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10 Common Food Stains and How To Clean Them Quick

Learn how to remove stains for good with these easy cleaning techniques.

By Taylor Murphy, Freelance Writer

Person with bright pink rubber gloves on reaching forward to scrub their white carpet with a brush

Shutterstock / TanyaRozhnovskaya


Spilling red wine on a new pair of jeans, dribbling ketchup on an upholstered kitchen chair and finding grease everywhere but on your apron can turn even the most laid-back cooking session into a total bummer. And even though a messy kitchen might be a sign of happiness—and a tasty meal—it doesn't mean food stains are any less of a pain. You still have to get rid of them. For a stress-free cleanup that'll salvage your home, clothes and sanity, and using a few products you might already have around, try these quick and easy tips to remove stains effortlessly.


For quick cleanup, keep the following household items handy:

  • White vinegar
  • Club soda
  • Baking soda, cornstarch, salt
  • Prewash stain remover, stain removal gel
  • Dish detergent, laundry detergent
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Acetone (nail polish remover)

Red Wine

Unlike its white counterpart, red wine creates a tough stain to clean. For shirts or linens, soak up any excess wine by dabbing it gently with a clean cloth. Then cover a bowl with the stained fabric, making sure it's pulled tight. Cover the stain in salt and slowly pour boiling water over the entire stain area. Wash the clothing or linen in the hottest setting your washing machine offers.


Tomato Sauce

It's hard to pass up tomato sauce—a versatile staple for any great pasta dish—but tomato-based stains are some of the most challenging to get rid of. To clean a tomato sauce stain on your clothing, scrape away any solid remains and blot wet sauce with a cloth. Soak the stain in cold water for 5 minutes, and with a spare toothbrush, scrub it gently with laundry detergent. Use hot water to wash the garment, then air dry.

Removing tomato sauce from the carpet requires a different technique. First, combine dish detergent with water. Using a towel, start on the outer edges of the stain, then soak with the solution moving toward the middle. Finally, dab the remains with water and blot dry.


Pizza Grease

Chances are you can remove stains from pizza grease using items that are already in your kitchen cupboard. As soon as the stain occurs, use a generous amount of baking soda or cornstarch to cover and absorb the stain. (Check out all the other clever ways you can clean with baking soda, here.) Let the powder sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then discard. Then place a small drop of dish soap on the affected area and gently dab with a wet paper towel. Repeat until the grease stain is no longer visible. Pizza night is saved!


Berries

Nothing beats white vinegar when it comes to removing leftover berry juice or residue, regardless of where it's lingering. Got it on your clothing? Turn the garment inside out and carefully pour boiling water over the stain. Make sure that the fabric is pulled taut, so that every part of the stain gets treated. Once it has dried for a few hours, soak the stain in vinegar. Vinegar helps because it's a weak acid. This makes it safe to counteract even the most difficult berry stains. Rinse the fabric and allow it to dry.


Coffee

We've all been there. It's a busy morning and you spill delicious cold brewed coffee or the hot kind on your favorite shirt. Fortunately, two common beverages can help. To treat stained cloth, use club soda to soak the area. Then blot with a clean rag until the stain is gone.

Similarly, if your cup o' joe has made its way onto your carpet, blot it up with cloth or paper towel, then pour a small amount of beer on top and blot again lightly. Rinse with clean water and blot again to get rid of the beer residue. So long, coffee stains!


Peanut Butter

The protein-packed snack is found in some of our dessert recipes, but removing leftover peanut butter residue can be tough. When the stain is on your clothing, remove any excess and treat it with a prewash stain remover. Then, wash the stained shirt or pants using the hottest water setting possible.

If the peanut butter stain is on your carpet, you'll need to get a stain remover solution like acetone (that's right: nail polish remover!). Use an eye dropper to apply a tiny bit of acetone and blot immediately. This is a test to make sure it won't hurt the rug. If it's all good, sponge the stain with a cloth dipped in the solvent and blot until the majority of the peanut butter is absorbed. Rinse with water and pat dry.


Ketchup

Getting ketchup out of the bottle is hard. One shake too many and you're left with a mess. Remove it from clothes and furniture fast by scraping the stain with a butter knife. Soak the stain in cold water, and coat it in liquid laundry detergent. Next, use a sponge to apply hydrogen peroxide to the area, and watch the stain disappear completely.


Salad Dressing

Though the salad dressings like homemade vinaigrette pair well fresh greens, their oil-based composition is the reason for pesky stains that won't seem to budge. Apply a stain remover gel to treat stained cloth. Rinse the treated area with hot water, and rub liquid detergent into the stain. Let the fabric sit for roughly 5 minutes, then send the material through the washing machine's hottest setting.


Chocolate

Clean any remaining chunks of chocolate with a spoon, but don't peel or scrape it—doing so will leave you with even more of a mess. Once the chocolate is removed, use cold water to rinse the stain. Then rub liquid laundry detergent or liquid dish soap into the area. Allow the fabric to sit for a moment or two, then soak it in cold water for 15 minutes. Loosen up the stain by rubbing it with your finger every 5 minutes, and rinse until the stain is no longer there.


Butter

We all know the key ingredient in almost every comfort food recipe is butter (and lots of it). Luckily, lifting a stain left from butter is simple. Use liquid dish washing soap to clean up the stain and rinse it well. Then use a dab of stain remover and wash the fabric in hot water. Just be sure that the stain is completely gone before you dry it. If not, the butter may set in permanently!


For a busy cook, food stains may be inevitable—but they're not impossible to remove. Thanks to these genius tips, the next time you encounter a food stain, you'll spend less time worrying and less time cleaning. That's definitely a win-win in our book.