Here you will find information on the products used in textile care, sorted alphabetically below by product. To quickly find a product, hit Ctrl+F and type in the name.

Absorbent Materials

Supplies (such as absorbent cotton, white paper towels or soft white cloth), or substances used to "soak up" stains, especially grease and oil stains or substances. An absorbent substance is spread on the stained area and allowed to work. As the grease/oil is soaked up, the absorbent supply/substance will become caked or gummy. It should then be shaken or brushed away. The process should be repeated until most of the stain has been removed.

Examples of absorbent substances include:

  • Cornstarch
  • Cornmeal
  • Talcum powder
  • Sawdust
  • Sand
  • Fuller's Earth

Fuller's Earth is a commercial absorbent product (excellent for use on dark colors) that can be purchased at a drug store or garden supply store.

Acetic Acid

A stain removal product used to neutralize alkalies. Ten percent solution obtainable at drugstores, or may substitute white vinegar.

CAUTION: Check for colorfastness.

Acetone

A colorless liquid that smells like peppermint. Non-oily nail polish removers can be substituted for acetone. However, be careful. Nail polish removers contain acetone along with other ingredients that can worsen the stain, if used. Acetone can be used on most synthetic and natural fibers.

Do not use on fabrics with acetate. Pure acetone can be purchased at the drug store.

CAUTIONS: Acetone is flammable and evaporates rapidly, producing toxic fumes. When using, work in a well-ventilated place and do not inhale the fumes.

Activated Charcoal 

A highly absorbent product made from materials such as wood or nut shells that are high in carbon. When heated to approximately 900 degrees C with steam or carbon dioxide, a honey-comb product is produced, creating its absorbency quality.

Agricultural lime

A product used to change pH factor from acid to neutral.

Alcohol (Rubbing, Denatured)

Common isopropyl alcohol (70%) is sufficient for most stain removal jobs. A stronger denatured alcohol (90%) can also be used. Avoid alcohol with added color or fragrance. Always pretest before using. Alcohol will fade some dyes. Alcohol will damage acetate, triacetate, modacrylic and acrylic fibers. If you must use on these fibers, dilute with 2 parts water. Alcohol can be purchased at the drug store.

CAUTION: Poisonous and flammable.

Alkalies

Chemicals that help to clean products by readily removing oily dirt.

Examples include:

  • Baking soda
  • Ammonia, borax
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
  • Washing (sal)
  • Soda
  • Lye

These examples are given in order of their strength, with baking soda being the mildest and washing soda and lye being the harshest. Diluting with water will make the alkali solution milder. When using alkalies such as ammonia, borax, TSP, Washing Soda and lye, wear waterproof gloves.

CAUTIONS: Do not use alkalies on aluminum surfaces. Most alkalies are toxic (poisonous), some are corrosive, and others are irritants to the skin or eyes. Read the label for warnings or cautions.

All-Purpose Spray Cleaner 

Like all all-purpose cleaners, spray cleaners are formulated with surfactants and low levels of "build -is product particularly effective on greasy soils. Spray cleaners are designed for use on smaller areas such as soiled walls around switchplates, chrome fixtures, appliances and cooktops. Products in pump-activated sprays and those in aerosol containers are very similar in their cleaning action.

Ammonia

An alkali that is moderate in strength and used to neutralize acids. Household ammonia, without added color or fragrance, is a diluted mixture of 5-10% ammonia gas in water.

It can be used for general cleaning purposes. Sudsy ammonia, which looks slightly cloudy or milky, contains a small amount of soap or detergent. It is excellent for use in cleaning garbage pails, kitchen range burners and sinks.

Ammonia changes the color of some dyes. To restore the color, rinse the color-changed area thoroughly with water and apply a few drops of white vinegar. Rinse well with water again. Sold in grocery stores.


CAUTIONS: Poisonous. Avoid inhaling fumes. Do not use ammonia on aluminum surfaces. If using on silk or wool fibers, dilute ammonia with an equal amount of water. Ammonia in concentrations of 5% or more is highly poisonous and dangerous. When using ammonia, wear waterproof gloves and provide for good ventilation of the area.

Amyl Acetate

Stain removal product used mainly on acetate fabrics. Amyl acetate is banana oil and can be purchased at drug stores. Ask for "chemically pure amyl acetate."

It is safe for use on fibers that could be damaged by acetone. Do not allow amyl acetate to come in contact with plastics or furniture finishes. If you cannot find amyl acetate, you may substitute non-oily type nail polish remover that contains acetone.

CAUTIONS: Amyl acetate is poisonous and flammable. Avoid contact with the skin. Do not inhale the vapors.

