How To Remove Stains From Unknown Sources

Stains from unknown sources fall into two categories - either they appear seemingly from nowhere, on a garment you use frequently, or they are mystery spots on a vintage item that has stains without clues as to their age & origin.

For the first case, try the following steps (if the stain has set, lubricate it with eucalyptus oil or glycerine overnight first).  Then follow with the steps for fruit & vegetable stains.

In the case of mystery spots with no known age or origin, the only option is to eliminate the possible components of the stain by trying a variety of solvents. Use this list in order, blotting and applying as much as the fabric will allow:
  • dry cleaning solvent
  • acetone
  • water
  • detergent (diluted in water)
  • borax (diluted in water)
  • ammonia (diluted in water)
  • an enzyme pre-soak (like Shout, diluted in water)
  • alcohol

Note that some fabrics cannot handle some solvents, so always test first in an inconspicuous area.

Back To Vintage Clothing Collectors' Stain Guide