  11. Rub the detergent into the shirt gently with your fingers.
  12. Throw the shirt into the washing machine/hand wash.
  13. Wash the item as normal.


Stain Removal Products for White Shirts

Not everyone likes a DIY project, so if you don’t fancy giving the methods listed above a go, you can always buy a product from a shop to help you remove a stain from a white shirt.

Always keep in mind that not all products are suitable, you also need to find a product that suits the stain you have, and bear in mind that shelf-bought products usually have mixed results.

Here are a few products to get you started:

Don’t forget to read the instructions on the packaging of the product before you use it.



There are a number of ways you can try to get a stain out of a white shirt.

Try and decide where the stain has come from, then hop to the method that suits that type of stain!


Stain Removal FAQs

What is an oily stain?

Here are some examples of products that are oil-based:

  • Grease
  • Oily foods
  • Butter
  • Lipstick

What is a non-oily stain?

Here are some examples of products that are not oil-based:

  • Sweat
  • Dirt
  • Non-oil-based makeup
  • Toothpaste