Art-Gum Eraser

A soft, square eraser that can be purchased in a drug store or art supply shop. Useful in removing dark smudges or marks caused by heels.

Baking Soda

The mildest alkali used as a cleaning agent. It is know as sodium bicarbonate. It is safe to use on most home surfaces, except aluminum. It will darken the finish of aluminum.

Borax

A white, mildly alkaline powder used as a water softening agent. It is also used as a mild cleanser and antiseptic and is effective in retarding mildew spores and bacteria. It is one of the chief ingredients in fire-retardant solutions.

Brick Klenz

A commercial brick-cleaning product that can be purchased at a building supply store or from a brick distributor.

Chamois Cloth

A leather polisher used to dry or polish glass, auto windshields and car bodies. It should be washed after every use in lukewarm, sudsy water (using pure soap flakes, not detergent). The leather tears easily when wet so clean it by squeezing the suds through it, then rinse in warm water. Stretch into its original shape and allow to dry on a flat surface in the shade.

Chlorinated Lime

White, powdered, bleaching granules that decompose in water. Made by mixing chlorine with slaked lime.

Chlorine Bleach

Stain removal product. As a laundry additive, liquid chlorine bleach removes stains, aids in soil removal, whitens, disinfects and deodorizes. Can be used on all washable, colorfast cotton, linen, synthetic and permanent press fabrics except lycra (see care label). Sold in grocery stores.

1) Test colors for bleachability prior to using. To test, apply one drop of a test solution made from 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach in 1 /4 cup of water to an inconspicuous part of fabric. Let stand for 1 minute and blot dry. If no color change, the article is safe to bleach.

2) Do not apply undiluted bleach directly to fabrics. If bleach is undiluted, it must be added to the wash water before the clothes are added. If clothes are placed in the washing machine first, dilute bleach with a quart of water and add halfway through the wash. The washer's bleach dispenser feature automatically dilutes the bleach and adds it to the wash water at the appropriate time.

3) The resin in some special finishes absorbs and retains chlorine which weakens and yellows the fabric. Some nylon fabrics may be permanently yellowed by chlorine bleach.

CAUTIONS: Do not use chlorine bleach on fabrics with a fire-retardant finish. Be sure to read the care label on all fabrics, regarding the use of bleach. The mixing of chlorine bleach and other cleaning products may produce noxious fumes. Be sure to dilute products. Never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia. A toxic and dangerous gas known as ammonium chloride will form. Do not use bleach in metal containers or with metal objects. Will darken aluminum and make linoleum brittle. It can also dull shiny enamel surfaces when used in an undiluted form. Chlorine bleach is poisonous and will cause burns or irritations if it comes in contact with the skin of eyes.

Color Remover

Stain removal product used to remove color and restore whiteness.

Color remover is safe for most fibers, but may fade or remove many dyes. If fading occurs, the original color cannot be restored. However, if a distinct color change occurs, the original color may be restored by rinsing immediately in water. Sold in drug, grocery or other stores, usually in the display of home dyes and tints.


CAUTIONS: Do not use in metal containers or use with metal objects. Poisonous. Avoid prolonged contact with skin.

Crayerase

A commercial non-toxic cleaning bar that can be purchased at a paint, wallpaper, or hardware store.

Detergent

Stain removal product used to remove a variety of spots and stains. Detergent formulations include heavy-duty granular, heavy-duty liquid and hand dishwashing detergents. Sold in grocery stores or any store that carries laundry products.

CAUTION: Keep out of reach of children.

Dishwashing Detergent {White)

A mild or neutral detergent with a pH level of 6.5-7.5. White or clear detergent is recommended because some have dyes to achieve their color.

Dry-Cleaning Solvent or Commerical Fabric/Upholstery Cleaner

Stain removal product used primarily to remove greasy and/or hard to remove stains. These products contain petroleum distillates or hydrocarbons such as trichlorthine, xylene, methylenechloride, methane, benzene and/or naphtha.

Examples:

  • Guardsman's
  • Afta
  • Dap Cleaner and Thinner
  • Goof Off
  • M-1 Remover
  • Goo Gone
  • K2r

They are sold in hardware, discount department and grocery stores.

CAUTIONS: Read labels carefully and follow instructions for use, storage and disposal. These products are highly toxic and many are flammable. Work in a well­ventilated area. Do not use in a room with an open flame, pilot light or where there is a chance of electrical spark from refrigerators, fans, vacuum cleaner or static. Use rubber gloves and pretest the product on an inconspicuous area of the item. Store in tightly capped unbreakable containers out of the reach of children and where it cannot be ignited by flame or sparks. Read labels for warnings and cautions specific to the product.

