Stains on clothes can be a pain to shift – luckily chemistry is on hand to help out! A range of different molecules are present in stain removers and detergents to help shift grease and dirt, and they can work in different ways. This graphic takes a look at how we can categorise different types of stains, and how the molecules that help remove them work.
Stains themselves can be roughly grouped into several classes: enzymatic, oxidisable, greasy, and particulate. This is really something of a simplification – in reality, a particular stain will have a number of components, which may fall into more than one of these categories. For example, a stain from something like a tomato pasta sauce would have a coloured, oxidisable component, but would probably also be a little greasy. As such, stain removers tend to be a mixture of all of the agents we’ll discuss, to tackle these multi-component stains.