DIY / Home Improvement

Wine Wars: How to Remove Red Wine Stains From Your Favorite Clothing

What causes red wine stains? Walking too fast, elbows, high heels, cats—the causes are near-infinite and always embarrassing.

More importantly, what removes red wine stains? Nothing, right?

Don’t be so sure. And don’t wait to treat it, either.

There are ways to remove red wine stains from clothing if you act quickly enough. You’ll find them all in this guide. (And we’ll explain them quickly in case you’re cleaning up red wine this very second.)

But, before anything else, read the warnings of what not to do before your cleaning makes the stain worse. If you have set-in wine stains to deal with, we cover that, too. Read all about it below.

Removing Red Wine Stains: What NOT to Do

If you’re cleaning up wine stains right now, STOP. You may be doing more harm than good. Quickly read these tips on what not to do so you can lift the stain correctly/more easily.

NEVER Scrub Red Wine Stains

You may think you’re getting more wine out of the stain by scrubbing or pressing hard on it. In reality, you’re pressing the stain more deeply into the stained material, making it harder to remove.

Don’t Wait

Red wine stains that sit until they are dry are either more difficult to remove or downright impossible. If you want any chance of saving the affected area, you must deal with wine stains right away.

If it helps, think of it this way. The reason red wine stains are difficult to remove is that they’re nature-made to be permanent.

Red wine is naturally chock-full of chromogens (which we use to make dye) and tannins (which we use to make ink). They’re basically alcoholic ink-dye. And when they’re set, they’re set for good.

So, when the wine spills, you should double-check all areas in the room where the spill happened and all articles of clothing.

Keep Heat Away

Because of the reasons above, you do not want heat anywhere near the red wine spill. Heat will dry the stain, making it permanent. Definitely don’t use a hairdryer or clothes dryer on the stain (unless you like the color).

Steps For Getting Wine Stains Out

Now that you know what not to do, here are the definite steps you should follow to remove red wine stains. If you’re removing a stain now and you skipped to this section, please read the above warnings of what not to do.

Blot the Stain

First, you want to blot, not scrub, the stain with a clean, dry paper towel or cloth. This is also the first step in how to remove carpet stains caused by red wine.

Remember not to press too hard or you will smash the wine deeper into the fabric and set the stain. You want to gently dab the stain until the cloth or paper towel isn’t pulling any more wine out. Then, proceed to the next step.

Remove the Clothing and Isolate the Stain

As soon as possible, remove the stained clothing carefully to prepare it for treatment. When dealing with red wine stains on clothes, you must be careful not to let the wet stain touch your other clothing or other parts of the same article of clothing.

Often, people remove the stained clothing, a shirt for example, and set it down without thinking. If you lay the shirt flat, a stain on the front of the shirt will spread to the back as well.

To prepare the stain for treatment, you should put something waterproof, like a dinner plate, between the stain and other layers of the clothing it might touch.

Treat the Stain

There are various cleaners and methods used for removing red wine stains on clothes. Depending on your situation, one or more of these may be available to you. We’ll start with the most effective and continue from there.

The Salt Trick

This is the absolute best method for removing wine stains from just about anything.

Cover the wet (but blotted) stain entirely with salt until you can no longer see the stain under the salt. Then, let it sit.

Like a natural miracle, the salt pulls out and absorbs the wine from the clothing as it sits. In addition, the salt absorbs into the fabric, acting as a gentle cleanser, scrubbing the remaining stain loose.

Kosher salt works best because its flat-shaped granules have more surface area for absorbing the stain. But regular salt works fine, too.

You can let it sit a few minutes or overnight. The longer the salt sits, the more wine is pulled out.

Finish by fully rinsing the stain out of the fabric under cold water. If necessary, repeat these steps until the wine stain is completely gone. Remember: if some of the stain remains, you don’t want to dry it or it will set in.

Salt Plus Boiling Water

If the fabric is sturdy, like cotton, and white so it won’t lose its color, try this. Pull the fabric tight over a deep bowl and secure it with a rubber band. Pour salt over the stain and let it sit as described above.

Boil water in a tea kettle and slowly pour it over the stain from 8 inches above it. The 8 inches is to give the water enough force to push the stain out of the fabric.

Repeat as necessary. Once the stain is gone, wash and dry it as normal.

Club Soda

You can also soak the stain in club soda. Not seltzer, not Sprite, it has to be club soda specifically. Soak it overnight and see if it worked, then launder it. If it didn’t work, try the next step.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap

First, inconspicuously test the hydrogen peroxide on the fabric to see if it bleach-stains the clothing. If not, mix equal parts of these two liquids, pour it on the stain, and let it sit.

After an indeterminant amount of time, the stain will disappear before your eyes. Keep adding the mixture every few minutes until it does. Then fully rinse it out in cold water or wash as normal.

Vinegar and Laundry Detergent

Pour white vinegar over the stain, then the detergent. Let it sit for a few minutes and then launder it in very hot water.

Only do this with sturdy, uncolored fabrics. And don’t dry it if the stain is not removed.

Laundry Stain Removers

If all else fails, try laundry stain removers. Just follow the instructions on the label.

Removing Set-In Wine Stains From Clothing

For bleachable clothes, try bleach on set-in red wine stains. For all others, try this.

Rub dish soap or laundry detergent into the stain and soak it in cold water for 30 minutes. Add a laundry stain remover and wash it in the washing machine as normal. Repeat as necessary (or just let it go and give up).

Keep This Red Wine Stain Removal Guide

That should do it! We hope these tips helped you remove red wine stains from your favorite outfit. If so, bookmark this guide and share it with others so they can benefit, too!

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