Dry Spotter

A solution made by combining 1 part coconut oil (available at drug and health food stores) and 8 parts liquid dry-cleaning solvent (products containing trichloroethane, methylenechloride, methan and bensene).

Mineral oil may be substituted for the coconut oil, but is not quite as effective.

CAUTIONS: Dry-cleaning solvents are poisonous and may be flammable.

Flush

Stain removal technique which has two purposes:

1) Tequnique for applying the stain removal product on the stained area

2) Technique (usually with water) for removing all traces of the stain removal product

To "flush" means to apply the appropriate stain remover in small amounts (medicine dropper or a container from which you can pour slowly) over the stained area with absorbent padding under the stain, keeping the treated area as small as possible and changing the absorbent material several times as your flush the stain. When directed to flush with water, dip the stained area up and down repeatedly in a bowl of warm water. Change the water at least twice.

Fuller's Earth

An absorbent powder used in removing light or freshly made stains such as grease by absorbing them. Fuller's Earth can be purchased at a drug or hardware store and is extremely good for use on dark colors.

Glycerin

Stain removal product which helps soften or loosen certain stains. Sold in drugstores.

CAUTION: Keep out of reach of children.

Heavy Duty Detergent

A home cleaning product to which "builder" have been added to increase its ability to remove oily dirt.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Stain removal product which helps loosen stains and acts as a safe bleach for all textile fibers. Use a 3 percent solution. Sold in grocery stores and other stores which carry laundry products.


CAUTIONS: Test for colorfastness on all dyed fabrics. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not use or store hydrogen peroxide in metal containers or use it with metal objects.

Iodine (Tincture of)

Stain removal product which helps loosen specific stains such as penicillin and photo developer fluid. Sold in drug stores.

CAUTION: Poisonous

Leather Conditioner

Product used to prevent leather from drying out, cracking and becoming brittle, thereby increasing the life of a leather product.

Leather conditioners (such as Neat's Foot Oil, lanolin, castor oil, cod-liver oil and Vaseline) should be applied to a cleaned untreated leather surface only. Many newer leather products may have finishes on them that would be harmed by conditioners.

Rub in the oil with your fingers, allow the excess to soak in for approximately an hour, then wipe the surface to prevent pickup of grit. There are also products on the market that clean and condition leather. Saddle Soap is an example. It contains lanolin derived from sheep's wool.

Lemon Oil

A paraffin (mineral) oil that contains a little oil of lemon. It is used for polishing furniture.

Linseed Oil

Made from the seeds of the flax plant. It is used in the preparation of oil paints and varnishes and in many furniture polishes. Boiled linseed oil has had chemical
"dryers" added to it and should be used where quick drying is desirable.

When purchasing linseed oil, specify whether you want it "raw" (slower drying) or' "boiled." Boiled linseed oil protects wood surfaces and keeps them from drying out.

CAUTIONS: Linseed oil is flammable. When practical, burn rags that have been used to apply linseed oil; otherwise store them temporarily in covered metal cans or spread them out to dry in a well-ventilated place. The heat produced by the oxidation of the oil may cause exposed piles of rags to catch fire spontaneously.

Liquid Wax

A product used to prevent dirt from sticking to surface such as floors. It also provides an attractive shiny surface and makes routine floor cleaning easier.

Liquid waxes  fall into two categories:

  1. Solvent-based
  2. Water-based

The solvent-based waxes contain rich natural waxes along with a solvent, usually naphtha. It acts as a cleaning agent to loosen soil and to soften and remove the previous coat of solvent-based wax as the new coat is applies. There is no wax buildup problem. They come in liquids or pastes and are recommended for the care of wood and cork floors. The solvent-based buffing waxes are also a good choice for resilient floors (with the exception of asphalt and rubber tile) especially when an electric polisher is used.

Water-based floor polishes are those in which water is the carrier for the tiny particles of wax and/or polymers that provide the shine and protective film for floors. Most water-based floor polishers must be applied to a clean floor, will dry to a shine without buffing and must be removed periodically. Water­based waxes are generally used on resilient floors such as vinyl, rubber tile, and asphalt tile. They can also be used for the care of slate, marble and other types of stone or concrete floors. Do not use water-based waxes on wood or cork.

Make A Paste

Stain removal technique for making a material to use on the stained area.

When method calls for "making a paste," mix enough water with powdered detergent or bleach to make a thick paste. Apply to stain. Keep paste moistened while it works.

CAUTION: Avoid over-contact with skin.

