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Cotton clothes hanging out to dry.

Fabric Care Guide: How to Remove Stains and Wash Cotton

Cotton is everywhere: in your bedsheets, your towels, your shirts, and probably a sizeable section of your underwear drawer. Durable, breathable, and comfortable, it’s a fabric for all occasions. So many occasions, in fact, that knowing how to wash cotton properly (and deal with the odd stain) is practically essential. So how do you care for cotton? Here’s the lowdown.


How to wash cotton: The basics

The brilliant thing about cotton is that it can usually be washed in the machine with very little fanfare. If you’re worried about shrinking, keep the heat setting relatively low (30°C) and use a high-quality detergent like Persil bio liquid, which will remove stains effectively even at lower temperatures. Dry on the line, or tumble dry on a low setting.

You can wash 100% cotton garments by hand if you’re really worried about shrinkage, but this shouldn’t be necessary – cotton is pretty durable, and as long as you keep the temperature moderate, it shouldn’t shrink or become damaged. 

Cotton sheets and towels can be washed on a 30 or 40°C as well, but it’s a good idea to wash them at 60°C to help kill off germs and bacteria, especially if someone in your house has been ill. 

For washes at higher temperatures, a non-biological detergent such as Persil liquid is your best bet, as the enzymes that make biological detergents so effective don’t work as well in high heat.


How to care for cotton and remove stains

Because it’s such a popular fabric, chances are you’ll need to deal with stained cotton at some point – but what’s the best way to get ink out of a white shirt, or wine stains out of a cotton t-shirt? Here are a few common stains you might run into and how to deal with them.

How to remove grease stains from cotton

  1. Pre-treat the stain. Dishwashing soap or Persil bio liquid work well on grease. Gently rub your chosen treatment into the stained area and leave for a few minutes.
  2. Wash. Use the hottest temperature recommended on the care label. The stain should come out easily, but if there’s still a mark, repeat the process.

You can find out more about how to remove grease stains from cotton and other fabrics with this guide.


How to remove ink stains from cotton

  1. Gently blot the stain with a clean cloth or towel. Don’t rub it, as this will push the stain further into the fibres – just use a gentle pressure to remove any excess ink.
  2. Treat the stain. If the ink is water-based, use Persil bio liquid – rub a little of the detergent into the stain using your Stain Eraser Ball and leave for a few minutes. If the ink is oil-based, pre-treat the stain with rubbing alcohol or hairspray instead.
  3. Wash as usual. Pop the item into the machine while the pre-treatment is still wet.

Want more detail? You can find out more about how to remove ink stains from cotton with this guide.


Treating red wine stains on cotton

  1. Keep it damp. Act as quickly as possible – flush the stain with cool water, or blot it with a clean, damp cloth.
  2. Treat the stain. Gently rub in Persil bio liquid using the stain eraser ball.
  3. Wash at 30°C. A higher temperature could set the stain.
  4. Check, soak and repeat as needed. If the stain is still there, try soaking the garment for a few hours or overnight in a solution of Persil liquid and cool water before putting it through the wash again.

If you’d like to know more, you can find more information on removing red wine stains on cotton and other fabrics with this guide.


There you have it: a comprehensive guide on how to wash cotton and remove all manner of different stains. Now there’s no need to worry about how to care for cotton – as long as you have Persil on your side, that is!

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