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Stain Disasters - stay calm

Technology over the years has created machine washable wool and now the latest standard is the Total Easy Care [TEC] process developed by the Woolmark Company which has made merino even more foolproof. But there are some rules you need to keep in mind.

Firstly, your merino garment is made of natural ‘protein’, it’s not a synthetic or a plant like cotton. This gives it a great advantage for fighting stains, and therefore we need to approach the solution with ‘protein’ on our minds.

So the most important thing to do is not panic and do something dumb. Here is a list of things that you should do, even if your mother recommends something else.

  1. Take action straight away; don’t leave it for tomorrow.

  2. Ignore any “stain removal” chart that you have just googled. It is most likely from a washing machine manufacturer or a household detergent company pretending to be an ‘institute’. You have to search for reputable sites like the Woolmark Company that understand protein fibres.

  3. Don’t rinse anything under hot water- ever. Instead use cool or luke-warm water and if you can, run the water from the back of the stained fabric so it pushes the stain in an outwards direction.

  4. Don’t start crazily rubbing the stain, nor scrub. Firstly this will damage the garment fibres and worst it can cause the stain to bleeds further. Instead start blotting with a paper towel or a piece of clean fabric.

  5. If you have a stain removal product, remember to always test it on a least noticeable part of the garment, for example, the bottom side seam. Never test on the upper sections in case there is a colour bleed, this may really ruin the garment.

  6. As a rule, don’t use Soap. This may sound strange, but soaps are usually made from fatty acids and instead of releasing the stain, the acids react and cause the stains to set, especially tannin based stains like tea, coffee, red wine even fruit juices. The tannin is like a vegetable dye – think brown teeth from drinking black tea.

  7. We always recommend Baby shampoo as a quick and easy merino cleaner. Just think about it, if it is safe for a new born baby, then it will be safe for merino. The reason is that baby shampoo is usually pH neutral – not alkaline not acidic. Remember that high alkalinity is great for dishwasher detergents but is a nasty for merino.

  8. Don’t ever use an enzyme based detergent. These are the ones that promise ‘whiter than white’ etc., the enzymes actually strip the merino fibre. They use enzymes called proteases designed to break up proteins. This obviously applies to Bleach as well; these types of products must be avoided.

  9. Avoid heat on the stain, e.g. sunshine, fireplace, steam. The heat will set the stain and may mean it will never be fixed.


Be careful, there is no ONE magical stain remover, not all stains are the same.

However, it is a great idea to have a bottle of the following in the cupboard.

  1. White spirit/ mineral turpentine.

  2. Methylated spirits

  3. White vinegar

These are very effective on most stains.

  1. Group A - Tannin based stains

  • Red wine and ports

  • Champagne and whites

  • Coffee and tea

  • Beer

  • Tomato and fruit juices

  • Raspberries, strawberries, mango etc.

Cold water with a small amount of baby shampoo or an approved wool wash straight away to get the tannin stain diluted. Do not use ordinary soap. Don’t rub; instead use a squeezing action to push the water through the knit. Rinse thoroughly.

Then a later follow up dab of diluted white vinegar on the area may help release any ‘shadow’ of the mishap. Rinse well

For white wine based mishaps, you will most likely get away with a thorough water rinse and no one will be the wiser. Just make sure the wine is well flushed out, otherwise a stain may appear when dried.

  1. Group B – Protein stains

  • Eggs

  • Blood

  • Milk

  • Perspiration – not so urgent

These need to get quickly rinsed in cool water and the stain worked on with a gently squeezing action. Then a dabbing of diluted white vinegar should help remove the protein. Follow with a wash as normal.

  1. Group C – Grease and oily stains

  • Salad dressing, sauces

  • Butter and mayonnaise

  • Lipstick

  • Makeup

  • Chocolate

Scrap all excess stain off the garment ASAP and then flush with white spirits/ turpentine so as to release the oils from the fibre. Follow with a luke-warm wash in baby shampoo to remove the white spirit residue.

  1. Group 4 – Grass

Dab with methylated spirits on a clean cloth, then a gentle wash in luke warm water with baby shampoo. Moist green grass stains are very difficult to remove, so don’t be tempted to start scrubbing at the stain. Just keep repeating the first steps and with time the stain should fade.

Then for best result let the garment dry flat in the shade so that it regain its natural moisture level.

Remember – Stay Calm, you can wash Merino

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