Step 1: Determine type of stain. Most will fall into one of the following three categories:
Step 2: Determine constraints of fabric you are attempting to clean. (Note: the do-it-yourself remedies contained in this article assume it is okay to wet-clean fabrics. If an item says 'Dry Clean Only' or you are unsure, consult with a professional dry cleaner before attempting to clean with these remedies).
Step 3: Test. If you are unsure about damaging your fabric, carpet or other textile, always test your stain removal solution in a low-visibility spot to see how it reacts.
Step 4: Stop. While effective stain removal often involves several steps, you should stop treating at the earliest possible step to limit risk of damage and deterioration to fabrics.
Step 5: Obtain Tools. Some useful solutions and tools to keep on hand for stain removal are as follows: acetone (basically, nail polish remover), ammonia* (for starred items, see precautionary notes at the end of the article), white vinegar*, chlorine bleach (a strong bleaching agent)*, hydrogen peroxide (a milder bleaching agent)*, corn starch, dishwashing liquid, glycerine, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, an oxidizing solution, a nonflammable dry-cleaning solution, and an assortment of clean sponges and strong-bristled brushes (toothbrushes work great for working detergents into laundry stains).
To treat most greasy stains, work detergent directly into stain and rinse with hot water. If that does not work, a dry cleaning fluid may be needed. However, many dry cleaning solutions are flammable, so pay close attention to label warnings and do not place fabrics into a clothes dryer or expose to other heat sources or flame after treating with these solutions.
To treat most nongreasy stains sponge immediately with cold water. Soak (also in cold water) if sponging is not sufficient to remove most of stain. Work liquid detergent into the remaining stain and rinse. Use small quantities of diluted (1:1 ratio) hydrogen peroxide (mild) or chlorine bleach (strong) to remove final traces of stain (excluding any items that specify no bleach such as silks, wools, and many synthetics).
Combination stains should be treated like greasy stains with the exception that fabrics should be allowed to dry before applying dry-cleaning fluid to remove any greasy residues and/or repeating the stain removal process if necessary.
For common household stains, here are specific recommended procedures (assuming fabrics can be wet-cleaned):
*Precautions for ammonia: dilute 1:1 with water for silk or wool. If ammonia changes appearance of fabric dye, rinse with water and white vinegar solution to restore. Never mix with bleach. Precautions for white vinegar: If white vinegar changes appearance of fabric dye, rinse with water and ammonia solution to restore. Precautions for bleaches: dilute 1:1 with water and rinse well. Do not use chlorine bleach on silks, wools, synthetics such as spandex, or flame-proofed fabrics. Never mix with ammonia.