Stains are an unfortunate part of life – even the neatest and most fastidious among us will still fall foul of spills, splashes and general mishaps.
So unless you exclusively wear army fatigues or you've based your wardrobe around mission brown, you're going to have some stubborn stains gracing your laundry.
Pre-wash stain remover sprays are an easy way to battle these blights on your laundry, pronto. To misquote RuPaul, just spray and sashay away.
Some sprays will have you back on the runway in no time, but others will leave your clothes so stained you'll be serving hobo chic realness when you wear them.
So which ones slay, and which ones are a drag to use?
The cult Aldi stain remover spray that beats the big brands
Aldi has done it once again, delivering a product that kills it in both the price and performance departments.
Aldi's cheap-as-chips stain remover spray wiped the floor with products costing more than six times the price.
Aldi Di-San Pro Ultra Degreaser with Enzymes scored a dazzling 75% overall, coming second by just one percentage point to Sard Super Power Stain Remover Toughest Stains which scored 76%.
But at just 29 cents per 100mL, the Aldi spray is less than a sixth of the cost of its rival, and beats products from other big brands such as Vanish and White King.
It's hard to justify spending so much more on the Sard product for such a minuscule difference in performance. The Aldi product actually outperformed Sard in some tests, taking on stains such as tomato, baby food, mineral oil and collar grime more effectively than the more expensive product.
And apparently it doesn't only clean clothes: many people swear by it as a grout cleaner. While we haven't tested it for that purpose, it's only $2.15 a bottle so it won't cost you much to try it for yourself.
Top scoring spray: Sard Super Power Stain Remover Toughest Stains.
These are the three stain remover sprays that our experts recommend:
Sard Super Power Stain Remover Toughest Stains
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 76%
- Price per 100mL: $1.90
Aldi Di-San Pro Ultra Degreaser with Enzymes
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 75%
- Price per 100mL: $0.29
Sard Oils and Grime Stain Remover Expert Action
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 71%
- Price per 100mL: $1.90
To see the full list of products, check our stain remover reviews.
Using a pre-wash stain remover is like bringing in the laundry big guns to show stains who's boss, right? Well, not in the case of three sprays that were unequivocally owned by stains, scoring a grubby 59% overall.
Three sprays were literally no better than not using a stain remover at all
The dirty truth about these sprays will shock you: they were literally no better than not using a stain remover at all.
When we test stain removers, we spray each stain and let it sit for five minutes to do its thing. Then we wash everything using the same detergent. To see if the products are actually effective, we also run a test using no stain remover at all.
You're better off using nothing at all than Sard Wonder Power Fizz Stain Remover.
The most expensive of the three, Sard Wonder Power Fizz, was actually less effective than detergent on just about every single stain. Makes you wonder what you're actually paying for when you buy it!
Here are the sub-par sprays in question, along with their CHOICE Expert Rating:
- Sard Wonder Power Fizz Stain Remover (59%)
- Planet Ark Orange Power Pre-Wash Stain Remover (59%)
- Earth Choice Ultra Power Stain Remover (59%)
- Laundry detergent only (no stain remover) (59%)
Another one worth mentioning is the exxy spray that'll clean out your wallet, but not your laundry.
Costing a wallet-punishing $4.50 per 100mL, StainGo Stain Remover Spot and Prewash scored just 64% overall. That's a huge 15 times more expensive than the Aldi product for far worse performance.
The most common stains
When we asked Australian shoppers what kinds of stains they typically encounter on wash day, the most common culprits were:
- grass and mud
- cooking/food oil
So, which product is best for which stain? And are there other ways to get rid of these common stains?
Your best bet for sweat is Sard Oils and Grime Stain Remover Expert Action spray. It scored 80% when we used it to remove sweat stains in the wash. It also scored 71% overall and is recommended by our experts.
Ironically, a Sard product that's marketed as being specifically for sweat – Sard Sweat and Deodorant Stain Remover – only scored 54% for removing sweat stains. Just goes to show that you should take manufacturers' claims with a pinch of salt!
If you're after a home recipe, you could try mixing 200mL of hydrogen peroxide and 100mL of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle and spraying on the stain. In our test, this home recipe scored 63% overall with good results for grass, mud and tomato stains.
Some stain removers are better at removing certain stains than others.
Try a home recipe
Not all stains are created equal, and some can actually be quite easily treated with some staples from your cleaning cupboard. If you're dealing with grass and mud stains, firstly remove any solid bits. For mud, wait for it to dry and then scrape or brush off as much as you can. Put some liquid laundry detergent on the mud stain and let it sit for 15 minutes, then wash as usual.
You could also try making your own stain removal spray
If that doesn't work, you can try soaking your clothes in detergent overnight. And if it's a particularly stubborn stain, try soaking it in a solution of water and oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) following the label directions, then wash as usual.
You could also try making your own stain removal spray by mixing 200mL of hydrogen peroxide and 100mL of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle and spraying on the stain. In our test, this home recipe scored 63% overall with good results for grass, mud and tomato stains.
Best store-bought option
While it didn't do much for sweat, Sard's Sweat and Deodorant Stain Remover was good for mud and grass, scoring 80% on this test. However, it was only rated at 62% overall so it's not a great buy.
You're better off going with the Aldi stain remover – it scored 79% for removing grass and mud stains, along with its 75% overall score and cheap price.
You don't necessarily need a stain remover to get rid of oil stains – good old-fashioned dishwashing liquid is a great option for removing these greasy marks. Find the best dishwashing liquid from our tests to get the job done.
But if you're doing a pre-wash treatment anyway, our two top-scoring products are the way to go: Sard's Super Power Stain Remover Toughest Stains and Aldi's Di-San Pro Ultra Degreaser with Enzymes gave the best results on olive oil stains in our labs.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.