Mild Scouring Powder

Any gently abrasive material that helps scour off tarnish, stains, hardened particles of food and grease and other unwanted substances without scratching or harming the surface. The "soft" liquid and powder cleaners use mild abrasive such as feldspar or calcium carbonate. Remember that a little bit of abrasion goes a long way. Even when using "soft" liquid cleaners, the surface can be damaged over a period of time.

Mineral Oil (Spirits)

A clear liquid !petroleum naphtha) from the petroleum distillation process.

Nilodor 

A commercial odor-removing compound made by Dow Chemical that acts to break down oil in skunk spray thus neutralizing or removing skunk odor. It is available from veterinarians or pet supply stores.

Odor-Away

A commercial odor-removing compound that comes in liquid or aerosol. It is used to neutralize or remove skunk odor by breaking down the oil in skunk spray. It is available from veterinarians or pet supply stores.

Oxalic Acid (Wood Bleach)

Stain removal product used to remove rust and other metallic stains. Sold in drug or hardware stores in crystalline form.


CAUTION: Poisonous

Petroleum Jelly 

A colorless to amber translucent jelly better known by its trade name, Vaseline. It is used as a lubricant and is valuable for loosening heavy grease and tar stains to facilitate their removal with solvents. It is also good for conditioning leather and for preventing rust.

Phosphates

Complex phosphates are used in detergents because of their superiority in water softening, sequestering and other building functions. Use of more than .05% phosphate in detergents used in residential laundry products was banned in North Carolina effective 1 /1 /88.

Pixie Scouring Stick

A commercial product that is a mild abrasive.

Polyurethane Sealer

A synthetic varnish that can be applied as a protective coating on wood surfaces.

Portland Cement

A commercial dry cement product that can be purchased as a building supply store. Other brands of dry cement are available and can be used in the same way.

Poultice Paste

A combination of products mixed together to form a paste-like substance that is applied to a stain and covered with damp absorbent cloth to prevent drying. When the stain is removed or bleached out, the poultice is removed and the surface cleaned.

Pre-Wash Product Containing Petroleum Distillate

Stain removal product which helps loosen a variety of stains.

An example is Shout and Spray 'n Wash (aerosal form). Sold in grocery stores or any store which sells laundry products.


CAUTION: Safe if used according to label directions.

Round-Up 

A commercial herbicide used to kill undesirable vegetation.

Rottenstone

An abrasive powder used for very fine sanding for surface repairs. It is decomposed limestone and can be purchased from drug or hardware stores.

Rust Remover

Stain removal product specifically formulated to remove rust from fabric. Examples are Whink and RoVer. Sold in grocery, appliance/hardware and drug stores.

CAUTION: Caustic and poisonous. Read and follow directions given on the label.

Sandpaper

A general term used to describe flexible sheets of paper or cloth covered with abrasive particles.

Scouring Powder

A powdered cleanser whose cleaning and polishing action is provided by fine abrasive particles such as silica, calcium carbonate and feldspar.

Silicon Carbide Paper

Silicon carbide is made from silica sand and coke fused together under high temperatures. It is a synthetic sandpaper.

Skunk-Off

A commercial odor removing product that acts to break down the oil in skunk spray thus neutralizing or removing skunk odor.

Soaps or Soap Powder

Stain removal product which helps loosen specific stains. Performs best in soft water. Examples are Ivory Snow and Draft. Sold in grocery stores and stores which sell laundry products.

CAUTION: None if directions are followed.

Sodium Perborate Bleach

Stain removal product which helps loosen many types of stains and the remaining residues of stains. Also acts as a whitener on white fabrics and brightener on colored fabrics. Safe for virtually all colored washable fabrics. However, testing on colored fabrics is recommended.

To test:

  1. Mix 1 teaspoon sodium perborate bleach to 1 cup hot water and apply a few drops on an inconspicuous area of the fabric for 1 O minutes
  2. If color does not bleed or there is no color change, the bleach may be used.

Sodium perborate bleach works best in hot water or in a soak. Chlorine bleach stops the bleaching and stain removal action of sodium perborate bleach so do not use in combination. Examples include Snowy and Chlorox II. Sold in grocery store and any stores which sell laundry products.

CAUTION: Safe if label directions are followed

Sodium Thiosulfate

Stain removal product used to remove iodine and chlorine stains. Sold in drug stores and photo supply stores in crystalline form.

CAUTIONS: Follow directions on label exactly and use in a well-ventilated room. Like any strong bleach, it should be used carefully; may irritate skin and/or nasal passages.

