The first stain I had to resolve on my own was a five-inch inkblot on a beloved sweatshirt. I called home in a panic and my parents told me to buy the Carbona Stain Devil for ink, marker and crayon, as both my mom and dad have relied on Carbona’s offerings for years. (In addition to the ink, marker and crayon Carbona, there are eight more Stain Devils to fight other types of stains. I’ve used them all.) I followed the instructions on the bottle, dabbing the formula on the stain and then rinsing it under hot water. After treating it for a few minutes, the stain was 100% gone. I immediately threw the treated sweatshirt in the wash to give it some extra love, and it came out looking brand new.
I care deeply about the longevity of my clothes — for sustainability (and financial) reasons — and since college, I’ve found I accumulate stains, er, quite easily. The fashion industry is known to create a lot of waste, so I try to buy less and make it last longer to reduce the clothing waste I create. So finding a thorough stain remover was important to me. It’s reliable, too. In fact, the Carbona has come in handy so often, and I’m so clumsy, that I’ve gone through multiple bottles over the past five years.
Though my first purchase was Carbona’s ink stain remover, I eventually bought a set that included Carbona’s eight other formulas, which Carbona created to remove specific types of stains. While I love them all, I’ve found I use a few more than others: the one for grass, dirt and makeup; the one for fat & cooking oil; the one for coffee, tea, wine and juice; the one for rust & perspiration; and, of course, the one for ink, which started it all.
That said, having all of them on hand is helpful, because I love to be prepared and I truly never know when, where, how and with what I might make a mess. Plus, if you hang out with me, I’ll always have the right stain remover to lend out if you make a mess, too.
Carbona also has a chart of which types of stains each Stain Devil can work on (because the bottles only list two or three). For example, the Stain Devil for motor oil and lubricant can also help remove tree sap and suntan lotion stains. The Stain Devil for ketchup, mustard and chocolate? That one’s good for removing soy sauce and salsa stains. There are so many instances where having a Stain Devil on me has totally saved my belongings, and having this list helps me quickly determine how my stain remover might help (and which one to use), given the circumstances.
Carbona says the Stain Devils are not a pre-wash, which means you must treat each stain completely before washing and drying. Carbona says its Stain Devils are safe and effective on washable and water-safe fabrics, excluding silk, acetate, suede, carpeting or upholstery.
You can buy the Stain Devils in a complete set, a food-related set or individually based on your needs like I first did. The complete set costs $40 from Carbona, while the individual bottles cost $5.99 from their site.
One more thing: Before you use the stain remover, I recommend testing it on an unnoticeable portion of the fabric first. Depending on the fabric and the dye, the Stain Devil might cause the color to fade, affecting the appearance of your clothing. I learned this the hard way, when removing a chocolate milk stain on a yellow cotton t-shirt. Luckily, the color fade was so minor that only someone who knew where the stain had been would be able to see the faded spot (so just me).
Other highly-rated stain remover options
Below we’ve rounded up other highly-rated or expert-recommended stain treatment options.
OxiClean is a classic for a reason. The MaxForce Spray is Consumer Reports’ top recommendation for a laundry stain remover. In their testing, Consumer Reports found that with just five minutes of soaking time, this pre-wash spray removes stains from body oil, dirt, salad dressing, grease, gravy, grass and blood. Oxiclean says you can pre-treat the stain up to a week before washing the garment. It also comes highly rated by users, with a 4.7-star average rating from over 4,000 reviews on Amazon.
This highly rated option from Tide has a pen-like design so it can easily be stashed in bags, drawers and car compartments. Tide says the stain remover works well on ketchup, BBQ sauce, grape juice, coffee, wine, tea, chocolate syrup, and other stain types. Like the Carbona Stain Devils, Tide encourages you to test out the stain remover on a hidden piece of fabric to ensure it does not fade the color of the fabric. This stain remover has a 4.7-star average rating from over 29,000 reviews on Amazon.