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I have a perfectly white cotton flat sheet that has several small stains ranging from dark orange to light grey. The dark orange ones may even be small burn marks or rust stains.

I have tried everything to remove those stains yet nothing has worked, including Dry Cleaner Solvent. They've fully set in.

When I realized the stains weren't going to come off, I decided to just try to turn the stains white and make them invisible, but I have been completely unsuccessful.

I've tried pure bleach, hydrogen peroxide (3%), lemon juice and salt, you name it. I even tried mixing bleach with the hydrogen peroxide, and ammonia with hydrogen peroxide, but nothing is working (don't worry, I haven't mixed bleach with ammonia). I even soaked the stains for a 36 hours in (initially) boiling water with plenty of Oxygen Bleach and nothing.

So what is the absolute most effective way of removing all color from a stain?

There has to be a way and I'm willing to try anything!

P.S. If nothing works, I will actually try dabbing white paint into the small stains to make them invisible.

  • If pure bleach isn't working, forget about it... I'd recommend covering with a patch or other sewn-on object. – Mooseman Feb 16 '15 at 17:42
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it asks to do the impossible. – Mooseman Feb 16 '15 at 17:42
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    You can try dying the sheet to be the same color as the stain. A bit overboard, but you would no longer tell there was a stain. Don't wash anything with the sheet after you dye it, though. – subjectivist Feb 16 '15 at 17:54
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For any permanent-set stain that could be described as being a "warm" color (red, orange, yellow, brown), your next-to-final resort (after heavy-duty cleaners like the aforementioned oxygen bleach) to bring the fabric closer to its original color might be bluing. Essentially, the concept is to use a diluted permanent blue dye to offset the current color of the stain; this will make the stain appear lighter in color, possibly even light enough to pass for the original color of the rest of the fabric. Bluing is normally used in extremely-diluted form to offset the natural off-white color of bulk "white" fabrics to make them appear whiter, so proper application directly to a stain will take some work:

  1. Grab some good rubber gloves, and get yourself a bottle of bluing.

  2. Dilute a single drop of bluing with cold water in a small disposable cup (start with a barely-blue mix, and try again with a stronger mix if that doesn't do the trick; it's easy to overshoot, so take it a step at a time).

  3. Go at it with a cotton swab, small paint brush, or other high-precision applicator.

    Make sure not to overshoot past the edges of the stain, or you'll end up creating a halo of blue around it!

    (Note: It may be possible to use some sort of thickening agent like baking soda or corn starch to make the solution easier to apply, but I've yet to attempt such a thing.)

  4. Once you've worked the bluing into the stain, let it set a few minutes (exact duration isn't critical; longer sit times will increase the effect to some extent, but don't let it dry or soak into the surrounding unstained fabric).

  5. Carefully hold the stain directly under a faucet, and run warm water directly through the affected area until you are good and certain that there's no bluing left to mess up the surrounding fabric. For good measure, consider lightly scrubbing the area with a dab of detergent afterward.

  6. Let it dry (preferably by hanging), then survey your handiwork. Depending on the original color of the stain, your end result can be expected to take on a lighter, possibly grayish hue, but it should be noticeably closer than what you started from.

  7. The decision of whether or not to try again with a stronger concentration depends on the color of the remaining stain. If you would still describe it as a "warm" color (red, yellow, etc), then you're okay to try again; if you would now describe the stain as a "cool" color (or a completely neutral gray, for that matter), however, then there's nothing left to be gained by this method.

(On a similar note, permanent-set stains in "cool" colors like blue and green may possibly be offset with diluted permanent dye in a "warm" color like red; that's an unusual problem to have, however, so you'd probably end up spending more on specialized supplies than you would on a new sheet. I've also never attempted this reverse-psychology bit myself, so attempt at your own risk!)


If all else fails, then your absolute final resort is indeed good ol' white fabric paint (or regular white paint, or white silicone caulk, or any of a number of other substances infamous for causing permanent white stains). These substances will all cover the fabric fibers entirely, masking the stain at the cost of changing the fabric's texture. If you're okay with that, then have at it!

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Maybe you just want validation that it is impossible to do anything else to the stain. Seems to me you have done all you can. It is not uncommon for a sheet to have a stain. Can you buy another one?

To get the stain out you can use an electron microscope, a probe, and tediously pick out the discoloration bit by bit.

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Dyeing the sheet another colour won't work - the stains will still show because they won't be the same colour as the rest of the sheet. Its likely a bit late for anything to work now because you've probably damaged the fibres irrevocably with all that bleach, but I can't praise Vanish oxygen stain remover enough, though this isn't really appropriate because its not actually a hack, more for future reference. All I can tell you is, having spilt red wine on a plain white linen tablecloth (used only at Christmas) I soaked it in a bucket with the right amount of Vanish Oxgyen (powder) for whites for six hours, and was really surprised to see that not only had the red wine gone, but so had the 5 or 6 Christmas pudding stains from the previous 3 years.

Burn marks will never be invisible, whatever you use, the only answer is to cut them out and patch the sheet. I'd just buy a new sheet if I were you...

  • Dye it the same color as the stain. Many attempts will be required, though. – subjectivist Feb 17 '15 at 23:47
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Maybe the length of time spent soaking is the issue? I once had to soak a shirt for over a week in oxygen based bleach (having exhausting all other possibilities). It might have been longer.

Also, I had to do it multiple times. Got there in the end.

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I found this question because I had a bad Mexican food stain that would not come out with bleach. I sprayed it for two days with oxiclean and it came out just fine.

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