Skip to Content

How to Get Stains Out of Vintage T-Shirts – Best Way

Sharing is caring!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Do you have favorite vintage t-shirt with stains on it? From coffee to sweat stains, it can be frustrating to find solution to get stains out of your vintage t-shirts. 

Whether you own vintage white t-shirts or graphic t-shirts, these tees require specific care and attention that is different from a brand new garment. Let’s explore ways to preserve that vintage luster and keep the t-shirt stain free!

How do you get stains out of vintage t-shirts? Depending on the type of stain, there are various techniques to use such as lemon juice, white vinegar, baking soda, and salt. It’s important to always spot-clean before washing and drying the garment to avoid set-in stains that become permanent. 

So you have picked out that vintage t-shirt for todays outfit, and are now ready to maneuver through the day. And just as you grab a cup of coffee, its’ contents spill all over you. 

Well, taking off the t-shirt and immediately soaking it is the first thing that comes to mind. Amidst all that rush, you might miss some crucial considerations that may cost you that favorite t-shirt. 

To prevent any mishaps, I have compiled a guide for eliminating various types of stains off your vintage t-shirts. Answered below are frequently asked questions about getting stains out of vintage t-shirts and what you will need to complete the process.

Do you remove stains from the t-shirt before washing it?

Yes, after determining where the stain originated from, apply the appropriate method on the stained area. Ensure the stain removal products cover the stains completely so that the blemish can be completely removed.

Always test a small amount on a hidden surface of the garment to make sure the cleaning method does not discolor or damage the t-shirt. 

OxiClean stain remover powder works miracles, but you will want to place the t-shirt in secluded area for up to 24 hours to fully saturate the stained area. After that, wash the t-shirt to determine if the stain was cleared or not. 

Washing it by hand is the best option since you can easily assess whether the stain was cleared away. If it’s removed, go ahead and rinse the tee and hang it to dry.

What do you need to remove stains from old t-shirts?

There are several ways you can get rid of those stains from your old t-shirts. In fact, it doesn’t really matter whether the stain is fresh or old. 

Below are some of the clothing cleaning tips you might be needing:

  • OxiClean: It is as powerful as bleach, but safe to use on all colors. Also, bit  expensive but really worth it as it works perfectly on grass, dirt, and any other mysterious stains that may have stuck to your shirt.
  • Bleach: If you are working on a white t-shirt, then bleach is the most effective method to incorporate. Bleach should not be used on other colored t-shirts as it will whiten them. Extra care is needed when using bleach as it corrodes fabric when used too heavily.
  • Rit and Carbona rust removers: Sometimes we leave t-shirts on metal hangers for extended periods. The presence of humidity corrodes the hanger, leaving rust stains on the clothing. Rit rust remover saves it all by removing even the oldest of stains.
  • Toothbrush: An old toothbrush might come in handy when applying whatever stain removing solution or mixture you will be using. It is also used in scrubbing off the stained area. Make sure to rub gently to avoid from pilling that fabric and stretching out that area too much.
  • White vinegar: This works wonders on old and faint stains and prevents new stains from forming. It’s cheap and readily available, but the only downside is that it may require extended soaking and rinsing periods to completely remove odor and stains.
  • Lemon: The PH levels do not allow the stain to form and latch to the material. Just grab a lemon wedge and rub it on the stained area, then quickly excuse yourself to the washroom to rinse off the area with some water.

These are some basic tools you need to get stains out of a vintage t-shirt. However, not all stains react the same to these solutions. 

Whether the stain is oil or non-oil based, there are solutions that work specifically for each circumstance. 

How to get stains out of vintage t-shirt

Getting that t-shirt to its original state will require some patience, especially if you are working on a large stained area. 

