How To Remove Blood Stains From Clothes

How To Remove Blood Stains From Clothes

Blood stains are notorious for their steadfastness in staying in fabric and other things after washing. According to our friend Dr. Pete, this is because red blood cells will clot when exposed to oxygen in the open air, and the clotted red blood cells tend to penetrate and solidify into deep layers of fabrics—making tough, dark stains. He adds, too, that blood also contains other oxidative bio molecules that react with oxygen in the open air over time. “The resulting solids and viscous gels are trapped, bonded, to the inside layers of the fabric materials,” he says. This makes them extra tough to remove. Thankfully, we have some advice for how to prevent this, and what to do when it does happen. 

How to Remove Fresh Blood from Clothes

Rule of thumb in treating blood stains easily is that you should get to treating it right away—don’t leave the stain to oxidize and set. Use the following order of operations to remove fresh blood from clothes: 

  • Presoak: Soak the garment in cold water (warm or hot water can set fresh blood stains) as soon as you notice the bloodstain. If the spot is really fresh, you can run the area under cold running water.  
  • Hand Wash: Rub a gentle laundry detergent into whatever remains of the bloodstain. If detergent is not available, hand soap or dish soap can be used as alternatives. Next, scrub the stain by hand in cold water. You can gently rub the sides of the fabric against one another or use a soft brush to do this. Then rinse the fabric under cold water. Best to throw it in the wash (or do a full and thorough hand wash) after spot cleaning this way. 

Can You Remove Dried Blood from Fabric?  

Is all hope lost because some pesky hemoglobin dried as a blotch on your favorite shirt? Thankfully, no. Refer to the following for dried blood stain removal: 

  • Pre-soak using this mixture: Before washing, presoak the bloodstained fabric in a mixture of cold water and a laundry detergent that contains proteases. Because blood is a protein-based stain, proteases will help break it down. 
  • Bleach it: Occasional stubborn, dried blood stains call for the secret weapon in your laundry arsenal: Oxidized bleach. 

Dr. Pete explains why it works:

“Blood, tea, coffee and red wine stains all show color and are called “oxidizable stains.” The components in those stains that show different colors are large organic molecules with conjugated double bonds. When reacting with oxidizers such as oxygen bleach, those oxidizable stain molecules turn into small pieces that become colorless or water soluble for easy rinse-off.”

All you have to do is pretreat the stain with a mixture of oxygen bleach, which breaks the bonds of blood and other stains, and enzyme detergent. Then, launder using the same oxygen bleach and enzyme detergent while following regular wash instructions.

Blood droplets

Removing Bloodstains On the Go

A rather unconventional approach you can take when you are on the go and have nothing else at your disposal is to use spit to remove blood from fabric. Enzymes in human spit can be used to remove blood. This method works best to treat small stains—simply spit on the stain, rub for 30 seconds, and then add hand soap or dish soap if they are available...then rinse with cold water. 

The Takeaway

  • Fresh blood stains are easiest to remove.
  • Avoid using warm or hot water when treating fresh blood stains—cold is best.
  • Proteases—or protein-targeting enzymes—can help to remove aged blood stains.
  • In a pinch, you can use saliva to treat a blood stain.
  • Oxygen bleach works well in removing aged blood stains.

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