How to Remove Water Stains From Fabric & Clothes: 4 Ways

If someone pours water on your couch, you simply dab and blot the area. It’s water, after all! We wash our garments and utensils with it, so how bad could it get? So here you are now with a remorseful face searching online for how to remove water stains from fabric & clothes. What led you here?

how to remove water stains from fabric

I bet on my homemade sourdough bread that you neglected to treat the water stain in an earlier stage. I made the same error in the beginning – more than I can count.

It’s now time for payback. Let go of your guilt-trip experience and read along to learn about these hideous water stains.

What Causes Water Stains on Fabric?

I’m not going to start a scientific narration with historical arguments here. As much as I love doing that to prove my point, it won’t do you any good at the moment.

What Causes Water Stains on Fabric

So, let’s bend toward the shortcut path. You’ll still have to learn a few bits about why water that eliminates stains causes stains.

First, get acquainted with these two terms because water is not created the same way around the States:

Hard Water

When water that we use contains exceptionally high magnesium and calcium, we call it hard water. About 85% of the entire US water supply is hard. However, consuming this water is not harmful but rather tasty!

Unfortunately, hard water, when dried, leaves an ugly brown stain. It is surprisingly tenacious to go away on its accord. Then the irksome blemish continues to taunt you by being visible from any distance or side of your eyesight.

Soft Water

This is when water contains mild or little magnesium and calcium. Usually, we make hard water soft by filtration systems often integrated with washing machines, dishwashers, or plumbing systems.

And it tastes like soulless water with a hint of salt.

Secondly, understand whether soft water is all that innocent with extreme minerals stripped of its content. The answer is no. Here are the reasons why:

  • Just because you have a softener for hard water, it doesn’t always save you from spotty disasters. Soft water still comprises minerals. There may not be a shockingly brown stain, but it’ll be noticeable nonetheless.
  • Perhaps the fabric isn’t suitable for washing (bleeds dye whenever in contact with water). You’ll find spots or a big splash of a discolored region on the piece like an explosive mushroom.
  • Maybe the filtration system is clogged or has built up fungi. It happens when we overlook periodic maintenance checkups. This will force the hard water to infiltrate without you knowing. So, we’re back to the brownish mishap.

Are Water Stains Permanent on Clothes?

The permanency of water stains relies on how long you leave the smudge out there. It also depends on other significant factors. We’ll get there in the next section.

If that ring of a blotchy mark is bothering you to the point you can’t concentrate on anything, water stains aren’t permanent.

Are Water Stains Permanent on Clothes

However, the efforts you make will vary on the stain duration.

Therefore, if you spilled water on your favorite clothing and forgot to wash it off afterward, that’s totally okay! So what if it gets little boogie-shaped brown stains with spotty ambiances?

You have this article guide to show you how to rid of that for good.

Do Water Marks Come off Clothes & fabric?

Of course, the marks will eventually come off, but we better keep these points in mind to apply the right method.

Do Water Marks Come off Clothes

Stain Duration

If it’s a day-old stain, you can remove it quickly. Conversely, an ancient mark on old clothing/fabric is another matter. You might have to work on it a bit longer (probably hours, you never know).

Fabric Type

Sofa or couch fabrics are totally different from carpet fibers. Also, your wearable clothes offer a handful of varieties as well.

So the confusion on what to do will cause a headache if you don’t stick to the practical solution.

Always check the tags on the fabric or clothes to learn their type. So, snipping off the tags from these items is not often a smart move. Avoid doing it unless they’re itchy (especially kids’ garments).

Sometimes, touching the fabric helps you understand whether it’s cotton, polyester, or a blend of something else.

Dirt Level/Type on Fabric

Perhaps the water is soft, or the fabric/clothing doesn’t discolor. Yet when water spills cause a stain, you begin to wonder why.

Well, are the garments clean? What about the rugs, carpets, or couch fabric? These items are not suitable for frequent washing. So the fibers are often clogged with dirt particles.

So the water that creates the stained ring actually forms a cleaner version of the fabric piece. Unfortunately, the washed-up dirt particles end up around the spilled edge, forming a brown shape.

