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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Get Grass Stains Out of Shirts, Jeans, and Shoes

  • The Hate Stains Co.
  • 8 min read

Grass stains are a fact of life. Whether you have kids that like to tumble about in your background or a public park or you take care to always walk on the sidewalk, grass stains can explicable appear on shoes, on the knees and elbows and clothing, and even on your socks. The trick to removing a grass stain and rescuing your favorite gear is cleaning the spot as quickly as possible. Use this guide to follow our quick dos and don'ts, learn about how to get grass stains out of specific articles of clothing, and how The Hate Stains Co. is here to help. (For example, our Emergency Stain Rescue kit is a great grass stain removal product that can stay in your car so you can spray or wipe away stains no matter where you go.)

person wearing white pants with grass stains while holding grass in hand

Are Grass Stains Permanent?

Yes and no. If you start treating a grass stain quickly before it sets, you can have an excellent chance of completely removing the stain. At the very least, you can usually remove enough of the stain so it's hard to spot and you can keep the clothes or shoes in circulation. But if the stain fully sets, the task gets much more difficult. For sensitive fabrics, you might not even be able to remove it without damaging the fabric beyond repair.

woman with grass stains on white jeans in her yard

Why Are Grass Stains Hard to Remove?

Grass stains are hard to remove because they're made up of complex chemicals. Chlorophyll, which gives grass its bright green color, is a naturally occurring pigment, which concentrates its staining power. Grass also has two more powerful types of pigments: carotenoids, and xanthophylls. Not only are these chemicals designed to spread color, but they also bind to naturally occurring materials like cotton and wool and will set deep into the threads and fibers.

Grass stains are further complicated by:

  • Dirt, mud, and blood: Grass stains don't happen in a vacuum. Sliding to home base, tripping off a scooter, and rough play outside aren't likely to just leave behind grass stains. Clothes and shoes are just as likely to pick up dirt and mud. While these stains are fairly simple to handle, they add extra steps. Skinned knees and light bloodstains can also get into the mix, making you have to focus on multiple hard-to-remove stains all at once.
  • Time: Almost every stain is easier to clean when it's fresh. Once a stain dries (especially if the fibers absorb the liquid), things get much more difficult. But treating the stain ASAP is usually impossible, especially if you're away from home or doing so interrupts the outdoor adventure.
  • Fabric Damage: This isn't a risk for shoes and heavy denim. But when thin fabrics, sweaters, and stretchy denim get dragged along the ground, the force of the fall or slide can damage the fibers. This can (i) grind the stain deeper into the fibers and (ii) make the spot more sensitive to rubbing and chemicals.

But that doesn't mean it's time to give up. Rewet the stain to dilute it and give yourself more time. Then read through these strategies on how to get grass stains out.

how to get grass stains out of denim jeans and shorts

How to Get Grass Stains Out?

Here are some quick dos and don'ts for the grass stain removal process. Keep these tips in mind no matter how old the stain is or what it's on.

Do:

  • Keep the grass stain wet if you can. Then it won't dry in the fibers. This can also dilute the chlorophyll and other pigments.
  • Move fast. Treating the stain before it sets will give you the best chance of success.
  • Read the tag so you know what materials you're dealing with. Many DIY solutions and in-store cleaners are only meant for specific fabrics.

Don't:

  • Don't rub at the grass stain with cloth. Gently dab it to slowly but surely remove the green-dyed liquid. Rubbing can damage the fibers, dry the stain faster, and even make the stain bigger. When you've treated the stain with a cleaning and it's time to scrub, opt for a toothbrush because it won't press the stain deeper into the surface.

Do You Use Hot Water or Cold Water to Remove Grass Stains?

Use cold water when you're starting the grass stain removal process from fabric, whether it's jeans, natural or synthetic fibers, or even shoes. Cold water can safely dilute a stain without binding the stain to the fabric's fibers. Cold water can also be safely used with almost any cleaning solution you might use. We recommend cold water for both spot cleaning and soaking. But if the grass stain refuses to budge, check that tag to make sure the garment responds well to hot water. If so, a pretreatment cycle in your washing machine can help loosen the stain.

As a general rule of thumb for any stains, use cold water for water-based stains and warm or hot water for fats, oils, or grease stains.

how to get grass stains out of white clothes

What Is the Best Way to Get Grass Stains Out of Clothes?

Grass stains are tricky, and the stains can quickly set into the fabric before you even have a chance to get rid of them. That's why, for every type of grass stain, speed is the name of the game. But it's also important to have the right materials and tools that take the unique characteristics of the fabric and surface into consideration. After all, wiping away grass stains from the synthetic upper of a sporty tennis shoe is easy; removing grass stains from your linen shirt is much harder. 

Follow these strategies on how to get grass stains out of shirts, denim jeans, and shoes.

