Whether it’s from a shaving nick, bloody nose, skinned knee, period overflow or something else, blood spots and stains are a fact of life.
Here are some tips to hopefully make the cleaning process less traumatic than the original injury.
Out, damned spot!
There are a few ways to get a blood stain out of fabric — assuming the material is washable, of course. (Always check your item’s label for any specific washing guidelines or warnings.)
If the blood stain is fresh, the very first thing to do is to rinse the affected area by running cold water through the fabric wherever there is blood.
Blood stains are protein-based, which means they will benefit from some special handling. Ohio State University Extension says that if hot water is used first, it essentially cooks the protein — causing coagulation between the fibers in the fabric, setting the stains and making them more difficult to remove. (It might help to imagine it like how an egg goes from a gel-like state to a scramble when heat is applied. One’s a lot harder to rinse out.)
If the stain’s dry, brush or scrape off as much as you can, then soak the material in cold water with a little laundry detergent added. After about an hour of soaking, continue the process as below.
Tips and tricks for removing fresh blood and dry blood
If you’re not sure how colorfast the fabric is, you should pre-test any stain removal agents on an inconspicuous area of the item before proceeding.
Cornell University’s Fiber Science and Apparel Design department suggests applying a the 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to the ares with the blood using a medicine dropper, then adding a drop of ammonia. The area with the blood will likely turn white and bubble a bit — this is the peroxide doing its job. After it stops foaming — but no longer than 15 minutes — rinse with cold water before laundering in a cool water cycle.
As an alternative, try applying white vinegar, letting it soak in for about ten minutes before blotting it with a towel or cloth (but don’t use colored towels or cloths that may leave a dye stain). Repeat if required, then wash immediately in cold water.
The Pacific Northwest Extension’s Stain Removal Guide for Washable Fabrics suggests soaking anything stained with blood in an enzyme product for at least 30 minutes, and to soak older stains for several hours before laundering. Enzymatic laundry detergents include Nature’s Miracle Laundry Boost or Bac-Out Stain& Odor Eliminator – or creating a paste from a powdered enzyme product.
After washing, let the item air-dry. Why not machine-dry? You want to be sure the blood was fully removed, and if you just toss it in the dryer, you’ll have pretty much no chance of removing any lingering stain, because it will have been set from the heat.
If the stain has not been removed, repeat one or more of the processes. If you still have no luck, take it to a professional to see if they can help.