Photo: Tamara Bellis (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:joliekerr@gmail.com)  

My husband and I just returned from an amazing 16 day Mediterranean highlights trip of a lifetime … but now I have some questions. 1) How to remove chocolate gelato from white jeans? 2) How to remove tomato sauce? (Again from white jeans. Doh!)

White Jeans SZN is in full swing, and with the big red, white, and blue holiday upon us, I figured this would be a good time to do a primer on how to keep your white jeans looking, well, white.

The Five Common Stains

All manner of stains can afflict your white jeans, but there are some that are more common than others. Here’s what to know when a typical summertime stain—Chocolate ice cream! BBQ sauce! Iced tea!—soils your white jeans.

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Chocolate: Shout spray is all you need! Seriously, I don’t know what exactly it is about Shout, but it is the sworn enemy of chocolate stains. In most cases, simply spraying some Shout on the stain and using your finger, or a damp rag to work it into the fabric will be all it takes to get the chocolate out. If there’s still a lingering chocolate stain, spray the area again with Shout before laundering the jeans.

The Reds: Tomato sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.—let’s just call them The Reds, because that seems fun to do—are, I’ll level with you here, pretty tricky stains. Not impossible to remove! Just tricky. The best thing to do, as simple as it sounds, is to start by flushing the stain with cool running water. Then, spray the stain with hydrogen peroxide and launder the jeans as usual.

The Earth: Dirt, mud, grass, all that earthy stuff, fall into the protein stain category, which means you want to treat them with an enzymatic stain remover like Zout or Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover prior to laundering.

The Drinks: Coffee, tea, red wine (“Jolie! Who is drinking red wine in the summer?” “You…are not familiar with the sangria?”) are all tannin stains which, much like The Reds, can be tricky. The same flush-with-cold-running-water is a good starting place. Then, use either hydrogen peroxide or a specialty stain remover like Wine Away—which is excellent on not only red wine, but also cranberry and pomegranate juices, as well as coffee and tea—to treat the stain before washing.

Blood: It’s hot and I’m about to murder someone so! Hydrogen peroxide is The Thing for blood stain removal, though there are lots of other options. An enzymatic stain remover like Zout or Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover, will work, as will good old soap and water. And I’ll leave you with this weird one: Saliva will remove blood stains. Yup!

General Tips For Keeping Your White Jeans White

Now that we’ve covered what to do about the most common stains that will befoul a pair of white jeans, how about some best practices for keeping your white jeans looking as new as the day you bought them? Sure!

  • White jeans, unlike blue or black or fancifully colored jeans, should be washed regularly since, even if they didn’t get stained when you had them on, they will pick up environmental debris that will lend a dingy quality to them.
  • If the jeans have become stained, you should pre-treat those prior to laundering—and always, always, always check to make sure the stain is gone before putting the jeans in the dryer, as heat can set a stain. If the stain remains after washing, simply re-treat it and wash them again. Sometimes a second pass is what’s needed to fully remove tricky stains.
  • Use a good laundry detergent, like Tide Ultra Stain Release.
  • But! Do not overuse your good laundry detergent, as overusing products can result in buildup that will lend a dingy appearance to whites.
  • If your washing machine has an extra rinse setting, use it—the extra rinse can help to wash away lingering products and will make whites appear brighter.
  • In addition to stain removers, there are some laundry boosters, i.e. products you use in the wash along with your regular detergent, that are especially good on whites. They are: OxiClean White Revive*; White Brite; Bluette.

*A note on the use of oxygen and chlorine bleaches: Skip them if there’s any chance your white jeans have come in contact with sunscreen, as there’s an ingredient commonly found in sunscreens called avobenzone that will turn orangey-yellow when it comes in contact with those products. Instead, stick with White Brite or Bluette if you want to brighten up a pair of white jeans that has been worn with sunscreen.