Sundry Topics

How to Remove Food Stains

By • May 1, 2014 • 3 Comments

We're teaming up with our friends at The Laundress to bring you the most useful tips and products for spring cleaning.

Today: From wine to fruit, chocolate to oil, Gwen & Lindsey teach us the specifics of stain removal.

Berry stains from Food52

When you love to cook, it's inevitable: things are going to get stained. What you can control, however, is how you handle them -- and whether they stick around.

First things first: Identify the stain being treated. Stains can be divided into three main categories: tannin stains, grease/oil stains, and protein/blood stains. Once you’ve identified the type of stain being treated, use the appropriate technique recommended per fabric/material. We've rounded up our stain-fighting strategies below.

Tannin Stains: Most colored stains are tannin stains, including wine, fruit (juices), tomato sauce, chocolate, coffee and tea. 

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics:

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s). 
  • Pour hot water from a height, or use the pressure from hot taps on the treated area. Allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied. 
  • Launder as normal.  

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics: 

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet. 
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes -- do not soak silk for longer. 
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item.  

Old, Stubborn, and Set-In Stains (and previously dry-cleaned items) 

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics: 

  • Use an oxygen bleaching agent to safely remove dirt, stains, and odors. This is most effective when used with hot/warm water. It's safe for all colors, and is an excellent alternative to chlorine bleach. 

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics: 

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet. 
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes -- do not soak silk for longer. 
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item. 
  • Do not use oxygen bleach when treating silk and wool. 

Soaking stain from Food52

Oil Stains: Oil or grease-based stains include cooking oils and salad dressing.

For cotton, linen, and durable synthetics: 

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s). 
  • Pour hot water from a height, or use the pressure from hot taps on the treated area. Allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied. 
  • Launder as normal. 

For silk, wool, and delicate synthetics: 

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s).
  • Fill a basin or sink with tepid water and add appropriate detergent/wash. Gently agitate so items will be evenly soaped and wet. 
  • Soak for up to 30 minutes -- do not soak silk for longer. 
  • Rinse well. Run tepid water through items until rinse water is no longer soapy. Press excess water out of the item. 

Blood Stains

  • Apply stain remover directly to the blemished area(s). 
  • Pour cold water from a height, or use the pressure from cold taps on the treated area, allow the item to soak.
  • If the stain is not completely gone, repeat process until satisfied. 
  • Launder as normal. 
  • Please note: Always use cold water when treating blood stains. Hot or warm water will cause the stain to set. 

 What are your tips for stain removal? Let us know in the comments!

Jump to Comments (3)

Tags: laundry, the laundress, stains, oil stains, food stains, stain removal, cleaning

Comments (3)

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4 months ago knoh

For oily or greasy stains on natural fibers or synthetics, corn starch or flour usually works for me. Absorb all extra oil by blotting with a dry cloth or towel. Apply cornstarch (or any other white flour that will absorb oil; don't use nut meals, and wheat flour does not seem to absorb as well). Let the flour sit on the stain for a couple of minutes, then brush off the excess. Launder or dry clean as usual.

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4 months ago judyschwab

For purple berry stains pour boiling water over the area. No stain remover necessary. I was skeptical, because it seems somewhat counterintuitive...like it might actually set the stain. But when I tried on a blueberry stain on my husband's white shirt, it worked like a charm. You may need to do it once or twice. I put the stained item right under my boiling water dispenser.

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4 months ago Cindy M

I managed to drop a nice juicy strawberry into my lap during lunch one day- right onto my white pants. I also found the boiling water tip online, and was skeptical, but it really really worked. Even after having to walk around all day and treating the stain many hours later. I just poured the boiling water directly onto the stain with my pants held over the sink (so the water could run through the stain) and literally watched it wash away. Genius!