Something has happened! You spilled something, there’s a mark, or even worse; you ripped a bit. Well, fear not, as its ALWAYS savable.
I would start by saying though, that if you wash and iron your work, and store it properly, most of the below issues are fixed by washing it again.

top gun
Coffee spills – a common cross stitch problem for top gun pilots

Brown marks

This is a common issue with cross stitch that’s not been washed correctly. The oils from your fingers discolor in sunlight, making brown spots.
If you haven’t ironed the piece, you can just wash it in cold slightly soapy water for about 6 hours and you’ll be golden.
If you have ironed your work, then I’m afraid you’ll have to pick the stitches and redo them. There’s a quick guide on this at the end of the post.

Rust marks

Fairly uncommon on cross stitch, however, if you’ve stored it in the frame somewhere you may get rust.
Get ready for science! You want to find some Oxalic acid. You can find it online (it’s used by Beekeepers) or specialist cleaning stores. In short, it bonds with the iron of rust and makes a water-soluble solution. Mix a small amount (10g) with a tablespoon of water, and rub in. Wash it out under a tap after 15 mins and it should be as good as new!

Scorch marks

Happens ALL the time. This is most common in old samplers as they had candles around all the time.
Straight from the Smithsonian museum, the best way to clean them is bicarbonate of soda and water. Just rub it on and it will remove the spot by removing the topmost layer of threads.
Or you would use white vinegar (very small amounts) which will remove the burn color from the stain.


This usually happens during the sewing, following nose bleeds, however, the key here is speed. You want to be cleaning it the SECOND it hits thread/aida. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets to clean.
Salt. I would use a 3:1 salt to water ratio, and just rub it in. Once the salt has gone brown, wash it off. If the stain is still there, repeat.
In rare cases, the blood will have dried into the aida and you either can’t access it, or it won’t come out. In this situation get a bowl of warm water and add salt until it doesn’t dissolve anymore. Sit the piece in the water and let it sit. I would suggest covering it with something non-transparent to stop evaporation too.


Yeh, we’ve been there…
Cut a lemon open and drip it onto the pen mark. It should wipe straight off.
But limit the lemon juice, and make sure to give it a good clean afterward, as over time the lemon will bleach the threads.


As a stern tea lover, I’ve had this issue more than a few times. Coldwater works well, but if you have soda water/carbonated water that works best. Just pour it over, letting it bubble on the surface until its all out.

Thread bleed

This is actually fairly rare, normally as a result of incorrect washing, or a cleaning fluid.
This will take time. Be prepared.
The first step is a big flat pan. Lay it down face up, and add ice on top. Let it melt, add more. Repeat for at least 3 days, if not a week. The colder you keep the project the better, so you can keep it in the fridge or freezer if you want too. After this, wash it in cold water only. Dry it so its touch dry, but not perfectly dry. You need to iron it, stopping any bleed happening in the future.

Too late to save?

Sometimes it’s just too late. Maybe you only noticed something weeks after it happened, or the above cleaning doesn’t work. It’s OK, as there are ways around it.

Remove a stitch

If the area affected is small enough, then you can remove the stitch and put a new one in. This is actually quite common, and even if you need to remove a whole row, the effort it takes is often less than cleaning.
If the piece has been out in the sun a while, the threads can be a little bleached, and so sit the new thread in lemon juice for a few hours and it should match better.



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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Sally

    Hi, how do I remove mould from a semco cross stitch? Will it bleed?.

    1. LordLibidan

      Hey! What type of mould is it?
      You should just be able to remove the mould itself by washing the standard way.
      However, if it’s black mould, then that can stain the cross stitch. I would suggest just repeating washing it until the black comes out. So long as you don’t use bleed based products, then it shouldn’t bleed.
      Finally, mould only really grows in wet conditions, so I would check how you’re storing your finished work too.

  2. fiona

    I spilt coffee over my cross stitch project, didn’t realise how bad, rinsed it at the time but not enough. Next day washed it gently with shampoo. The white definitely isn’t white still. Any suggestions please? Thanks

    1. LordLibidan

      Drop it in a solution of 1 quart warm water, ½ teaspoon dishwashing soap (color free shampoo will work), and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse it through with warm water. If its still not white, you may have to repeat until it works, but it will get it white in the end without causing anything like bleeding issues.
      Hope that helps!

  3. Devra

    I completed a cross stitch in 1984, and have recently discovered how discolored it is. it was mounted on a tacky board, which was easily removed. The yellow stain is all over the unstitched area. Simple washing did not restore the unstitched areas to their previous whiteness. How should I further attempt to remove the yellow stains?

    1. LordLibidan

      Hi Devra,
      Is the yellowing only on the back? Most tacky boards leave a residue over time, which I’m afraid to say is HELL to remove. Honestly, it’s probably not worth trying to remove. The residue doesn’t permeate the fabric, so it won’t show on the front.
      However, if the yellowing is on the front; that’s sun damage/dirt/smoke residue. In this instance soak it in a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 8 parts warm water overnight. Then wash in the morning. If you’re still having issues you could try lemon juice & water, but you need to try this on a discrete area first as it can cause issues with threads.

  4. Debra

    I have a sampler I started 30 years ago and it was stored in a plastic bag like a Baggie. Where crease is as the Aida was folded has a mark across it from the plastic bag residue, chemical leak.

    How do I get this off?

    1. LordLibidan

      30 years!?! Wow.
      So is the stain from ink printed on the bag? In which case, I would suggest soaking it in white vinegar.
      Or is it coloration from the plastic bag itself (for example blue from a blue plastic bag)? In this case, cleaning will be very hard as it’s likely the bag has degraded and leached into the aida. I would probably suggest getting a bit harsh with the fabric and scrubbing it in warm water with no-additive washing up soap. It might cause issues with the stitching you’ve already done, so you may have to restitch some areas, but if plastic has leached into the cotton, it’s hard to get out. Worst case scenario you can cut out the section and stitch a new section of aida (or whatever fabric you’re using) onto your project.
      It could also be, as it’s on the fold, it might be a rub mark or general long term yellowing caused by age. In these cases I would try to find a hydrogen peroxide cleaner and use that. The specifics here are dependant on the brand; so follow its guidelines.

  5. Britt

    I have several of my mom’s cross stitch samplers. They’ve been washed, ironed and stretched and have a backing. I have one with a spot on the Aida – how can I get the spot out without removing it from the backing? The sides have all been stapled.

    1. LordLibidan

      That makes things a little difficult. Do you know what type of backing they’ve been stapled to?
      If it’s not something like card I would try washing that specific spot carefully. However, if it’s card I’m afraid I think you’ll have to remove it to clean it.

  6. CyberNewt

    So- my stains are not on the stitching (thankfully) but the bad news is I don’t know what it is. There are some yellowish spots on the fabric (aida cloth). So I am not sure what to use to remove them. Any idea?

    1. LordLibidan

      They’re probably the random brown marks that can develop sometimes. Happens due to oil from hands, or general dust in the atmosphere. I would soak them in slightly soapy cold water for a few hours and they should come out. Hopw that helps!

      1. CyberNewt

        Thanks! I will try that and that is exactly what it sounds like too!

  7. Elizabeth Park

    how to remove a very tiny spot of dark chocolate

    1. LordLibidan

      The best way is to keep washing the stitching and DON’T rub it. It should come out, but might take a few washes.

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