How to remove stains from school uniforms

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As the new school year approaches, many parents turn their thoughts to buying stationery, lunch boxes, water bottles and – if the kids have had a growth spurt – a new school uniform.

Once you’ve shelled out for half a dozen tops, shorts, pants or skirts, you’ll want to keep them looking pristine. Unfortunately, keeping a school uniform stain-free can sometimes feel like a full-time job. But there are some tips and tricks to make stain removal simple and effective – and they don’t involve petitioning your school to switch to a dark-coloured uniform that doesn’t show stains.

Here, we look at what steps to take to tackle common school-uniform stains such as sweat, grass, mud and more.

General advice

No matter what the stain is, treat it as soon as possible to get the best results. But if you don’t want to pop on a full load for one school top, treat it with stain remover and leave to soak in cold water overnight.

No matter what the stain is, treat it as soon as possible to get the best results

Pre-soaking can also help loosen stains from the fabric so you can remove them more easily.

Once you’ve treated and washed the item, skip the dryer and leave it to air dry just in case there are any stain remnants left. (Hot air from the dryer will set the stain in the fabric even more stubbornly.)

Sweat

Whether it’s from PE, running around at lunchtime or just hormones, yellow sweat stains can be tricky to remove – especially from white shirts.

Your best plan of attack is to treat the area with stain remover according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We tested more than 30 different stain removers to find out how well they get rid of perspiration stains. The two products with the highest scores are: 

Aldi Di-San Oxy Action with Enzymes Pre Wash Stain Remover with Eucalyptus Oil


Aldi Di-San Oxy Action with Enzymes Pre Wash Stain Remover with Eucalyptus Oil

Price: $1.25 (500ml)

Price per 100mL: $0.25

Perspiration removal score: 70%

Sard Wonder Oil  Grease Stain Remover

Sard Wonder Oil & Grease Stain Remover

Price: $4 (500ml)

Price per 100mL: $0.80

Perspiration removal score: 69%

Home remedy

Alternatively, you could try treating the area with a paste made of equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Apply to yellowed fabric, leave to sit overnight and then wash as usual.

But due to hydrogen peroxide’s bleaching ability, you may want to use this on light-coloured uniforms only.

Grass and mud

Signs of an active school lifestyle, grass and mud are other common stains on school uniforms and can be treated with a few different remedies.

Grass

For grass, remove any remnants and then soak in a solution of water and detergent overnight. If the stain is particularly stubborn, try soaking it in a solution of water and oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) following the label directions. Then wash as usual. 

Mud

For mud stains, first leave to dry then scrape or brush off any loose dirt. Then pre-treat the stain with liquid laundry detergent and let it sit for 15 minutes before washing as usual.

Stain remover is also a good way of removing grass and mud. According to our latest stain-removal lab test, these five products scored 79% or more for grass/mud removal:

Blood

Chances are your children are going to end up with several grazed knees over the school years. But the good news is that you can often remove fresh blood stains by simply running them under cold water. Never use hot water to treat blood stains, as the heat will set the stain. 

For more stubborn stains, soak in cold water overnight or treat with a stain remover or home remedy. See our guide to removing blood stains for more.

ink stains on shirt

Ink

You can use rubbing alcohol (or isopropyl alcohol) to remove permanent ink stains from your kids’ uniforms. But test it on an inconspicuous area first – if it damages the fabric, you may want to use store-bought stain remover instead. 

Place a paper towel or white cloth under the stain, then sponge or blot it with rubbing alcohol until the ink disappears. Rinse thoroughly, then wash as usual.

Grease

If your child has a habit of wiping their hands on their clothes after eating, you’re probably familiar with grease stains. Luckily, you can treat these stains with an item you probably already have – dishwashing liquid. 

Simply squirt some on the stain and leave to soak, then rinse with hot water (you may need to give the stain a bit of a rub with an old rag to help loosen it). Pop the clothes in the wash on a hot setting with laundry detergent, and then line dry.



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