Chemicals for protein stain removal

Protein stains relate to that category of stains originating from the living body. Common protein stains are milk, eggs, blood. Perspiration, animal glues and so on. Protein stains are also referred to as albuminous stains.


Protein stains are usually stiff and are only partially absorbed in a fabric. If you scratch a protein stain it may turn white and not readily visible. When you damper it with water it becomes visible. Many spotters when inspecting a garment may steam the garment to reveal these stains.


Protein stains are set by age, heat and alcohol. The chemical composition of many body stains often discolors fabrics. In laboratory tests taken alcohol was put on a blood stain and subjected to heat. The result was a stain that could not be removed even with the most aggressive chemicals used. Many spotting chemicals used may contain alcohol. This includes some oily type paint removers, general formulas and some quick drying wetside lubricant.


  1. Ammonia-This alkali is highly volatile and very effective for protein stain removal. It does have many down sides to it because it is highly alkaline, it is very dangerous to use on wool, silk and garments with bright and vivid colors. It is also very unpleasant to work with due to it is highly volatile odor. It is not considered to be environmentally friendly to the water system.
  2. Prepared protein formulas-These products have replaced ammonia as a protein stain remover. Manufacturers have formulated these products to have a low alkalinity that is safe on wool and silk and most fabrics. It must be noted however that some manufacturers still use ammonia in their formulation.


There are several products on the market that use enzymes for breaking down protein stains. Enzymes change protein stains to a soluble sugar so it can be flushed. This is similar to saliva in your mouth which breaks down food using enzymes. A-low temperature-This is an old time product but it is by far the safest product for protein stain removal. It requires a very strict process to make it work. It is a valuable product to use on a fragile and color sensitive fabric since it does not require mechanical action or high heat.

  • Temperature-100-120F If the enzymes reach temperatures above 120F it is destroyed.
  • Without chemicals-Chemicals destroy enzymes. This means that acids and alkali can not be used with this product.
  • Time-You must wait at least 15 minutes to one half hour.
  • Must be kept wet.


  1. Half a teaspoon of enzyme powder in a spotting bottle of warm water. Add glycerin or neutral lubricant to inhibit evaporation of the water.
  2. Apply to stain
  3. Wait
  4. Flush


Add one teaspoon of enzymes to every gallon of warm water. Make sure pail is absolutely clean and has not contacted other chemicals.


These products are fast and highly effective. They are not affected by heat unless above 160F. Many of these products come in liquid form and can be used as an effective spotting agent. Some high temperature products may be alkaline in nature so when spotting silk and wool caution must be used. It must be noted that many wet clean detergents contain enzymes. This means that these detergents can be used when soaking items with protein stains.


A wetside unidentified stain can be tannin or protein or a combination of both. Some combinations stains can be some hard drink, coffee and milk, chocolate, etc.


  1. flush
  2. neutral lubricant
  3. mechanical action
  4. flush
  5. tannin formula-this is used first because alkaline based protein formulas can set tannin.
  6. Mechanical action
  7. flush
  8. protein formula
  9. mechanical action
  10. flush
  11. hydrogen peroxide-this is the safest bleach and most effective for last traces of blood.
  12. stronger bleaches-test
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Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen, former chief garment analyst for the National Cleaners Association, offers lecture, consultation and garment analysis service. He is the author of The Art of Spotting. He can be reached at (772) 340-0909, by email at or through his website at Dan Eisen, 274 NW Toscane Trail, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986.