Tutorial: Vintage Kimono Stain Removal — Gentle Detergent Edition

Some time ago, I wrote up this entry covering the vinegar stain removal method. I love the vinegar method because it’s damn near harmless when employed correctly. But I hate the vinegar method because it can take forfuckingever. Which isn’t to say that I’m not a patient person. The nice part about it taking forever is that I can stage like 5 kimono in my workspace and work on all of them at the same time, because half of the vinegar method is fucking off for a bit while the solvent does its job.

I’ve also convered a method of using a bleach alternative to violently murder stains on white areas. I’m not going to lie, I hate doing that. I hate doing it with my whole ass, which is larger than my heart. It’s smelly, it’s risky if there are other colors on the kimono, and it’s just overall unfuckingpleasant.

So one thing I’ve been working very diligently on are easy to follow instructionals for my other methods. I’ve also been experimenting with existing stain removal products out there that are advertised as safe for silk. Not gonna lie, part of me approaches this with a great deal of caution. Not because I’m afraid of the detergents and solvents. Naaaah, I’ve got lab rat fabrics for that. I’m not risking any valuable pieces for my whimsical fuckery.

No, what I’m feeling a bit cautious over is reactions from the kimono police.


…one person got that joke, and it was ME.

Anyway. There’s this kind of attitude out there that treats kimono like they’re made of magic. Like they’re cursed items, and if you look at them the wrong way, they’ll burst into flames. And as an actual artisan in many respects (illustrator, woodworker, pigment creator, whatev), I side-eye the fuck out of this attitude. It’s silk in acid based dyes, not the fucking shroud of Turin.

You can get some dye bleed out with acetone. Some of your assholes just clenched. Those of you familiar with screen printing went “…actually, yeah!”

With all of that out of the way, today we’re using commercially available detergents without bleaching agents to remove stains. Originally, I intended this for white or cream fabrics only, but it does actually perform pretty well on bright colors as well, provided we’re checking for colorfastness.

Some things to keep in mind before we get started:

-Be patient. Give the shit time to work.
-Always test inside of the seam allowance or an inconspicuous area when working with nonwhite fabrics to check for colorfastness.
-it is imperative that you get between the layers and have a towel or something in between them, especially if you’re working on colors. If you need a tutorial on how to open a seam, I got you, fam.

And with that out of the way, let’s do this.

First, we’re using a detergent that is meant for delicate fabrics such a silk. Silk isn’t so much as delicate as it is just really fucking picky. So I choose this:

Pictured: Regular ass detergent

Blah blah blah detergents and solvents, blah blah blah enzymes in natural fibers. Use this one.

The second item I use for some extra muscle is this:

Pictured: the muscle

This is not a discharge/bleaching/color removing agent on its own. If your area is colorfast, and you’ll know because you should have tested it, then this will not harm anything.

The next thing we’ll need is warm purified water. By warm I mean 90°F/32°C. I literally fill up a squirt bottle with warm water. You will need that squirt bottle.

You will need white towels or paper towels–a lot of them.

A soft brush to apply the mixture and work it to a gentle lather. I use a soft paintbrush.

First, prepare your work station. Pop the seam closest to the stain and get some towels or whatever between the layers under the stain. I tend to just sit on the floor with a shitty little Ikea ironing board and go at it.

Next, prepare your mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of the Woolite Delicates and one and a half capfulls of the Rit brightener to one cup of your warm water. Mix the shit out of it, and try to keep your water warm. I tend to use an insulated cup.

Now we’ll saturate a stain. I’ve chosen two kimono items to highlight this on. The first is a stain I couldn’t identify but I think is probably some kind of sauce. It’s on the hiyoku of a vintage kuromontsuki.

Pictured: Probably not jizz?

I had actually just started to get it wet with the solution when I remembered to take this goddamn picture, and you can see it’s starting to tell the stain to fuck right off already. So yeah basically just soak it and give it a little scrub. Don’t go nuts with the scrubbing, just enough to make some fluffy bubbles. Then let it sit. How long it sits kind of depends on what you’re trying to get rid of. This specific stain was not very interested in making my life hell.

This picture was taken literally 5 minutes later.

Pictured: Fucking right off over here.

You can see it’s still there, but boy did it fuck off fast. I let it sit for about ten minutes, and then comes the rinse. That’s right, you have to rinse it.

I don’t have any good photos of me rinsing it because fuck you I really just couldn’t get a good shot of that on my own, and I insist on doing these things at balls at night or balls in the morning when everyone is still asleep. Sooooo, I’ma just describe what I did.

I have a fist full of paper towels at the ready. Then I take my aforementioned squirt bottle of warm water, make sure it’s set to stream because I want to control where the water hits. Spray that fucker with at least as much water as you used solution. Scrub it up a bit with your brush, then press it with the paper towels. Press it like it owes you money.

Then spray and press it again. I don’t usually have to do it more than twice, but it really depends on how much solution you used.

My result?

Pictured: FUCK YEAH

Like it never goddamn happened.

Now let’s try something a little weirder. This is the bottom trail of the hiyoku from this kurohikifurisode. It has clearly been dragged through some mud or some shit, and vinegar did didn’t do shiiiit to clear it up.

Let’s have a look:

As you can see, it’s pretty bad. So following the exact same instructions as above, let’s fuck some shit up.

You know what I love about this sudsy in progress shot? You can literally tell which side of the back seam I started on. Holy fuck, look at this shit:


This one took two treatments, and that’s because the padding inside was probably dirty too. I was lazy and stupid and didn’t open the layers. So there I was, hoping I didn’t fuck the padding and the shape with all of this wet. I actually got really fucking anxious about it, too.

LOL me watching it dry:

Pictured: a completely appropriate reaction

When I was done rinsing and soaking everything up, hung it to dry in the iko. It’s dry now, and needs a touch of ironing, but I set it on a black box for contrast. It looks new, and the cotton padding inside fluffed right back up!

Pictured: FUCK YEAH


Okay let’s wrap this up with some notes.

-This mixture does work on black, just use cold water instead.
-My experiments so far tell me that this is great for food stains, grass stains, mud stains, makeup stains, some water stains, grease/oil stains, and a handful of other brown shit that I couldn’t really identify.
-My experiments so far tell me that it’s okay-ish at mold and mildew stains, sweat stains, other water stains.
-My experiments so far tell me it is not going to do jack shit about blood, ink, black weird smudges, and–let’s not mince words here–decades old jizz.

And that about does it! Any questions? Something you want to add? Unsure about anything? Hit me up! Leave a comment! Send a carrier pigeon! I can also be contacted by Ouija board because sometimes I’m fucking dead inside.

This not tickling your fancy? Still have stains to destroy? Just because I don’t have a tutorial up yet doesn’t mean I don’t have a solution for you! I have several rituals (okay so typing this on my phone and it picked “rituals” instead of “tutorials” and I’m not fucking changing it) in the works. Send me a message, and we’ll figure some shit out!


5 thoughts on “Tutorial: Vintage Kimono Stain Removal — Gentle Detergent Edition

  1. How did you choose that brand of detergent? I’m on the other side of the world in NZ so it’s not available here, can I use my usual wool/silk detergent? what should I be looking for in it?


      1. I don’t know how many (if any) of them you’ll have over there, I usually use Kindness brand, other brands are Ecostore, Earthwise, Softly & Martha Gardener, that I can’t to use because both damn fragrances give me migraines (lavender & Eucalyptus)

        I think they’re all made in NZ or Australia though, so don’t know if you’ll have much luck finding them. Here’s a link from a supermarkets online shopping so you can see what they look like at least:



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