The Best Stain Removal Products According to the Pros

Updated: Jun. 20, 2024

Love red wine (or chocolate sauce or marinara) but hate the stains it can leave behind? We tested seven brands to find the best stain remover. Now, you can worry no more!

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Some post-party messes are easier to clean than others. Greasy dishes can go in the dishwasher. Bottles and cans can be dropped in the recycling bin. Even leftovers can be easily transferred to airtight containers for tomorrow’s dinner. The one kind of mess that tends to linger: food stains on fabrics.

Whether it’s coffee on your skirt or gravy dripping from its boat onto your table runner, these stubborn stains can be a major bummer. Despite all the dabbing and scrubbing, these spots can endure. Before you toss the offending garment or linen in the rag pile, try our Test Kitchen’s best stain removal products.

How We Tested Stain Removers

Running a Test Kitchen is a delicious, but messy, business. At Taste of Home HQ, our culinary and studio teams spend all day making and styling food. This means these folks often end the day with a bit of frosting smudged on their aprons or a splotch of tomato sauce on their slacks. So who better to test the best stain removal techniques than the folks that see the most food stains?

For this test, our crew tried the most popular laundry sprays on the market to tackle these common (and incredibly stubborn) stains:

  • Bacon grease
  • Beets
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Lipstick
  • Soy sauce
  • Marinara sauce
  • Red wine
  • Strawberries

Our team intentionally stained a handful of common fabrics including cotton, linen and polyester blends. Each stain was treated according to the different stain removal products’ instructions and then laundered. After many, many spills and loads of wash, three brands got our Test Kitchen’s stamp of approval.

Best Everyday Stain Spray

Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover

Shout Stain Removervia merchant

After a messy supper—think linguini bolognese or a warming curry—table linens and clothes can be left looking a little worse for wear. No need to worry if you have Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover in your laundry room.

After staining shirts, napkins and more with all sorts of juices and sauces, our team found that Shout managed to clean them all with no residue. Food and beverage stains were no match for this popular stain remover.

The exception here was lipstick. A vibrant red lip mark could still be seen on the polyester napkin (though it was gone from the cotton shirt!).

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Best Plant-Based Stain Remover

Seventh Generation Laundry Stain Remover

Seventh Generation Stain Removervia merchant

Natural and all-purpose cleaners tend to have a reputation for not being quite as strong as their full-strength cousins. Let us assure you that this is not the case with Seventh Generation Laundry Stain Remover.

Made of 97% plant-based ingredients, this stain spray tackled almost every stain we threw its way. Red wine? Gone! Beet stains? No more! Even hot fudge was nothing but a delicious memory. All those saturated spills were gone after spraying with this Seventh Generation cleaner.

The only stain and fabric combination that this best stain removal pick couldn’t quite kick was red lipstick on a polyester blend napkin. Just a whisper remained. But lipstick on cotton fabric? Vanished.

Overall, our Test Kitchen team really enjoyed this fragrance-free cleaner. It scrubbed stains clean and the eco-friendly formula was a welcome bonus.

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Best Stain Removal for Set-In Stains

OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover

Oxi Clean Stain Removervia merchant

Most spray-on stain treatments recommend washing the garment within a few hours. Sometimes that’s just not enough time to lift stubborn splotches. For these challenging spots, reach for OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover.

This stain-removing formula allows you to spray the affected area and let it soak into the fabric for up to a week. That’s plenty of time to saturate stubborn stains (even ones that you weren’t able to remove after the first wash).

Like our other picks, lipstick was the most difficult stain to eliminate. But wine, grease, juice and sauces were all gone after a single treatment with this OxiClean spray. Next, find out how to get tomato sauce out of clothes.

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The Bottom Line

If you choose one of these Test Kitchen-Preferred stain removers, we’re confident you can get rid of almost any food stain. Hosts and hostesses, you can now serve red wine without fear (we recommend these best boxed wines).

When it comes to non-foodie stains like lipstick, you shouldn’t have an issue if you’re dealing with natural fabrics like cotton. The only stains that wouldn’t budge in this test were red lipstick on polyester blends.

The best bet in treating any stain with any remover, though, is to act fast and wash in the warmest water the fabric allows. You’ll find that information on the label of your clothes—just decode the laundry symbols with our handy guide.

Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Cleaning Products

Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing kitchen gadgets, cleaning gear and food looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test-Kitchen Preferred.