8 Best Stain Removers of 2022, Tested by Laundry Experts

best stain removers


Summertime is the perfect time for barbecues with family and friends, but with barbecues also come ketchup and mustard stains. Plenty of light stains can usually be taken care of in a regular laundry cycle with just laundry detergent, but for stubborn stains that are set-in, unflinching and downright stuck, a little extra stain-fighting power (and, sometimes, elbow grease) is necessary.

There are dozens of stain removers on the market, all formulated to tackle clothing stains, carpet stains, upholstery stains and more. At the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, we’ve tested over 200 stain removers and laundry detergents. In our last full category test, we tested 33 stain removers and most recently tested six more in consideration for our upcoming 2022 Cleaning and Organizing Awards. Overall, our experts have dedicated hundreds of hours to researching, testing and writing about everything you need to know to keep all of your laundry looking its best, even your white clothes. Before trying any of these stain removers at home, be sure to check the product’s label as well as your garment’s to make sure it won’t do any damage. Always test the product in a hidden spot before applying it to the stain. Blot only. Never rub stain-removing products into a stain, and use applicator brushes with care. Here are all the stain removers that came out on top in our testing.

Our top picks:

Below our picks, check out our stain remover shopping guide, more about how we test laundry products and answers to your most frequently asked questions. For more on stains, check out our guide to all kinds of stain removal.

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Best Overall Stain Remover

Laundry Stain Scrubber

  • The only stain remover in our most recent test to completely remove ink stains
  • Removes stains well in both warm and cold water
  • Brush applicator can be too harsh for some fabrics

Carbona’s Laundry Stain Scrubber has been a top performer in the Cleaning Lab’s stain testing for years. The applicator top doubles as a tool to loosen stains and work the stain-fighting formula into the fabric. In Lab tests, it received the highest score out of 37 tested stain removers, performing especially well on lipstick, mascara and ink stains. It was also one of only three stain removers that noticeably lightened red food coloring stains. The Stain Scrubber contains enzymes that lift protein, tannin and oil stains and is safe to use on most fabrics.

Form: Gel
Setting Time: Up to 10 mins.


Best Stain Remover for Oil & Grease Stains

Advanced Foaming Grease and Oil Stain Remover

  • Very easy to use
  • Safe for colorfast washables
  • Can not be allowed to dry on fabric

With useful laundry tips on the label and a simple spray nozzle, it’s no wonder this stain-removing aerosol from Shout was chosen by our experts as the easiest stain remover to use. Just spray directly onto a stain and allow to sit for up to five minutes, then launder as usual. It tackled greasy oil stains, lipstick and gravy stains better than any of the other stain removers tested in warm and cold water. Our experts were so impressed with this foam, they chose it as a winner in our first ever Cleaning Awards three years ago.

Form: Aerosol
Setting Time: Up to 5 mins.


Best Stain Remover for Old Stains

Advanced Stain Remover for Clothes with Scrubber Brush

  • Built-in brush helps loosen tough stains
  • Can be left on fabric for up to one week
  • Brush applicators can be too harsh for some fabrics

Earning second place in our stain-removing tests, the Shout Advanced Ultra Gel Brush is just one of three stain-busting products from Shout to make our experts’ personal list of favorites. In Lab tests, it completely removed 14 of the 20 stains we test, including crayon, ink, wine and grass stains. Especially helpful for homes with infants where vomit and other common baby stains can happen daily, the Ultra Gel Brush can be left on fabric for up to a week before washing. Our experts also appreciated its clear and concise instructions.

Form: Gel
Setting Time: Up to one week


Best Instant Stain Remover Wipe

Wipe and Go Instant Stain Remover Wipes

  • Individually wrapped so they stay moist
  • Can be used on carpet stains too
  • Some reviewers say darker stains require more than one wipe

For fresh stains that happen while you’re away from home, like scuff marks on your white sneakers and ketchup splatters from cafeteria fries, stain-removing wipes are a great option. Shout Wipe & Go Instant Stain Remover wipes are convenient and easy to use and store. They come in individually wrapped packages that you can easily keep in your work bag or desk drawer. In fact, we keep them stocked in the Cleaning Lab for any colleagues that may suffer coffee spills and lunch messes during the day. And no worries about walking around with a wet ring on your shirt where your stain once was. After these dry, there’s no trace left behind.

Form: Wipes
Setting Time: N/A


Best Instant Stain Remover Pen

Tide-To-Go Instant Stain Remover Pen

  • Even worked on silk in our tests
  • Easy to use

A Good Housekeeping Seal holder and fan favorite with over 28,000 ratings on Amazon, Tide-To-Go Instant Stain Removing Pens have bleach-free stain-removing powers and can fit in even the smallest of handbags. Our Lab experts have put these pens through many rounds of stain testing since they were first made available for purchase in 2006 and have been impressed with the results every time. They are gentle enough to use on washable silk and work well on many common stains like coffee, ketchup and red wine.