Can Water Stains be Removed from Fabric?

Fabrics come in so many types that it’s difficult to name them all in one sitting. But a water stain will still be there like it means business.

Can Water Stains be Removed from Fabric

You can successfully tackle those water spots, whether it’s velvet, twill, cotton, silk, polyester, linen, cashmere, nylon, or olefin. Just make sure to avoid machine-drying the fabric pieces/garment before resolving the stain issue.

That will make things complicated.

How to Remove Water Stains from Fabric & Clothes: 4 Best Ways

Without further ado, let’s see what you can do with these simple house items. I reckon you already own them!

how to get water stains out of clothes

Method 1: With Laundry Detergent

Ah, why I didn’t think of the obvious. Of course, laundry detergent was my initial and only idea at first. It didn’t work as I had hoped.

Then I altered the regular washing cycle to something simple yet effective. Want to know more?

You’ll Need:

Laundry detergent (lots of it), fabric softener, hot water, and your good ol’ washing machine.

Step by Step

This may not work for all colored clothes, but most of the laundry gets that good-as-new look after the final cycle.

  • Your first task is to fill that washer with hot water. Make it hot enough to kill stain particles but not too hot to damage the fabric or machine interior.
  • Add a cup of your preferred fabric softener (try avoiding Borax).
  • Now add four times as much detergent as you usually utilize.
  • Dump your clothes gently into the mixture. Agitate them to make everything wet.
  • Let it all soak overnight or for about twelve hours (this is my secret weapon).
  • Next, drain the water and go into spin mode. Don’t agitate or move the clothes at all.
  • Add a cup of fabric softener again – no detergent this time.
  • Finally, opt for the regular wash cycle for the load.
  • You can wash it again if you notice soap suds here and there.

Method 2: Iron and Distilled Water

This is a super easy process so long you own an iron board and an iron. You can obtain distilled water from stores nearby.

You’ll Need:

An iron board (or a flat surface to iron), a clean and light-colored towel, distilled water, a microfiber cloth for cleaning (or a lint-free cloth), and a spoon.

Step by Step

Just remember to use this method only on fabrics/clothing that can withstand ironing.

  • Place the towel over the iron board or the flat surface you’ll use.
  • Put the stained section face down on the towel after turning the clothing inside out.
  • The stain must touch the towel for this to work.
  • Dip the microfiber cloth in distilled water and dampen the stained area. Don’t soak it, though.
  • Take your iron and fill its water-storing compartment with distilled water.
  • Heat up the iron to a stable setting that suits the garment. Then iron over the water spot in a consistent motion to dry.
  • Go through the dampen-and-iron process repeatedly till the spot is almost gone.
  • If any residues are left, turn the fabric right side out and rub the area with a spoon back.

Method 3: With Vinegar

White vinegar is one of my favorite kitchen ingredients that I store in abundance. It’s the worthy hero in 90% of the mess I make at home.

You’ll Need:

White vinegar (distilled), water (distilled if it’s hard water), a soft brush/cloth, and a spray bottle.

Step by Step

The vinegar solution is highly recommended for carpet or upholstery fabrics. Use the 0.5 cup vinegar to 2 cup water ratio for upholstery fabrics. However, carpets might require a 50/50 mix of both.

  • Mix vinegar and water in the spray bottle.
  • Your first job is to test the solution on an inconspicuous region of the same fabric. Let the spraying dry and see if the effect leaves any discoloration or stain.
  • Once you are confirmed it doesn’t gently spray onto the original water spot to form a mist. No soaking or saturating!
  • Rub the area with a brush or a clean cloth to absorb the solution.
  • Repeat the steps until the stain is no longer visible.

Method 4: Baking Soda

This is another culinary staple in my kitchen that I buy in such bulk I still have much to spare. Let’s check out what you need to do.

You’ll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • water
  • Small bowl.

Step by Step

You can substitute water with white vinegar if the stain is extremely old and stubborn.

  • Add 2 tbsp of baking soda to the bowl.
  • Pour a little water to form a paste.
  • Rub the stained area, then let the paste sit in for a while (ten minutes approx.).
  • Then toss the clothing in the washer with a normal wash cycle.

