How to Get Red Wine Stains Out of Clothes
Even if the stain has already begun to dry, it's not too late! We’ve got cleaning tips for all fabric types so you can quickly tackle those red-wine mishaps.
Small (or embarrassingly large) red wine stains can really make their mark on clothing. It’s important to act quickly before the stain begins to set. If you’re at home, do it right away. If you’re at an event or dinner, take action as soon as you can comfortably rinse your garment. There are many homemade and store-bought solutions to help you treat your stain.
Pigments in red wine are fierce. The chromogens, or pigment, are also found in acidic coffee and tea, which helps to explain why you may be simultaneously battling stains on both clothing and your enamelware. Interestingly enough, red wine stains dry and set a completely different shade than that of the wine you were sipping. As Wine Spectator explains, “Acidity turns anthocyanins red, while alkalinity shades them toward blue. Because wine already has acid in it, its anthocyanins are red. But as soon as you expose those anthocyanins to more alkaline factors, they will start to turn blue.” If you laundered a garment and found a blue stain, it’s likely that you missed a splash of wine that locked into the fibers on your clothing.
Listen, we’re not going to dwell on how that red wine stain got on your clothes (let’s just say, we’ve been there). We’re only going to focus on how you can get it out. From dish soap and white vinegar to hydrogen peroxide, there are many items around the house that can help. There are also red wine removal products by Chateau Spill and Stain Rx that are easy enough to keep in your bag when you’re heading out for a fun night.
Two important things to remember:
- Use a paper towel to blot at the stain and absorb as much of the wine as you can, especially if you can’t immediately soak the garment. You’ll see this mentioned repeatedly in the steps below. Don’t scrub, just press the dry towel in to absorb what you can.
- Most stains set deeper once they are exposed to the heat of a dryer, including wine stains. Do not run your clothing through the dryer until you’re sure that the stain is gone. Permanent red wine stains mark the end of life for many of your favorite garments.
Different materials require different treatments. If the stain has already begun to dry, it's not too late! We’ve broken down the tips by material so you can quickly tackle the stains in your own wardrobe.
Cotton may absorb liquids, but stains usually release easily after a good wash.
- Saturate the stain with club soda or cold water, and then blot the stain with a dry cloth to remove some wine pigment
- Apply an enzyme stain remover directly to the fabric and launder the garment as usual. Bleach can be used, but only on white cotton.
- When you remove it from the washing machine, inspect the stain. If it’s still visible, repeat the process, this time allowing the stain remover to sit for 10 minutes before re-washing.
Linen is slightly less absorbent than cotton and has some natural moisture-wicking properties.
- Pour white vinegar directly onto the linen to saturate the stain. This will begin to pretreat the area. Blot to remove some of the wine.
- Apply liquid laundry detergent and gently massage it in by hand.
- Rinse the linen with hot water until the stain is gone.
It may seem like you permanently stained your formalwear if it’s splashed with red wine, but like most fabrics, you can treat it if you act fast.
- Combine 1 part liquid dishwashing detergent and 3 parts hydrogen peroxide to create a soapy mixture.
- Pour it over the stain and let it pool so that it targets the problem area.
- The stain will begin to fade. Use a clean, dry cloth to absorb the moisture.
- Repeat treatment if the stain is still present when the garment dries.
Silk is delicate — even tap water can leave stains — but you can remove wine stains if you get to them before the wine dries. It’s always best to test cleansers in a discrete area on the garment before treating the bigger stain.
- Dampen a clean sponge with rubbing alcohol and dab at the stain. The stain will slowly lift.
- Repeat the process, even letting the moist sponge sit atop the stain for a few minutes between blotting it with a clean cloth. Keep the stained area wet until you’re sure you’ve lifted the stain.
- Allow the garment to dry.
Denim can withstand a tough cleaning. Wine stains treated early can easily be removed.
- Blot the stain with a paper towel to remove as much of the moisture as you can.
- Dab at the area with cold water.
- Apply a sprinkle of kosher salt over the affected area and allow it to sit. The salt will visibly absorb more red wine.
- After 3-5 minutes, rinse the denim again under the sink. Since denim is durable and can withstand agitation, continue massaging at the stain until all evidence of the red wine is gone.
- Run the denim through the washing machine and then allow it to air-dry. Once it’s dry, check to see if the stain is gone before re-washing and putting it in the dryer.
Polyester, Acrylic and Other Synthetic Blends
Stains can cling to synthetic materials. Presoaking the stain can help minimize the damage.
- Blot as much of the wet wine off the garment with a dry towel or cloth.
- Fill a bowl with 4 cups of warm water, a few drops of liquid detergent and a tablespoon of white vinegar.
- Soak the stain for 15 minutes and then rinse it in clean water to remove detergent.
- Lay the garment flat. If there is still a stain, blot it with a clean sponge dampened with rubbing alcohol.
Wool garments aren’t as easy to launder. It’s important to master spot treatments when red wine splashes. While salt can help lift stains from wool and soaking it in diluted white vinegar can also combat damage, surgical spirit used for the treatment of wounds is an unexpected option that cures all.
- Absorb as much red wine as possible using a paper towel. Soak several small cloths with a mixture of 3 parts surgical spirit and 1 part water.
- Lay one cloth directly on top of the stain, and dab it so that the solution is encouraged to soak.
- After a few minutes, alternate with a fresh soaked cloth.
- Repeat until the stain has lifted and gently rinse the treated area with cool water. Allow the garment to air-dry.
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