How do I remove cross stitch stains

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.

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 31 Comments

  1. Jennifer N Wallace

    RE: Blood on work. If it is your own blood you can remove it with your own spit. (I know, it sounds icky but it works)

  2. Nancy Garcia

    For blood stains, IMMEDIATELY put ice on the spots and let the ice melt. The melting ice will fade the blood away, although it make take a second ice cube or two to completely get rid of it. Then gently wash the piece. The success comes from treating the blood stain immediately, (or as quickly as you discover it), and using enough ice directly on it. I put a folded towel under the fabric to catch the melting ice. I do not know why this works, but I’ve done this as long as I can remember and have never had it fail!

  3. sarah

    So was stitching my cross stitch on a millennium frame and noticed a bad grime mark across the bottom of where the fabric is rolled. Can I was just wash that sections or even the whole lot despite not being finished or should i just leave it until i’ve finished the project even though it will probably take me another 10 years to complete.

    1. LordLibidan

      The faster you clean it, the more likely it will come out. I would wash it asap.
      The only issue with washing it now (unfinished) is making sure you put it back on your frame straight. The washing part will be fine!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    2. Ann

      I inherited a bunch of framed cross stitches with some stains (most likely due to improper storage in an attic, possibly by mice) from a grandmother who smoked like a chimney, so they are kinda yellow from nicotine damage. Any suggestions on how to save them? They were made by her as a young girl, so they are quite old.

      1. LordLibidan

        Nicotine is hard to get out sadly, however washing it the standard way and keep washing it over and over again will definitely help!