Fall is beloved for its splashes of color — until those splashes end up on you. From leaves and berries to pumpkin spice lattes and caramel apples, autumn brings with it an obstacle course of stains, splotches, and blotches. And most of us won’t escape unscathed as the weather grows crisp and nature adopts shades of orange, red, and gold.
But before you decide the best way to remain stain-free is to stay indoors, equip yourself with all the tips and tricks you need to keep your fabrics looking flawless throughout the season. Whether you’re embarking on eco-friendly autumn activities, winterizing your backyard, or digging into your fall garden, these sustainable solutions will ensure your wardrobe is clean and cozy until winter’s dark days.
Prepare for and prevent common fall stains
We would never suggest skipping a trip to an apple orchard — especially if it’s an organic orchard that supports sustainable farming, which reduces pollution, avoids pesticides and fertilizers, and uses water efficiently — so consider these ways to minimize mishaps and messes:
- Establish an area for muddy shoes and boots at your doorways.
- Keep your arsenal of stain removers close by.
- Having guests over for family get-togethers, dinners, and parties? Invest in placemats for your tables as well as covers to shield furniture.
Remember the basics
Whatever kind of stain you’re facing — whether from a pumpkin patch or the aftermath of a large family gathering — there are some rules that apply to all stains. Keep these guidelines in mind:
Act quickly: Don’t wait until your guests leave or you’re getting around to another laundry load. The faster you act, the greater the odds of success.
Don’t rub: Instead, carefully blot the stain with a cloth to limit the spread.
Read the care labels: We all tend to ignore the tags on our clothes — or snip them off entirely. But it’s important to follow the instructions. That’s literally what they’re there for.
Use cold water: Hot water, despite its misguided reputation as a necessity, can set stains.
Avoid bleach: The only exception? If the fabric is white and bleach-safe.
Pre-treat the stain
Pretreating is crucial for successful stain removal. Use a mixture of mild detergent or stain remover and water. Apply the mixture directly to the stain, gently rub the fabric together, and let it sit for a few minutes before laundering. But remember to test your stain remover first to make sure it won’t harm or damage the fabric.
Pick the right stain remover
Different stains require different stain removers. For food and beverages, an enzyme-based cleaner will dissolve organic stains. Oxygen bleach, which uses sodium percarbonate unlike traditional bleach, is effective for brightening whites.
Depending on what you need, try SaltyLama’s plant-based laundry detergent sheets to create a stain remover. Take a laundry strip — two strips per sheet — rip it into pieces, and put it in a bowl. Create a paste by adding a tablespoon of hot water. Once the paste is finished, delicately rub the concentrate into the fabric. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off with cold water. As always, be sure to follow the item’s washing instructions.
Common fall stains and how to tackle them
Some stains are timeless while others arise especially during certain seasons. Here are a few to be mindful of in the months ahead — and best practices to treat them. Always remember, follow the instructions on the care label and, if the stain persists, take your garment to the professionals.
Pumpkin: Remove as much of the pumpkin as possible. With a spoon or dull-edged knife, scrape it carefully off the fabric. Don’t use too much pressure as that will just make any stain worse. Soak in cold water with a dissolved detergent sheet for about 30 minutes. Then wash it.
Pens and markers: Students have returned to class, which means marker stains are back in style, too. For fresh ink stains, dip a cotton ball, swab, or clean cloth in rubbing alcohol. Dab the solution on the stain while being careful not to spread the ink. After the ink has migrated to the cloth, rinse with water. After the stain is gone, wash as usual. If the stain is still visible, don’t dry. Instead, repeat the process or take the item to the professionals.
Caramel: Did that caramel apple bite back with a stain? Scrape off as much of the caramel as possible with a dull edge. Combine a laundry strip with one tablespoon of vinegar, and warm water. After soaking for 30 minutes, blot the stain with a dry cloth and put it in the wash.
Leaves: You didn’t escape that pile of leaves you jumped in unscathed. Or maybe your yard work followed you into the house. Fortunately, leaf stains are perfectly natural. Simply shake off any loose debris, mix equal amounts of white vinegar and water, and dab the stain. Once you’ve rinsed the item with cold water, it should be good to go into the wash.
Pumpkin Spice Latte: Nothing heralds in the season quite like this latte. For spills, blot the stain as you normally would and soak the item in a mix of vinegar, water, and one eco-friendly laundry detergent strip. Rinse in warm water and enjoy your beverage.
Chocolate: Among the toughest stains to treat, chocolate smears easily, so you want to be gentle handling the stain. Scrape off as much as you can. Then pretreat the stain with lemon juice or vinegar to break down the stain, and rinse with water. You can wash as usual, but make sure the stain is gone before you dry. If it’s still visible, you’ll want to consult the professionals.
Berries: Picking berries is a popular fall pastime, but it can create an unwelcome mess. To remove berry stains, flush the item with cold water and pre-treat with a mix of water, vinegar, and eco-friendly detergent. Once the garment has been washed in cold water, make sure the stain is gone before you dry.
Fall is arguably the most gorgeous, eye-popping time of the year, so get out and enjoy the traditions and colors without worrying about staining your favorite autumn apparel. By remembering these sustainable solutions, you can keep your fabrics flawless for many more years to come — ensuring the only thing you’re left with are cherished memories.