Red Wine Stain Removal: Everything You Need to Know

A good glass of Merlot is one of the greatest pleasures in life—until it ends up on your light-colored carpet or favorite shirt. These expert strategies for red wine stain removal will help you get the reddish-purple stuff out of anything.

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There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than sitting on a white couch or mingling at a crowded party with a glass of red wine in your hand. Red wine spills may be inevitable, but red wine stains aren’t. So don’t panic. Here’s what you need to know to get red wine stains out of everything from your clothes to your countertops—because knowing how to remove stains is a total game-changer.

Why red wine stains so easily

A goblet of Pinot Noir is basically five ounces of dye in a glass, which makes red wine stain removal so difficult. The wine’s color comes from substances in the grape known as chromogens, which are similar to molecules used in dyes. Red wine also contains naturally occurring tannins—substances that are sometimes used to make ink. But, luckily, a red wine spill doesn’t have to become a permanent stain.

Red wine stain removal tips

No matter what you’ve spilled your Cabernet or Shiraz on, experts say you should follow these three basic rules for getting a handle on wine stains:

  1. Act fast! As soon as the wine hits your couch, carpet, or khakis, it begins to spread outward and downward into the fabric or upholstery. That’s why your best chance of getting a red wine stain out completely is to attack it when it’s fresh, says Donna Smallin Kuper, certified house cleaning technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness.
  2. Don’t scrub. Rubbing and scrubbing can push the wine deeper into the fabric or upholstery and actually cause it to spread. Blot gently instead.
  3. Grab the salt shaker. Liquids like wine will move toward something dry and powdery like salt, baking soda, or baby powder, note the La Crema wine pros. Apply liberally and let it sit for a couple of minutes, then blot it away and treat what’s left of the stain.

How to remove red wine stains

There are many ways to remove red wine stains, depending on what you have on hand. (And, if you’re hosting a party, you definitely want to have some of these at the ready.) Whichever method you choose, start by blotting the stain with a clean, dry, light-colored paper towel or microfiber cloth. Some stains may require multiple treatments so don’t let them dry completely between treatments. Make sure you check laundry labels before attempting any treatment on clothing. Red wine isn’t the only thing that spills, which is why you’ll also want to know how to remove coffee stains.

Red wine stains and club soda

Although even experts seem baffled by why club soda works on red wine stains, it does! Pour it over the stain and let it work its magic overnight. Make sure you know about these surprising health benefits of red wine vinegar.

Red wine stains, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide

Dish soap or hydrogen peroxide won’t work on their own but, together, they’re a potent combination. The experts at La Crema recommend mixing one part dishwashing liquid and three parts hydrogen peroxide. Apply it to the stain with a sponge or cloth, then let it sit 20 minutes to an hour. Blot clean and repeat if necessary. This is one of those hydrogen peroxide uses you may not have known about, but definitely comes in handy in a pinch.

Red wine stains and salt

Dry materials like salt (or, in a pinch, baking soda, baby powder, or even kitty litter) actually pull the liquid stain out so they’re great for carpet and upholstery. Apply immediately and generously, then let it settle in for a while. You can just vacuum up the salt afterward.

Red wine stains and white vinegar

White vinegar, which neutralizes purples and reds, is a good choice for getting red wine stains out of clothes but it can’t do it alone. Cover the stain in white vinegar, then apply a small amount of watered-down dish soap. Keep blotting to lift the stain.

Removing red wine stains from clothes

Knowing how to get red wine out of clothes is essential, especially if you love a good Merlot. For washable fabrics, cleaning expert Smallin Kuper’s favorite stain remover is the classic Fels Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover from Purex. “Rinse the area with the stain, then rub the laundry bar into it or treat with your favorite stain remover. Wash as usual, but don’t dry it right away because you want to make sure the stain is completely removed,” she advises. Another one of Smallin Kuper’s secret weapons for red wine stain removal is Wine Away, a stain remover specifically formulated for red wine stain removal as well as other red stains like tomato sauce, fruit punch, or berry juice.

how to get wine out of carpetAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.comHow to clean wine from carpet

After you’ve soaked up the liquid with salt or baking soda, you’ve got a couple of options, says Smallin Kuper. The basic steps are the same: remove as much of the wine as possible by blotting with a microfiber cloth or paper towel, then follow the steps for how to get red wine out of carpet.

