Kathy Lynch's triplets love to play outdoors. But she's not too crazy about all the stains they get on their clothes.
"Food, dirt, grass, you name it, they're into it!" says Lynch.
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," says Mandy Walker of Consumer Reports.
Testers took swatches of fabric soaked with these tough-to-remove stains - coffee, blood, wine, motor oil, and cocoa. They applied the same amount of each cleaner to the stain, let it sit for five minutes, then washed the swatches with detergent and a full load of towels.
"We also washed the stained fabric with detergent but without pretreating the stains, to see if the products really made a difference," says Walker.
Testers analyzed the swatches with a colorimeter to determine how much of the stain was removed.
"While Resolve Foaming Aerosol says it's 'amazing,' it wasn't. In fact, it didn't do a great job on most of the stains," says Walker.
And Shout Advanced Stain Lifting Aerosol didn't do much better. In fact, none of the stain treatments did a great job at removing cocoa.
"Still, most of the stain treatments did do better than just using detergent alone," says Walker.
In the end, it was Resolve laundry stain remover in the spray bottle that removed the most stains. And at ten cents an ounce, it's the cheapest one tested. Good to have on hand, especially with kids who can make a mess.