Form: Pen
Setting Time: N/A


Best Stain Remover for Wine Stains

Red Wine Stain Remover

  • Works on carpets too
  • Rinses clean from carpeting and fabrics
  • Not very effective on oily stains

As its name promised, Wine Away completely erased wine stains in the Cleaning Lab’s stain tests. And it’s not just for wine stains. This small spray works well on other stains too like red food coloring, grape juice and cola. Wine Away leaves no residue after rinsing, and our experts found it easy to wash out of carpets and fabrics without causing any damage. Our experts have recommended this product countless times, and it’s been a recipient of our Cleaning Awards for two years in a row.

Form: Spray
Setting Time: Up to 5 mins.


Best Stain Remover for Delicates

Stain Solution

  • Worked well on grass, chocolate syrup, coffee and wine stains
  • Gentle formula

A little goes a long way with this ultra-concentrated, gentle Stain Solution from The Laundress. Only a few drops of this stain remover are needed to tackle new and old stains on all of your garments. Our experts were impressed with its performance on grass, coffee, chocolate syrup and wine stains. The Laundress also offers a Bleach Alternative that can be used with their Stain Solution on extra stubborn stains.

Form: Liquid
Setting Time: N/A


Best Oxi Stain Remover

Max Force Laundry Stain Remover

  • Worked well on coffee, spaghetti sauce and lipstick stains in warm water
  • Safe for colorfast washables
  • Some reviewers say it needs to sit for longer on a stain to work

Oxiclean Max Force Laundry Stain Remover effectively removed some of our toughest stains in cold and warm water. Easy to use and safe to leave on garments for up to one week before washing, this spray was among the top scorers in our Lab’s ease-of-use tests. Almost 4,000 reviewers on Amazon swear by the Max Force Spray for their stain-fighting needs. The label has clear usage guidelines and comprehensive safety instructions on the back, too.

Form: Spray
Setting Time: Up to one week

How we test stain removers

By our last count, the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab has tested 132 laundry detergents, 43 laundry pretreat stain removers, 18 instant and red wine stain removers and 22 carpet stain removers. The last time we did a category test of stain removers, over 1,500 individual stains and 608 pounds of laundry were washed. To test stain removers, we stain white swatches of cotton fabric with 20 of the most common food, drink, outdoor and makeup stains. After the stains are allowed to set overnight, we wash the fabric swatches in cold and warm water with a Lab-standard regular-size load of laundry. Each stain is graded according to the AATCC Stain Release Scale in a dark room illuminated by a light set to mimic standard daylight conditions. In addition to testing each stain remover for performance, we also evaluate how easy each stain remover is to apply, the clarity of directions and the thoroughness of the safety information included on the label.

What to look for when shopping for the best stain remover

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for the best stain remover for your garments.

✔️ Form: There are sprays, gels, powders, solid sticks and liquid stain removers, plus on-the-go options in wipe and pen forms. The form you choose for your stain remover all depends on personal preference and where you are when you notice the stains. Gels and sprays are the easiest to apply but powders and liquids offer the most versatility. Solid sticks often require a little extra elbow grease to apply evenly to garments but are convenient to pack for travel.

✔️ Type of Stain: There are four kinds of common stains: protein (e.g., blood and eggs), tannin (e.g., tea and coffee), dyes (e.g., mustard and berries) and oil-based. For the most effective results, wash protein stains in cool water as heat can cause stains to become set in. For all other kinds of stains, wash in the warmest water the garment can withstand.

✔️ Fabric: A stain remover’s label should state what kind of fabrics it is safe to use on. Some stain removers contain bleach which is not safe to use on colored garments. Your garment labels should also be carefully inspected before applying any laundry pretreatment or soaking in hot water. Equally as important is checking the fabric for colorfastness by applying the stain remover to a hidden spot of the garment, allowing it to sit for five minutes, rinsing and allowing it to dry. If the fabric color is affected, do not use this stain remover anywhere else on the garment.

✔️ Time: How soon do you need to wear the stained garment? If you notice a stain on your shirt after you’ve already ordered your Uber, you won’t have enough time to apply a stain remover overnight and throw it in a load of laundry. For quick fixes, wipes and pens are your best bet. If you can stand to wait overnight or whenever you’ve scheduled your next laundry day, opt for a spray, gel or liquid formula.

What are the hardest stains to remove?

The hardest stains to remove are stains that have dried and set into fabric for an extended period of time. The longer a stain sits on a fabric, the harder it will be to remove. It may be possible to remove old stains, but it is still important to treat a stain as soon as it happens with the right treatment for the composition of the stain.

Blood stains, which are often difficult to remove from clothing, should be soaked in cold water before applying a stain pre-treatment and oily stains should be washed in warm water after applying a stain pre-treatment for the best results. If a stain is still visible after one round of pre-treatment and wash, don’t run it through the dryer. Apply more stain remover and wash it again. Some stains that may be impossible to remove include rust, bleach, dried paint, ink and dyes.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

Jodhaira Rodriguez is currently working on a new stain test which will require treating and washing over 800 individual stains. She and Carolyn Forté stained, washed and graded 220 stains in just over two weeks’ time as part of the testing and judging process for The Good Housekeeping 2022 Cleaning & Organizing Awards.

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