Blood stains are some of the worst things that can happen to your clothes. They have the societal "ick" factor far more than most other stains (understandably), can be difficult to get out and are far more of a potential hazard than your favorite barbecue sauce. They need to be dealt with and dealt with as quickly as possible (for reasons we'll go into shortly).
Yet, it can be intimidating to clean blood stains off your clothes without knowing what to do. So here's everything you need to know and some of the best ways to remove those nasty blood stains from your clothing:
General Stain Removal Tips
While we'll get into a few different tools you can use, there are some other things you need to know as well. Again, these aren't like other stains. Blood stains contain protein, which makes their removal trickier. Fortunately, there are a few different removal methods. No matter what method you use, though, all will have the following tips in common, so pay close attention.
Separate the Clothing and Isolate Blood Stains
First things first — get the bloodied clothing off you, change and clean the rest of the area around you. If you know that the cleanup job will be more complex or even require professionals, try to do what you can. If you are dealing with blood that isn’t your own, be sure to take the proper precautions or call in the help of a professional.
Try to quarantine the stained clothing while also making sure not to spread the stain. We recommend taking a damp cloth (a damp paper towel, if thick enough, can also work) and dabbing at the stain until you don't think you can get any more blood out of it. Use cold water to avoid setting the stain. If it's something like a shirt or pant leg with multiple layers of fabric, perhaps put a rag or layered paper towel beneath the stain on the inside to prevent spreading to the other side.
Time is of the essence. The faster you notice things, the better your chance of being able to remove stains. Once all this is done, you can proceed to the steps outlined later in the article.
Deal with Fresh Blood Stains as Soon as Possible
Dried blood stains are much harder to remove than ones that are still wet. Whether it’s from an injury, nosebleed or something else, the sooner you address the stain, the more likely you are to successfully remove it. If you don’t have time to fully launder the garment while the blood is still wet, pretreat the stain. You can either dab on your favorite stain remover or use a little bit of liquid laundry detergent.
Not many types of clothing are outright blood stain resistant, but blood binds more easily to some types of fabric than others. Removing blood from wool can be a nightmare, but some leathers and smoother fabrics might have more hope. Also, delicate fabrics require different cleaning techniques than more durable ones. Check the care label to determine what type of fabric the garment is made from.
Stay Safe Through the Process
After handling the stained clothing or dealing with the issue at hand, ensure that you stay safe throughout everything. Blood is a biohazard and can contain pathogens. It can be dangerous if you are not careful.
If it is someone else's blood or you are concerned, we recommend wearing appropriate gloves throughout the blood stain removal process or taking even further protective steps. This is also handy for keeping the cleaning agents and chemicals away from your skin. Remember that if you feel it is too dangerous to clean something, it is not worth doing so.
Finally, some people are more sensitive to cleaning agents, especially some we might mention. Use your better judgment. When using cleaners like bleach, you might want to try to remove the stain in a place with good airflow to avoid breathing in chemicals.What Doesn't Work for Removing Period Stains and Other Blood Stains?
There may also be a few things used for everyday cleaning purposes that we would not recommend for blood stains. They can either react poorly, simply not work or even damage your clothing. These are:
- On most types of clothing, simply using a wet cloth or paper towel won't be enough. You need something stronger.
- Tossing the clothing straight in the washing machine probably won’t work, either. Remove as much blood as possible before laundering to ensure the best results.
- Other types of stains might see things such as turpentine or nail polish remover recommended. While such chemicals might work in some cases, overall, they can cause damage to your clothing and be toxic. They also are not effective when it comes to breaking down the proteins present in blood. As such, we do not recommend them.
- We rarely recommend the use of hot water on a blood stain. While it can work great on other stains, hot water will heat the blood, making it bind more readily and go deeper into the fibers. You don't want that, so save the hot water for your next load of towels or linens instead.
- Drying clothes in a dryer while they still have a blood stain, whether you have washed them or not, is the worst thing you can do. It can effectively bake the stain in, making it that much harder to remove.
As mentioned, you should also pay close attention to what is stained. Cleaning leather is vastly different than cleaning silk, and what will work on one thing will not on another. It's all contextual, and we recommend using common sense and further research if you are uncertain.
Note That Sometimes You Shouldn't Try
We aren't encouraging you to give up here, but you should note that most of the tips we are talking about are for more minor stains and problems. For example, if half of the article of clothing is stained or drenched in blood, then it is probably best to leave it be and dispose of it safely. The effort required will likely be too much, and the article of clothing, unless it is an heirloom piece, etc., is not worth it. If it’s an heirloom or valuable piece that is worth cleaning, we recommend speaking with a dry cleaner or another laundry expert.
Of course, this will be a judgment call on your end and will be reliant on several factors. Remember your time is valuable — sometimes more valuable than your clothes. In some cases, your clothes might even be damaged by the cleaning process anyway, no matter how much you try. Be careful and move on if you need to.
