Science Fair Experiment on Stain Removal

Mustard is a common stain that is difficult to remove.
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Students, teachers and parents are all interested in knowing which stain remover product best cleans dirty clothes. Luckily, testing household products can easily be turned into a science fair experiment. Using common items like cloth, stain remover, and staining products -- like mustard, ketchup, grape juice, coffee and bacon grease -- students can conduct a simple experiment and reveal which stain remover is most effective.

1 Science Fair Experiment

To conduct the science fair experiment, a student should first slice a white cloth into a series of similarly sized pieces. Students should have enough pieces to test each type of stain -- ketchup, mustard, etc. -- with each of the types of remover -- vinegar, water, OxyClean or other commercial stain removers, and vinegar and baking soda mix. If a student has three different types of stain and four different removers, she should have 12 pieces of cloth. On each piece apply a stain, with one stain of each type for each remover. After one hour of soaking students should apply the stain remover in the same fashion, by scrubbing with each remover for exactly one minute. Students should then observe which removers best cleaned which types of stains. They can visually rank their effectiveness from 1 to 5.

2 Science Explanation

After the experiment is complete, students can present the science of their project at a science fair. Students should conduct research about stains. They will learn, for example, that some stains actually change the dye in the fabric and cannot be removed. This is true, for example, of some yellow dyes and of many acids, including stomach acid. Other stains vary in their strength and removability based on whether they are greasy, fat- or water-soluble, among other factors.

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan,, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.