How to Get Grass Stains Out of Shirts

If you look down and you see a brand new grass stain on your shirt, follow these steps:

  1. Apply stain remover to the stain. Grass pigments are organic, so you can quickly break them down with an enzyme-based solution that will "eat" and degrade the stain without damaging the shirt's fabric fibers. Some laundry detergents may include enzymes, but it works best with a specialty grass stain formula. Cover the entire stain in a thin coating. Then gently rub the area with your finger or a toothbrush to drive the enzymes into the stain without scratching or distressing the fibers (especially if the shirt is woven or has visible natural fibers).
  2. Let the enzyme do its thing. We stress the importance of speed with grass stains — the faster you start the process, the less likely the stain is to dry and become immovable. But once the cleaner or enzyme is on the stain, it needs approximately fifteen minutes to start the chemical reaction and break down the compounds.
  3. Handwash the spot or run the article of clothing through a washing cycle, depending on the needs of the garment. Choose a cold-water cycle, as heat can make the stain set in more deeply.
  4. Repeat this process until the stain is gone. Once you dry the garment (especially through a dryer), the stain will be set into place.

These instructions apply to most natural-fiber shirts. For shirts with synthetic fibers, the grass stain removal process may just require an application of a cleaner or the stain may easily wash away. 

How to Get Grass Stains Out of Jeans

Don't just hope that the grass stains in your jeans will come out in the wash. Instead, there are a few different treatment options:

  • Enzymatic or Specialty Cleaner: Spot clean the product with your enzyme formula or pretreatment cleaner. Gently scrub it into the jeans so it penetrates the full thickness of the fabric. Then let it sit for at least half an hour so it can reach all of the discolored area. Rinse away the cleaner and gently scrub it with a clean toothbrush.
  • Alcohol: Dab alcohol onto the grass stain until the fabric is completely saturated. After the alcohol dries, rinse the surface and gently scrub detergent into the stain. Continue until the stain lightens or disappears. Once you think the stain is completely gone, let the spot air dry. This lets you examine for any lingering stains once it dries (which turns the material lighter) without heat setting the stain in the dryer.
  • DIY Baking Soda Paste: Baking soda is a good all-around option for pulling stains out of fabrics, especially more durable denim and thick clothes. Create a paste with a three to one ratio of baking soda to water. Then scrub the paste deep into the stain to lift it away. Baking soda typically needs to sit on the stain for 30 minutes as a thin coat (or until it dries). Then you can clear it away and determine if the stain needs further treatment.

Because jeans are more robust than shirts, they can often handle different chemicals and a bit more scrubbing. However, be careful not to wear at the fibers, especially if they were damaged during a fall or scuff.

How to Get Grass Stains Out of Shoes

Shoes are made up of multiple different materials, so they can be challenging to clean. For example, your shoelaces are likely to be made from a loosely woven or knitted cloth, whereas the shoes themselves will have cutouts of different natural and synthetic materials.

First, remove your shoelaces so you can treat them the same way you would a shirt. Removing them early on also makes it easier to examine the inside of your shoe and the edges of the eyelets.

After that, choose the right grass stain removal process based on the material of your shoe:

  • White Fabrics: For grass stains on white cloth shoes, use the same enzymatic cleaners, detergent, or vinegar-based solutions you would use on a garment. Coat the stain in a thin layer of the solution and let it sit for at least 15 minutes so it can neutralize the stain. If your shoes are completely white, you can even use a laundry detergent with bleach to more directly counteract the grass stain.
  • White Suede and Leathers: Grass stains are more likely to sit on top of these fabrics than penetrate deep into them. They're also a bit hardier. You can use a brush with soft bristles to scrub away the stain.
  • For Synthetic Materials: If you have an athletic tennis shoe, chances are the grass stains will rub away with a bit of soapy water. However, be careful to wipe away the stains and the cleaners away from any open edges of the panels. These edges often have exposed fibers and fabrics that will be more difficult to clean.
  • For Shoes with a Rubber Outsole or Midsole: Given enough time, grass stains can be permanent set into these seemingly impenetrable surfaces. While you can leave them for last, be sure to use a detergent or soapy water to scrub away grass stains and dirt on the sole of the shoe so you restore it to its original bright white.

Because shoes are complex, always tackle the more visible stains or stains on fabrics first. Then you can focus on the hidden stains or stains on hard plastics and rubber components. 

how to get grass stains out of shoes

Get Grass Stains Out of Your Clothing and Shoes With Help From Hate Stains

Every stain has its own set of rules. Grass stains are filled with complex, naturally-occurring pigments and dry very quickly, making them harder to deal with than other common stains that can plague your garments. If you know grass stains are a common occurrence, we recommend stocking up on spray toothbrushes, the ingredients of your favorite DIY solutions, and our own Emergency Stain Rescue kits so you can treat the stain even when you're away from home. Check out our website which is full of stain removal solutions for everything from berry stains to red wine stains. You can also browse our blog to study up on strategies for stain removal so you're prepared for the next stain emergency — no matter what it looks like.

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