It’s important to quickly treat citrus stains to reduce their ability to cause bleaching. Follow these simple steps to save your clothes and carpets.
Before You Begin
Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and grapefruit can leave stains or bleached areas on clothes and carpets. The danger comes in leaving the juice on clothing or carpet for too long.
Citrus juice and pulp contain citric acid which acts as a bleaching agent, especially when exposed to sunlight. Some people even use lemon (or lime) juice as a cleaner and natural stain remover on white fabrics or to clean other things around the house.
So, it is critical to act quickly when citrus juice spills on clothing or carpet because the longer the acidic juice sits on the fabric, the more likely it is to lighten or bleach it.
What You’ll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Dull knife or spoon
- Washing machine
- Paper towels or clean, white cloths
- Liquid dishwashing detergent
Steps to Remove Citrus Stains From Clothes
Lift Away Solids
Lift the pulp away with a dull knife or spoon if any citrus pulp is sitting on the surface of the fabric.
Blot With a Wet Cloth
Dip a white cloth in cool water and blot the area. Do not rub because that will simply push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers.
Flush With Cool Water
Hold the back side of the stained area under a faucet to flush the area with cool, clean water to help neutralize the acid.
If the fabric is colored and can’t be flushed under a faucet right away, wet a clean white cloth or paper towel with cool water and blot the citrus stain. This will dilute the citric acid and reduce bleaching. Be sure to wash the garment as soon as possible and do not expose it to excessive sunlight.
Wash as Directed
Wash the clothing as recommended on the care label.
Steps to Remove Citrus Stains From Carpet
Remove all the citrus pulp solids from the carpet by lifting them away with a spoon or butter knife. Never rub because you can make the stain larger.
Wet and Blot
Dip a clean white cloth in plain cool water and saturate the citrus-stained area to dilute the citric acid. Work from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep it from growing larger.
Immediately blot away the moisture with a dry white cloth. Always use a white cloth or paper towel to prevent the transfer of dye to the fabric.
Use Soap on Stains With Sweetened Juice
Mix a cleaning solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 cups of warm water to treat citrus juice that is sweetened or combined with other ingredients.
Follow the same sponging steps, using the detergent solution. Again, always work from the outside edge of the stain toward the center.
Rinse Away Soap Residue
Wet a white towel or paper towel with plain water and dab to rinse away any soapy residue.
Removing all the cleaning solutions from the carpet by rinsing is important because the soap can attract soil.
Blot and Air Dry
After blotting away the moisture, allow the carpet to air dry away from direct heat. When dry, vacuum to lift the fibers.
Additional Tips for Handling Citrus Stains
Even if a citrus spill doesn’t look like it will leave a stain, don’t skip the cleaning steps for your clothing or carpet. The citric acid can bleach fabric or carpet fibers and the damage cannot be reversed. If the stain contains added sugar, dark stains can appear and attract more soil over time.
The same cleaning techniques recommended for carpets can be used on upholstery. It is essential not to over-wet the fabric because that can cause problems with mildew in the cushion filling. Allow the upholstery to air dry away from direct heat and sunlight.
When to Call a Professional
If your stained garment is vintage, silk, or labeled as dry clean only, gently remove any citrus solids with a dull knife or spoon. Dip a white cloth in cool water and blot the stain. Follow up by blotting with a dry cloth until no more moisture is transferred.
As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.