Sponge

Stain removal technique that explains how to apply the stain removal product."To sponge" means to place the stained area, stained side down, over a pad of absorbent material. Dampen another piece of absorbent material (which acts as the sponge} with the stain remover. With a lifting up and down motion, sponge or blot the stain, working from outside to center of the stain to prevent formation of solvent rings. Sold where absorbent materials are found.


CAUTIONS: Apply all stain removal products in a well-ventilated room. Keep all stain removal products out of the reach of children and make sure the products are labeled properly.

Steel Wool (Superflne #0000)

Pads made from finely shredded steel which are used to lightly sand surfaces. It is available in grades from medium to superfine.

Sodium Thiosulfate

Stain removal product used to remove iodine and chlorine stains. Sold in drug stores and photo supply stores in crystalline form.

CAUTIONS: Follow directions on label exactly and use in a well-ventilated room. Like any strong bleach, it should be used carefully; may irritate skin and/or nasal passages.

Sponge

Stain removal technique that explains how to apply the stain removal product. "To sponge" means to place the stained area, stained side down, over a pad of absorbent material. Dampen another piece of absorbent material (which acts as the sponge} with the stain remover. With a lifting up and down motion, sponge or blot the stain, working from outside to center of the stain to prevent formation of solvent rings. Sold where absorbent materials are found.


CAUTIONS: Apply all stain removal products in a well-ventilated room. Keep all stain removal products out of the reach of children and make sure the products are labeled properly.

Steel Wool (Superflne #0000)

Pads made from finely shredded steel which are used to lightly sand surfaces. It is available in grades from medium to superfine.

Suede Stone

A product for rubbing marks from suede. It will also remove some types of marks from wallpaper much like an eraser.

Sure Klean Ferrous Stain Remover

Commercial product used for stain removal on metal, iron and masonry surfaces.

Sure Klean Restoration Cleaner

Commercial product for cleaning old masonry surfaces.

Sure Klean 600

Commercial detergent to clean masonry.

Sure Klean Vanatral

Commercial masonry cleaner suitable for removing excess mortar and metallic stains.

Tamp

Stain removal technique used to help remove stains. Tamping is done with a brush (shoe or firm toothbrush). To "tamp," place the stained area directly on the work surface without any absorbent material under the stain. The tamping action is similar to driving a tack with a small hammer. Raise the brush 2-3 inches above the fabric and tap (hit) the stained area making sure that the bristles do not bend. Brushes are sold in stores that carry shoe/dental supplies.

CAUTIONS: Use the least amount of tamping that will remove the stain and never enough to damage the fabric. A closely woven fabric will not be damaged as easily as a loosely woven one.

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)

A white crystalline powder that dissolves completely in hot or cold water and differs from soap in that it makes no suds and leaves no scum. It cleans by emulsifying oil and grease-bound dirt, breaking them down into particles which plain water can wash away.

CAUTION: TSP, when too strong and too hot, will remove paint.

Turpentine (Synthetic)

Turpentine made from petroleum distillates rather than gum. Varsol and Mineral Spirits are both examples. Synthetic turpentine has less odor and requires less drying time.

Using A Spoon

Stain removal technique which helps loosen stains. Place the stained fabric directly on the work surface without any absorbent material under the stain.
Apply the stain remover to the stained area. Holding the spoon with a thumb in the bowl of the spoon and fingers on the spoon handle, move the spoon back and forth (in a scraping motion) about 1 /4 inch in each direction.

CAUTIONS: Use only short strokes. Do not press down with the spoon; excessive pressure can damage the fabric. Do not use this technique on delicate fabrics.

Vinegar

Stain removal product used to neutralize the stain remover product residue. Use white vinegar only; colored vinegar can leave a stain. Vinegar is safe for all fibers but changes the color of some dyes. Sold in grocery stores.

  1. Dilute vinegar with 2 parts water if using on cotton or linen.
  2. If a dye changes color after vinegar has been used, rinse the color-changes area thoroughly with water and add a few drops of ammonia.
  3. Rinse well with water again.

CAUTION: Check for colorfastness.

Washing (Sal) Soda 

Sodium carbonate which is a very strong alkaline substance.

Wet Spotter

A solution made by combining 1 part glycerin, 1 part white dishwashing detergent and 8 parts water.

Whiting (Chalk) 

A very fine preparation of chalk.- It is used in cleaning powders, polishes, in making putty and oil cloths. It can be purchased at paint stores.

Wood Cleaning Wax

A wax which removes soil as well as polishes. It contains more solvent than liquid or paste wax.

Waterless Hand Cleaner

Stain removal product used to help remove specific stains. Examples include Borax and Goop. Sold in grocery and hardware stores and automotive service stations.

CAUTION: Safe if using according to directions.