In this report
May 2011 Ratings

On-the-spot stain removers

Last reviewed: May 2011
May 2011 issue cover This article appeared in
May 2011 Consumer Reports Magazine.
Latest on Laundry detergents
Stain remover test
Blotch busters
The top three tubes removed or reduced stains.

These detergent-in-a-tube products are used immediately after, say, a mouthful of pie has hit Uncle Joe's tie. You remove a cap, press the tube into the stain, and wash the whole mess into a tissue or cloth you've placed underneath.

How we tested

We dabbed beef gravy, ketchup, wine, soda, tea, and lipstick to create small stains on white swatches of cotton, cotton Lycra, nylon, polyester, and polyester twill. We blotted each stain with a washcloth and used each stain remover. Our fabric expert judged the results, scoring how well the products removed the stain and whether they left a residue.

What we found

The top three products in our Ratings (available to subscribers) were about equally effective. They removed or greatly reduced the appearance of the stains on most of the swatches, with little difference in the types of stains or fabrics they cleaned. (None of the tested products, we found, could remove lipstick.)

The other stain removers were less effective as you go down the Ratings (available to subscribers). Although the website for Sun & Earth claims the product "cleans even the toughest stains," it was rated lowest of all.

Bottom line

The store brands did well and cost less. Try the CVS or Walgreens brand as your go-to stain remover. Whatever product you pick, make sure it's designed to work on the fabrics you wear. Carbona, for instance, is not recommended for silk or dry-clean-only garments.