Speed is always of the essence, especially when an essence you don't want is on your clothes. If treated properly, quickly, and specifically, most stains can be removed from clothing.
**Editor's note: Before using any magical stain removing concoction, regardless of who recommends it, you should always test the potion on an inconspicuous part of the garment. It is impossible to predict how certain chemicals will effect certain fabrics. Err on the side of caution.
If we've said it once...
If the tag says, "Dry Clean Only", NEVER try to remove a stain yourself. Any moisture on the fabric could damage the color or texture of the fabric. Take it to your dry cleaner as soon as possible. It'll help if you identify the stain. This allows the dry cleaner to pick the most effective chemical to erase your faux pas.
Treat as soon as possible. Alcohol stains may look colorless at first, but can turn brown overnight. If you catch the stain while it's still wet, blot it several times with warm water. This should take care of most stains. For stains that have dried, soak in stain remover and rinse with warm water before washing. You can also add a little gentle detergent, like Ivory Snow.
Soak with white wine or white wine vinegar immediately. If that doesn't work, wash with cold water and ammonia. Rinse thoroughly.
How it happens we don't know, but this sticky stain is more common than you think. Harden the gum with an ice cube and scrape of as much as possible without damaging the cloth. On washable clothes, soak in kerosene and wash in hot soapy water. If it's dry clean only, TAKE IT TO THE DRY CLEANERS!
Coffee and Tea
For cotton or linen, rinse with warm water while the stain is still wet. Then pour VERY hot water on the stain, holding the pot of water 2-3 feet in the air. (Be sure you've taken the garment off at this point). Then wash in warm water. If stain remains, white garments can be bleached.
Apply spot stain remover and warm water. If stain remains, use non-chlorine bleach.
While stain is wet, rinse with cool water. For bleachable items, soak in bleach.
Soak in color-safe bleach or diaper wash.
Blot with lukewarm water, then wash.
Ballpoint pen ink
Saturate with an alcohol-based hairspray. Place rag underneath the stain to catch the excess hairspray. Then blot the stain with a damp cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone, then wash as normal. A word of caution: hairspray may damage some fabrics, so you should test it in an inconspicuous area first.
Treat bloodstains immediately. Run cold water through the stain and scrape off crusted material. Soak for 15 minutes in a mixture of 1 quart of lukewarm water, 1/2-teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia. Use lukewarm water, as hot water will set the stain. Rub gently from the back to loosen stain.
Soak another 15 minutes in above mixture. Rinse. Launder in cool water. Check to make sure stain is gone before machine drying the stain. If the bloodstain is still present, wet it with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. DO NOT leave this mixture on longer than 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water.
If bloodstain has dried, pre-treat with pre-wash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, and water. Launder using bleach safe for fabric. Pray.
Butter, Cooking Oils/Fats, Margarine, Mayonnaise, Vegetable Oil
Treat light stains with a pretreatment spray stain remover and wait a few minutes for it to penetrate. Rub with a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent. Launder. If stain remains, launder with chlorine bleach if safe for the fabric, or use on all-fabric bleach. Always test for colorfastness before using bleach.
Use an apron when you cook. This does not make you look feminine. It makes you look smart (not to mention, like someone who actually knows what he's doing in a kitchen.)
If you're eating messy food and there's no one around, tuck a napkin into your shirt collar. Tacky? Yes. Tackier than a ketchup stain on a dress shirt? No.
Don't eat while you're driving. Not only is it unsafe, it is a recipe for laundry disaster.
Keep an extra tie and white dress shirt in your office for crisis management. There's no reason to display your breakfast mishap all day if you don't have to.