Next Read: How to Get Permanent Marker Off Clothes & Fabric

How to Get Brown Water Stains out of Cloth

Brown watermarks are the worst enemy of light-colored fabric or garments. As I have mentioned before, hard water is the only reason for the dirt-like irregular ring formation. What method is deemed suitable for this situation?

How to Get Brown Water Stains out of Cloth

My personal favorite is the vinegar solution. Here’s what you should do:

  • Mix half a cup of distilled white vinegar with 2 cups of distilled water.
  • Pour them into a spray bottle to mist over the stained area.
  • Or you can use a clean cloth to dip into the solution and dab over the affected section.
  • Rub with another dry cloth to blot the stain. Repeat the process if necessary.

How to Get Old Water Stains Out of Fabric

Imagine the stain sets in for a while, and you notice it only days later, maybe months! You must consider factors like fabric/garment type and damage level before applying the correct method.

How to Get Old Water Stains Out of Fabric

Therefore you can choose any of the four options I mentioned above, depending on the fabric you wish to clean. My personal recommendation is the laundry detergent and vinegar ones. They are quite apt for ridding of old brown water spots.

How to Remove Water Marks from Linen?

Linen fabric usually resists stains of any kind, but there are times when this fabric gives out. Here’s what you should try:

How to Remove Water Marks from Linen

Machine Washable

  • Give the regular wash cycle a try with gentle laundry detergent.
  • Does it not work? Take a bucket and fill it with one part baking soda, two parts lemon juice, and two parts water.
  • Or create a solution of distilled white vinegar and water.
  • Next, soak the fabric for an hour (always test a discreet area for discoloration).
  • Wring them out; use cool wash (on your washer), then dry well or tumble dry.

Non-Machine Washable

You can try the laundry detergent method here but using a bucket. Soak the linen items in for an hour, then rinse with cold water. Use the fabric tag’s direction to dry it afterward.

How to Get Rid of Water Stains on Polyester

Most clothing brands offer polyester wardrobes and other items. This is why it is more common to get various stains, spots, etc., on them.

How to Get Rid of Water Stains on Polyester

How do you remove the water stain when polyester is involved? You can try the iron and distilled water technique here. Most iron models come with fabric settings nowadays.

If yours has a polyester setting, don’t hesitate to use it!

How to Get Watermarks out of Shirt?

The best option is to apply the distilled white vinegar and distilled water solution. In fact, this method is such a powerful repeller that I always have a spray bottle ready in advance.

I’m a clumsy person, hence the precaution. Anyhow, if you’re always spilling water on your shirts, even when walking on a flat surface, this is your stop

How to Get Watermarks out of Shirt

Keep in mind the 0.5 cup vinegar to 2 cups of water measurement; you’re all set then. If you don’t have a spray bottle nearby, you can always substitute it with a clean cloth.

So instead of spraying, you dab the content bit by bit, followed by the blotting process. Repeat the steps if required.

How to Avoid Water Stains on Fabric?

If you can prevent a disaster from happening, would you not take that protective measure? Therefore:

How to Avoid Water Stains on Fabric
  • Vent the rooms well to prevent moisture settlement.
  • Try to install a hard water softening filtration system to the plumbing lines when possible.
  • Always clean the spills on fabrics as quickly as you can.
  • Avoid drinking water or any activity relating to hard water in a moving car.
  • Tell the kids to play water fight outside, not around the living room.
  • Don’t let any leaky situation get out of hand.
  • Try not to avoid the glaring spot, delaying it for the next day to deal with.
  • Keep white vinegar, baking soda, etc., at home for any odor or stain emergencies.

Final Words

Let’s hope the guide for how to remove water stains from clothes & fabric is what you’ve been looking for all this time. These techniques are simple and don’t cost a fortune to apply.

So, the next time you get a hard water stain, you can grin back at that brown ring and set to work.

Hi, I'm Robert Jameson. I'm a textile engineer. As a textile engineer, I design & create fabric. When I'm not busy with my family members, I research, write, and edit content for Fabric Fits.

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