Young woman looking at stained T-shirt

Many years ago, my mother-in-law Lucy told me a story about her daughter’s stained coat. Her daughter wanted to throw it out, but Lucy intervened. Lucy figured that before throwing out any stained clothing, she would try everything that she could think of to remove the stain. And she did!

I don’t remember how she did it, but I was impressed by her determination to salvage the coat. She comes to mind whenever I get a stubborn stain on any of my clothes.

And I do seem prone to getting coffee or food stains on my shirts. I can successfully remove them if I treat them right away, but sometimes I don’t realize the clothing is stained until it comes out of the dryer. By then, the stains are set.

Doing some research, I found various methods of treating set-in stains using vinegar and baking soda, bleaching the whites, and pre-treating with detergent. I have had good luck using dish soap as a stain remover, although sometimes, I have to repeat the process.

If the stains won’t come out, stained clothing can still be useful. You might wear a stained item around the house or as an extra layer for warmth under a sweater or coat. Stained clothing is perfect for gardening, doing car repairs, painting, and other messy projects.

If you enjoy craft projects, try your hand at some of these creative ways to hide the stain using tie-dye, bleach designs, cheerful patches, and more. I have saved a lot of stained clothes using these ideas. Generally, I wear my craft project clothes on weekends or use them as pajama tops or beach cover-ups.

If none of these ideas appeal to you, you may want to cut stained clothing into rags, use the unstained pieces for sewing projects, or unravel a sweater for its yarn. You can also use Earth911 Recycling Search to find nearby locations that accept fabric — just enter your ZIP code. It’s a good idea to call and confirm that the location accepts donations during the pandemic and that they’ll take stained clothing.

Let’s get the greatest use out of our clothing before relegating it to the garbage!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.