Remove spills from tablecloths and fabric

Try Smallin Kuper’s “boiling water” technique for removing red wine stains from sturdy fabrics, including heavy cotton and polyester. (It also works on berry stains from things like strawberry juice or cranberry sauce, she says.) First, pull the fabric tight over a bowl and secure with a rubber band so the material is taut. Then place the bowl in the sink or rub and carefully pour boiling water through the spot from about two feet above. Next, wash the fabric with detergent in the hottest water allowed according to the fabric care label.

How to get red wine out of a couch

If the spill on your couch, mattress, or upholstered chair is fresh, start by covering the area with salt or baking powder, says Smallin Kuper. After letting it sit for a few minutes, vacuum the powder up. Next, treat the remaining color residue with a commercial stain remover. If it’s an older, dried wine stain, Smallin Kuper recommends mixing three parts of hydrogen peroxide with one part of blue liquid dish soap such as Dawn. “Apply to the stain with a clean cloth and allow it to sit for 20 minutes to an hour. Then use another clean, wet cloth to ‘rinse’ by gently blotting,” she says.

Getting red wine off of kitchen surfaces

Nothing soaks up dark-colored liquids like a porous wooden butcher block or cutting board. To get those stains out, wet the board, sprinkle the spot with salt, and use a cut lemon to scrub the salted surface, says Smallin Kuper. Then wash as usual and allow to dry. And if you have a grease spot on that board—or anywhere else—learn how to remove grease stains.

How to remove old red wine stains

Except for the salt/dry powders, any of the methods above can still work for stains that are old and set in. They may require extra soaking and repeat treatments but be patient. Although fresh stains respond well to hot water after one of these treatments, dried stains are more likely to respond to a soak in cold water first.

how to remove wine stainsAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.comBest wine stain removers

Whether you entertain often or just enjoy a glass of red wine every now and then, you’ll want to keep one of these pro stain removers in your cabinet. They may be your best defense against stubborn stains.

  • Vino 911 uses non-ionic surfactants that dissolve the wine’s stain-causing molecules to coat and prevent them from being absorbed into the fabric. Wine aficionado Bill Federighi, owner/inventor of Cork Pops, created Vino 911 when he couldn’t find a wine stain remover that worked for him. It’s all-natural and hypoallergenic, and you’ll want to keep a handy, travel-sized spray bottle with you for emergencies.
  • OxiClean has been a long-time favorite of experts, and it comes in three formats so you can get red wine stains—new or old—out of clothes and carpets, whether you’re tackling a major spill or a focused spot. Oxi cleaners, in general, are known for being effective on stains. Oxygen-based, they use sodium percarbonate which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide when combined with water.
  • Wine Away lives up to its name and can be used safely on almost any fabric surface. Non-toxic and biodegradable, it penetrates fibers to break down stains and make them disappear. This women-owned company has been in business for more than 20 years and is consistently recommended by cleaning experts.
  • Fels Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover is still around after more than a century because it works. This powerful bar knows how to get rid of tough stains and deserves a place in your laundry room.
  • Puracy Natural Stain Remover, a complex blend of all six enzymes, natural surfactants, and mineral-based deodorizers, has almost 5000 rave reviews on Amazon but no critic is as tough as founder Sean Busch. “My wife is a red wine drinker and she talks with her hands,” he says. “We developed Puracy out of an actual need and have never had a red wine stain we couldn’t remove. If you can’t get a red wine stain out with Puracy and I can’t help you, I will refund your purchase and get our PhD Chemist from MIT involved to solve this mystery.”

Next, bookmark this guide on how to remove chocolate stains—it’s a must-read for chocolate lovers!


Lois Alter Mark
Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning travel, lifestyle, shopping and entertainment writer for Reader's Digest, Forbes and USA Today 10Best. Her work has taken her to all seven continents and introduced her to new people, food and—her latest obsession—pickleball! An avid cruiser, she loves introducing readers to the joys of travel.