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How we test stain removers

Our rigorous testing reveals which products are best at ridding your clothes of common stains.

person checking clean clothes after washing

Stains occur every day and in every household. Ideally, you should treat the stain immediately, but sometimes stains are left to soak in or dry before you get a chance to remove them. You don't want to be tossing out your favourite garments and linen because of pesky stains, so this is when you'll need a trusty stain remover in your laundry cupboard.

Our expert testers

While we do a lot of product testing in-house, we send stain removers to an external laboratory with specialist equipment to measure soil removal so we can determine which stain removers work best in real-world situations.

How we choose what we test

With this type of consumer good, our aim is to try to cover the whole stain remover market, especially what you're most likely to see in major supermarkets.

We start off by surveying manufacturers to find out about their range of products. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to shops and buy each product, just as you would. We do this so we can be sure what we're testing is the same as any consumer would find, and not 'tweaked' in any way for better performance.

How we test stain removers

In order to fine-tune our testing and make sure it's as relevant as possible, we conduct product use surveys to find out which stains are most common in Australian households. Our experts then put each stain remover to the test to find out how well they remove:

  • sweat
  • grass/mud
  • olive oil (cooking oil)
  • blood
  • tomato
  • mineral oil
  • chocolate ice cream
  • baby food
  • make-up
  • ground nut oil (which simulates collar grime).

Soakers (powders) are tested differently to pre-treaters (sprays) in terms of the amount applied to the soiled swatches we use to test stain removal. We use cotton material swatches that have specific formulas of these stains applied to them. Before washing, for pre-treaters, our experts apply a set amount of each stain remover to the stained swatch and let it sit for five minutes. 

We use a front loader washing machine on a cold wash cycle with a laundry detergent in our laundry detergents test.

Following the wash cycle, we measure the degree of stain removal. We also test how well stain removers compare to washing with laundry detergent only.

We also included a home recipe which consists of mixing the following ingredients in a spray bottle:

  • 200mL of hydrogen peroxide
  • 100mL dishwashing  liquid.

Why we haven't tested soakers

We're in the process of developing a test method for soakers (powder stain removers). We hope to have results to share on the performance of these products in the coming months.

Test criteria explained

The CHOICE Expert Rating, our overall score which determines the stain removers we recommend, is based on how well the products remove the following stains:

  • sweat (25%)
  • grass/mud (20%)
  • olive oil (cooking oil) (20%)
  • blood (5%)
  • tomato (5%)
  • mineral oil (5%)
  • chocolate ice cream (5%)
  • baby food (5%)
  • make-up (5%)
  • ground nut-oil (which simulates collar grime (5%).

Survey feedback from CHOICE members tells us that sweat, grass/mud and cooking oil stains are the most common household stains, so we've weighted these more highly in the CHOICE Expert Rating than the rest.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.