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How to Get Red Wine Stains Out of Anything

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 experts strategies for red wine stain removal will help you get the reddish-purple stuff out of anything.

Red wine spilled on a grey couch sofa.Vershinin89/Shutterstock

Why red wine stains so easily

A goblet of pinot noir is basically 5 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, according to the grape aficionados at La Crema winery in California’s Sonoma County. Red wine also contains naturally occurring tannins, substances that are sometimes used to make ink.

salt in glass bottle scattered on dark table background top view279photo Studio/Shutterstock

The basic rules of red wine stain removal

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

  1. Act fast! As soon as the wine hits your couch, carpet, or blazer, 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.
  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.

Woman hand washing clothes DUANGJAN JITMART/Shutterstock

Get red wine out of clothes

For washable fabrics like towels, clothing, or sheets, 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. If some residue remains, try soaking the fabric in an oxygen stain remover like OxyClean before washing again. If it’s a clothing item you cherish, be sure to avoid these traditional cleaning tricks that don’t actually work.

Ironed shirt hanging from an ironing board next to a hot iron. Selective focus on the ironImpact Photography/Shutterstock

Carpets and rugs

After you’ve soaked up some of the liquid with salt or baking soda, you’ve got a couple of options, says Smallin Kuper. If you have any vodka around, pour some onto a clean cloth and dab onto the stain from the outside in, she says. “Otherwise, go to plan B: 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, preferably in a spray bottle, and a steam iron. I got this trick from a professional carpet cleaner who uses it for all kinds of stains including urine stains on all types of carpet including wool.” Here’s how to do it: Generously spray the stained area, then cover with a damp white towel (one that you don’t mind staining). With the iron on its lowest setting, iron the towel for 10 to 15 seconds and take a peek under the towel—you should see some of the color from the stain starting to transfer onto the towel. Repeat until most of the color is lifted, then lightly spray with hydrogen peroxide again, put a clean, dry towel over the area, and weight it with something heavy like a cast-iron pan. Allow it to dry overnight.

Metal saucepan with hot liquid on table against dark backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Sturdy fabric like curtains, table cloths, or denim

Try Smallin Kuper’s “boiling water” technique for red wine stain removal from sturdy fabrics. (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 2 feet above. Next, wash the fabric with detergent in the hottest water allowed according to the fabric care label. If you’re not sure what the stain is, here are some more cleaning tricks for hard-to-clean household objects.

Hand in plastic hygienic gloves with a sponge on a dark marble background. Tidy up the house. Wash dishes with detergentiiiphevgeniy/Shutterstock

Red wine stains on upholstery

If the spill on your mattress, couch, 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. The domestic experts at Good Housekeeping recommend mixing a tablespoon of liquid dish soap with two cups of cool water and sponging it onto the area. Blot with paper towels or a dry cloth to absorb the liquid, then sponge with plain cold water and blot dry again. 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 gently ‘rinse’ by gently blotting,” she says.

Fresh lemons on an old wooden table. Selective focus and small depth of field.DeAndre14/Shutterstock

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—try these 13 ways to get rid of those stubborn stains.