Everyone has had a moment when they’ve noticed black spots on their clothes and realized with sinking horror that they have got sooty smudges on a favorite sweater or pair of pants. If you’re in this position, you’re probably wondering how to get soot out of clothes effectively, without damaging the fabric or the color.
Soot can leave stubborn marks, especially on light colored fabric, so we’re going to look at how to remove soot from clothes. You can use a variety of different treatments, including stain removers, bleach, and washing machines, so we’re going to look at what the most effective methods are.
Getting soot out is not easy, and you don’t want to start by rubbing it, as this will smear it across the fabric even more. If you can, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any loose particles, or shake the clothing over a garbage can or outdoors to get rid of them.
Does Soot Come Out of Clothes?
The short answer is yes, usually, if you treat it correctly. With care, you can get soot stains out of your clothing. However, it isn’t easy so you’ll have to be quite careful about the process.
Remember, soot has oil in it, which is one of the reasons it is difficult to get it out of clothes. When you burn candles, you do risk getting sooty marks on your clothing (and furnishings) so be careful when handling them to minimize the problem with stains.
Soot also has carbon and dirt in it, so the result is usually a heavy, greasy mark that is hard to shift no matter what you do to it. Soap is an important aspect of shifting the oil, but you’ll need more aggressive cleaners for the carbon and dirt.
First, identify everywhere that has got stained, and make sure there are no further patches on your sleeves or torso that you have missed.
Next, try turning the fabric inside out and then rubbing it gently against itself while running it under cold water to break up the stain. This should help to remove the particles without risking getting them deeper into the fabric, and without setting the stain. Cold water is often best for stains.
Use a Fabric Safe Spot Remover or Cleaner
You can then try using a stain remover on the fabric while it is still wet. Don’t let the stain dry out as it will probably set more firmly once it has done so.
Instead, follow the manufacturer’s directions to treat the stain with the pre-wash fabric stain remover, and allow it to soak if necessary.
If you don’t have a stain remover, you can instead soak the stain in some cold water with a dash of laundry liquid in it. Aim for around a gallon of cold water and a couple of tablespoons of laundry liquid, and then allow it to soak for at least half an hour.
Once this has been done, you should transfer the clothes to your washing machine and set it to the hottest cycle that the fabric will tolerate. This should help to break down the soot particles more thoroughly.
You may need to repeat this process several times. If the stains are still there when you remove the clothing from the washing machine, you should put it back and wash it again straight away, without giving it time to dry out in between cycles. This will reduce the chances of the stain setting.
You can also try things like oxygen bleach (which shouldn’t destroy the color of your clothes) or chlorine bleach if the clothing is white. Don’t put neat bleach on the clothes, however, because it will ruin the fabric. Always dilute it first!
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Does Vinegar Remove Candle Soot?
Vinegar is one of the most versatile cleaners out there, and many people use it when laundering clothes because it is a natural alternative to fabric softener, and it’s very good at breaking down sweat odors. If you’re struggling with the cleanliness of your clothing, it’s a good washing option.
However, does it work on stubborn soot stains as effectively?
Vinegar is a de-greaser, which means it’s good for tackling the oily component of a soot stain. It will help to break down and disperse the oils, making it easier to clean the fabric. You may find that soaking the clothing in vinegar helps to loosen and remove the stain, although there is no guarantee that this will work.
Vinegar alone probably won’t shift a stubborn soot stain, but it should help when combined with an appropriate detergent and some rubbing. Do not scrub the fabric hard, or you may damage it, but work in a circle with something like a toothbrush to loosen the fibers and free the dirt and grease from them.
Use white vinegar for this, as dark colored vinegars might stain the clothes themselves. White vinegar should be readily available and reasonably cheap, as it is usually used for cleaning. You can also add some to the laundry load to further break down the stain if you choose to.
It’s important to tackle soot stains quickly, as old stains set more firmly into the fabric. As soon as you notice that you’ve got a stain on your sleeve, on a favorite jacket or sweater, or even on a chair, you should take action.
If you can, remove the fabric and soak it. If not, treat it with stain remover, or some de-greasing product such as vinegar and soap, to try and break down the stain before it has had a chance to set. You may have to repeat the action in order to get rid of the stain properly, but don’t give up; most soot stains can be removed or lessened.
If all else fails, try hanging the fabric in some bright sunlight for a few days if possible. The sun is an excellent way to remove stains from the fabric, as it naturally bleaches them away without noticeably affecting the color that the fabric should be. However, it’s best to start by soaking it in vinegar, soap, and cold water, and then thoroughly washing if possible.