Here are cleaning tips to remove various types of stains:

  • Grass stains: These stains are easy to remove. All you need is to rub alcohol onto the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes, then wash normally.
  • Lipstick stains: Peanut butter rubbed on the stained area does well. Just ensure it doesn’t dry and wash the fabric with some warm water and washing liquid. Petroleum jelly and vegetable oil are other great substitutes, but be keen to react swiftly so no oil is left on the fabric.
  • Ink stains: Hair spray or some nail polish remover can effectively remove ink stains on the fabric. Just spray the affected area with some hair spray or blot it with cotton soaked with nail polish. Soak the excess liquid on a dry cloth after that, then wash your t-shirt like normal if the ink stain has been removed.
  • Grease and oil: If grease and oil spill onto your vintage shirt, get some paper towels and blot out what can be absorbed. Cover the stain with cornstarch or some baby powder and leave it to sit for a while. Pour out any excess starch or powder and pour some detergent onto the stain. Next, use a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain, not forgetting the other side of the fabric as well. You can then wash as usual with some warm water and then dry accordingly.
  • Sweat stains: The easiest way to remove sweat stains is by making a paste from dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. Apply it to the armpit area of the t-shirt, leave the paste to sit for a few minutes, then wash and rinse. Since sweat is a protein stain, avoid using any warm water, dryer or hot iron as it may make the stain permanent.
  • Rust: Applying lemon juice to the rust stain, then drying them out in the sun to bleach out the coloration. After the stain has dried, go ahead and wash, then rinse the t-shirt. A salt and vinegar mixture also does great. Just mix the two ingredients into a paste, apply all over the stain and leave it to sit for 30 minutes. Wash and let it dry.
  • Blood: Blood is one thing you cannot prevent. It is best to remove the stain while it’s still fresh and before it dries up. Holding the fabric under running water is enough to eliminate a fresh stain. Soak in cold water then wash it with some enzyme detergent. Hydrogen peroxide is one readily available oxidizer and an excellent blood stain remover. It reacts with the blood enzyme catalase that speeds up its breakdown into heat, water, and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide also works well with dry stains. 
How to get stains out of vintage shirts

Removing Stains fro Vintage T-Shirts: Conclusion

Vintage t-shirts are one-of-a-kind garments that have a lot more value and add a unique touch to your overall outfit. But caring for and pre-treating them is not as easy. 

To maintain their vintage quality, it is recommended to spot-clean and remove any stains prior to hand washing or machine washing these t-shirts. 

There are natural ways to handle these unwanted stains that you can easily find at home. From lemon juice to white vinegar, start by investigating the stain prior to applying these solution.

Not every mixture will work the same way. Grass stains and ink stains are easily removed with alcohol compare to lipstick stains which requires oil to remove the marking.

For grease or oil based stains, sprinkle cornstarch or baby powder and gently scrub off with an old soft toothbrush. On the other hand, sweat stains can be removed with a mixture of dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda.

Always test the cleaning solution on a hidden part of the vintage tee to make sure that the cleaner doesn’t cause more damage to the shirt. Once you have verified that the cleaner works, then use it to treat the stained area and remove any spots or blemishes. 

We have completely covered how to remove stains on your vintage t-shirts. I hope the next time you notice one on your old tees that you will be equipped with clothing cleaning techniques to remove the stain and make you vintage tee spot free.

Sharing is caring!


Friday 10th of September 2021

I have a vintage t shirt from the 1970’s rock group called Kansas , the collar has yellow stains and the back, How do I remove the stains without damaging the graphics , The shirt is properly around 40 some years old.


Saturday 11th of September 2021

Hello Randy,

Sorry about the stains on your vintage t-shirt. The yellow stains on a t-shirt can be really tough to remove, especially on a white background t-shirt in which the stains have set or washed and dried into the material.

I would investigate what the content of the material is before washing them and applying the homemade stain removal. I wouldn’t use any chlorine bleach, but instead try a mixture of baking soda and warm water (equal ratio) to apply small amount on the yellow stain and brush gently. Afterwards, let the t-shirt sit for an hour and wash in cold water and air dry.

Hope this work and let me know if you have any other questions! Kindly, Soonjoo