Which stain remover gets the job done?

Marketing and branding may not be the best way to choose your stain remover -- you'll want to know which is the best when your favorite tee has been stained.

Kathy Lynch's triplets love to play outdoors, but she's not too crazy about all the stains they manage to get on their clothes.

"Food, dirt, grass, you name it, they're into it," Lynch says.

To find out whether laundry pretreatments can make a difference, Consumer Reports tested more than a dozen, including big-name brands like Shout and Tide.

"All of them are supposed to be applied directly to the stain and left for several minutes before washing," said Mandy Walker.

Testers took swatches of fabric soaked with tough-to-remove stains, including coffee, blood, wine, motor oil and cocoa. The testers applied the same amount of each cleaner to the stain, let it sit for five minutes, and then washed the swatches with detergent and a full load of towels.

"We also washed the stained fabric with detergent, but without pre-treating the stains, to see if the products really made a difference," Walker said.

Testers analyzed the swatches with a color-meter to determine how much of the stain was removed.

"While Resolve Foaming Aerosol says it's amazing, it wasn't," Walker said. "In fact, it didn't do a great job on most of the stains." Shout's Advanced Stain Lifting Aerosol didn't do much better. In fact, none of the stain treatments did a great job removing cocoa.

"Still, most of the stain treatments did do better than just using detergent alone," Walker said.

In the end, it was Resolve Laundry Stain Remover in the spray bottle that removed the most stains, and at 10 cents an ounce, it's the cheapest one tested. Good to have on hand, especially with kids who can make a mess.

Another stain remover that did almost as well in the Consumer Reports tests was Shout Advanced Action. Unlike Resolve, Shout can be applied up to a week before you do your laundry.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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