How to Remove Water Stains From Fabric

2.3 based on 27 ratings

Updated on May 31, 2013

Grade Level: 7th to 9th grade; Type: Chemistry

Students will find out which is the best way to get rid of water stains (stains caused by just water) on fabric.

It is common knowledge that people wash stains out of clothing with water. But what if the actual stain is caused by water? This can happen as the water molecules enter the fibers of the fabric and displace these fibers. The movement causes the microscopic fibers to have a different orientation and manifests in the form of a faded spot on fabric. The water itself does not cause the stain unless it is dirty water.

Water stains/spots have the tendency to form more often on delicate fabrics such as silk and rayon. On washable fabrics, the stain can be washed out easily like people ordinary do their laundry. But on non-washable fabrics, this may be tricky. So tricky that even some professional dry-cleaners cannot manage to get rid of it. In this experiment, we'll find the best way to get rid of water stains--while also uncovering what causes them.

  • A piece of dry-clean only, but ironable rayon or satin fabric
  • Muslin cloth
  • Fabric marker
  • Some water
  • Vinegar
  • Borax (Sodium Borate)
  • A clothes iron
  • A tea kettle
  • A spoon
  • Paper and pencil for notes

  1. First, we must create the water stains. Take the fabric you chose and cut it into 5 6x6 inch squares.

  2. Put a few drops of water on each fabric square. Rub it in as if you're trying to get a stain out. You will notice that instead, you are left with a faint stain that is just a couple of shades darker than the original fabric color. Let that dry.

  3. After you have let the stains “set” in..we will now attempt to remove it.

  4. The first method we are going to test is to ironically, add more water to the stain. Just dampen the entire stained area with water and let it air dry. Do not rub it. Label the fabric “water on water” and set aside.

  5. Take the next stained fabric sample and try the second technique, which is to first dampen the fabric and iron it out. After ironing for some time, whatever the result is; just set aside and proceed to the next test. Label the fabric “ironed.”

  6. In this third sample, we will try steam from a water kettle. Boil some water, put a piece of muslin cloth over the spout of the kettle and allow the steam to hit the stain for awhile. After a few minutes of this, tap the area with the spoon to “displace” the fibers. Do this for a few minutes. Whatever the result is, label it “steamed” and set aside.

  7. In the fourth sample, we are going to use Borax. Apply it to the stain and rub it very gently with a cloth. Label this “Borax” and set aside.

  8. Finally, for this last sample, we are going to use vinegar. Dip a regular cloth in the vinegar and rub the stain very gently. After that, rinse the stained fabric sample in cool water and allow to air dry. Label “vinegar” and set aside.

  9. After allowing the samples to dry for about an hour, observe the effects of the treatments done on each fabric sample. Which was the most effective? The least effective?

  10. Record your results.



(On Scale of 1-5)

Comments/ Notes

a) Water/Water

b) Ironed

c) Steamed

d) Borax

e) Vinegar

Terms/Concepts: Water Molecules; Water bonds; Universal Solvent; Steam; Fabric & Fibers; Sodium Borate


Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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