Source: eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock
Why Is It Hard to Remove Blood Stains?
The hemoglobin contained in blood make it tough to remove from clothing. It is a binding agent and means blood will bind itself more readily to things it comes into contact with (in this case, your clothes). Regular stain removers often don’t work, so you may need something like an enzyme cleaner to get the job done.
Blood stains are also notorious for being noticeable. The deep red or brown stain shows up heavily on most lighter clothing, and people will only wonder about it. Even if they are mostly removed or faded, they will still show and ruin a look (and be concerning from a hygienic point of view).
Finally, with some blood stains, you might not notice them initially. This is especially the case for things such as sleepwear, where the stains might have some time to settle in overnight. The longer the blood has to set in, the tougher the stain is to remove.
4 Methods to Remove Blood Stains from Clothes
1. Using Detergent
In general, this method is recommended if you are cleaning fresh blood from your clothes and it will be fine with most fabrics (or at least won't cause harm).
- Follow all instructions noted in previous sections and then soak the garment in cold water. You may also want to run the area under cold water to try and wash some of the blood away early on.
- You might want to use soap or hydrogen peroxide to treat the stain at this point, depending on how fresh it is.
- Apply laundry detergent to the affected area and wash the garment in warm water. If you can use bleach on the garment without causing issues, that may be helpful at this step.
- Avoid putting the garment in the dryer. Instead, air dry if you need to and then check the garment to see if the stain is gone. Repeat the above process as needed.
2. Using Hydrogen Peroxide
This works better on smaller blood stains and ones that are somewhat dried in. Hydrogen peroxide is widely available and helps to dissolve some of the binding that occurs with blood stains. It also works well on those stains with fabrics that might be tougher to get out. The more fibrous, the more you might want to try this first.
- Apply a fair amount (err on the side of too much) hydrogen peroxide to the affected area of the article. For precision, hydrogen peroxide does come in spray bottles.
- Once it's foamed a little bit, get an old toothbrush or soft, small brush and brush the affected area. Try to work the agent into the fabric with your brushing. Some clothing might be more conducive to this than others.
- Let the hydrogen peroxide sit in the clothing for about 15 minutes, perhaps a little bit longer. It will need some time to work to its full effect.
- Once the time has passed, rinse the area with cold water. Do not use hot water at this point. Check to see if the stain is still there.
- You may need to repeat this process a few times with tough stains. Be patient and check for overall progress. If it persists, you might want to try using some dish soap or baking soda, treating it with those products as well.
- Once the stain is mostly gone or you can't tell it's there, wash it as you would normally. The stain should be entirely gone at this point.
Note: Hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect, so be careful when using it on colorful apparel.
3. Using White Vinegar and Baking Soda
White vinegar is a laundry-room essential because it’s all natural and does an excellent job of removing a variety of stains. Pair it with baking soda and it can bubble the blood right out of clothing.
- Apply white vinegar directly to the stain and scrub gently using a soft brush.
- Rinse using cold water.
- If the stain remains, make a paste using baking soda and cool water.
- Apply the paste to the stain and let sit for a few minutes.
- Pour white vinegar over the stain.
- Once it has stopped bubbling, rinse again with cold water.
4. Using Water and Salt
Simple water and salt might be useful for the most delicate of fabrics. Worried about damaging your beautiful silks, lingerie and delicates? Try this first. It isn't the most effective, but it might work and is the least damaging. This is also a method where the sooner you can start, the better.
- Mix some salt and water together. You can go heavy on the salt in this case.
- Apply the solution onto the stain or let the area of the garment soak in it.
- Once about 20 minutes have passed, try rinsing the garment in cold water. If a strong flow of water might damage the clothing, gently swirl the item in a basin of water instead.
- After this, check to see if the situation has improved. If so, then wash the garment as normal.
5. Removing Dried Blood from Clothing
We should also mention removing dried blood from clothing. It's tough to get out, but this method can work.
- Using a dull knife (though some would recommend a spoon instead), try to scrape off as much of the dried blood as possible.
- After doing so, take a damp, clean cloth, a very soft wet brush or a sponge and blot or lightly scrub away the blood.
- If the above doesn't work, you may want to try one of the solutions or products listed above (perhaps watered down, if appropriate).
- Repeat as necessary until you believe all the dried blood is gone and then try to wash the clothing as you usually would. You may need to repeat the process multiple times or even go through multiple wash cycles for the worst cases, so please be patient throughout the process.
Removing blood stains can be a bit of a harrowing experience, but it's a necessary one if you want to get the use of your clothes back (or don't want strange looks in the supermarket when you wear them). Luckily, with the right products and processes, you can make your clothes as good as new. We wish you the best of luck and encourage you to return to this page as you feel the need.