A Guide for Getting Rid of Stains on a Plain White Tee

A Guide for Getting Rid of Stains on a Plain White Tee

Wear a black top one day and a women’s white blouse the next day, and it’s pretty much Murphy’s Law that the day you spill spaghetti sauce or red wine on yourself will be the day you wear the white blouse. Granted, there will be days when you get stains on darker shirts, but they’re far less noticeable than they are on a stark-white shirt.

Before you fall victim to the splatter of oil or squirt of ketchup, arm yourself with the know-how to swiftly attack that stain so it doesn’t get a chance to nestle in and make itself at home. Remember that material matters, and for this article, we’ll be focused on the cotton shirt.

Red Wine

If you spill wine on your white tee, blot the stain with warm water, coat it with a layer of salt, and let it sit. When the salt changes color, rinse the shirt and then dab it with detergent before laying it down on a dry towel. The towel should absorb some of the stains, so don’t use a white towel you want to keep pristine. After an hour or so, you’re free to launder it as normal.

Blood on a White Tee

It isn’t uncommon for a kids' t-shirt to fall victim to a bloody nose or scraped elbow. For those instances, immediately remove their shirt, give them a band-aid and a bit of reassurance, and rinse out whatever blood you can in cold water. Some blood will likely still be in the shirt, so soak it in room-temperature water with detergent added to it for about 15 minutes. A sink works fine, but your washer may even have a preset for soaking. If the blood has been sitting in the shirt all day, you may have to soak it for longer and even treat it with an enzyme cleaner before finally washing it in a load, separate from any other light-colored clothing.

Butter, Cooking Oil, and Other Fats

It happens all the time, you’re at a summer picnic and the slightest drip of butter from your corn on the cob drips onto your white summer shirt. While it may be frowned upon to take off your shirt to treat it right then and there, you should try your best to get to the restroom and expose it to some lukewarm water. Gently dab it with a squirt of soap, and keep it as damp as possible until you can remove it. Once you get home, or if you already are home, immediately soak it in lukewarm water with detergent for 10 minutes. Then, remove it from the water, ring it as dry as you can with your hands, dab the stain with detergent, and lay it detergent-side down on a towel or paper towel. Eventually, the oil should transfer to the towel, but you might have to move the stain to dry parts of the towel now and then for it to be fully absorbed. After you’ve gotten enough oil out as possible, wash it according to the instructions on the label.


If you spill coffee on your plain white tee, immediately soak it in lukewarm water. You can then dab it with detergent if it looks like it’s not going to come out easily. Then toss it in the washing machine at its hottest setting. It should come out easily by then. Just avoid powder detergents that may set the coffee stain and make it difficult to ever get out.


When you have a go-to short-sleeve shirt that you wear for working out, sweat stains can gradually appear over time. On a white athletic T-shirt, they can be more noticeable than you’d like. When a typical wash using hot water and detergent won’t work to get the yellow stains out, use an enzyme cleaner or a dusting of salt on the stain, and let it stand before washing again. Of course, bleach can also be used but should be avoided if possible since it can break down the fabric.

Ketchup and Tomato Sauces

The first thing you’ll want to do when you get anything tomato-based on a white tee is to carefully remove it so it doesn’t spread. Then, dab it with liquid dish detergent, flip it inside-out carefully, and rinse it with cold water from the opposite side of the stain. Then you’re safe to wash it according to the instructions on the label.

Cotton is a durable fabric that can tolerate long-term soaking, tumble drying, heat, acids, and bleaches. But just because it can endure all those things doesn’t mean any stains won’t show if not treated properly. Don’t assume that you can just bleach all your plain white tees either, as bleach can be hard on the fabric. The best thing you can do is treat the stain immediately. Regular detergent and stain removers, as well as light acids like vinegar, are typically enough to get the stain out of your plain white tee.


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