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Stain removal is hard enough. But a stain that keeps reappearing every time the fabric dries -- despite your most valiant efforts to remove it -- can be downright disheartening. Here's the secret to permanent stain busting. Have you ever had a stain reappear? It's a common (and frustrating) mystery. You're suddenly hit by the spray from a soda can, or a squirt of lemon juice lands on your top. You think you've got it covered since you caught the stain right away: you grab a napkin and a dab some water or club soda on the discolored spot, and your shirt looks as good as new; the stain appears to be gone. But then by the end of the day, the stain has come back. What happened? .

Dousing a food stain with water or even club soda does not treat the stain. It just masks it for a short time. The sugar in the stain later oxidizes from exposure to air and turns colors. It's most noticeable on a white shirt. A squirt of grapefruit, say, will leave a few spots of juice that, if left untreated, will turn yellow as the sugar oxidizes. Once oxidization happens, it's almost impossible to remove the stain.

So what should you' if you're out and about when a stain sets in? Come prepared. There are a few stain removers that work great for sugary food-based stains (which are likely to oxidize). My three favorites are the OxiClean Spray Away, Tide to Go, and the Laundress Wash & Stain Bar. Bonus: they're all portable so you can keep them in your bag.

Be careful not to rub when you apply your stain remover on the spot. Blotting is better; it won't rub the stain further into the fabric. And next time you're out, resist the wet napkin solution: it won't keep your stain undercover for long.


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