Put some beautiful hand towels in the kitchen and you know they’re going to meet with all sorts of disaster. It’s the kitchen, after all. If you’re intent on keeping those towels pristine, though, you’ll need a few things always at hand for stain emergencies: baking soda, cornstarch, liquid dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, and Shout.
Hydrogen peroxide is actually safe for most coloured fabrics, as it is a main ingredient in products like OxiClean.
First, do not put water on an oil stain right away – you’ll just spread it out and possibly prevent it from ever getting out. Lay the item out and immediately blot the oil with a paper towel. Then cover the stain with baking soda or cornstarch. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes to an hour the powder changes colour or is clumpy, it has absorbed a lot of oil and you might still see some in the fabric. Flick it off, rather than rubbing, blot again, and put another thick layer of powder on and let it sit for another 30 minutes or more.
Once you’ve soaked up what you can, rub straight dish soap into the stain, let sit, and then wash the item in hot water but let it air dry so you can see whether there is any residual oil. If so, repeat soaking with dish soap and washing in hot water. If not, you’re in the clear and the towel will be safe in the dryer.
Ah, wine, that old standby for spilling on whatever’s handy and white. It’s stubborn to boot. Get to it right away, blot, and then soak the towel in cool water for an hour. Salt and soda water are actually not all that effective with wine, so you’ll want to go straight for a mixture of equal parts dish soap and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Apply and let sit for at least an hour, preferably more. Rinse it out and then put the item in the wash. If there is any trace left, again, do not put the item in the dryer. Let it air dry and repeat the process.
The reason you always see the instruction to blot and not rub is because rubbing will mash the substance into the fibres of the fabric. So, seriously: blot, don’t rub.