Red Wine

Want to Remove Red Wine Stains? Try Milk.

April 10, 2017

What’s the best way to remove red wine stains? It’s a question people have been trying to answer for years. Club soda? Salt? White wine?

Maybe it’s milk. Last night, the folks over at Lifehacker uncovered a pretty under-appreciated method for stamping out red wine stains. It’s a recommendation gleaned from, of all places, the comments section of an article published last year on Wine Folly, regarding the surefire ways to get rid of red wine stains. Christophe Jasmin of Montreal Japanese restaurant Thazard suggests the following step-by-step process:

  1. Bring a potful of milk to a near-boil atop a stove, taking it off heat before it actually boils.
  2. Soak the stained part of the material in that nice, warm bath of dairy for approximately 30 minutes.
  3. After saturating, rinse the garment with splashes of cold water. (At this point, the stain should show signs of having disappeared, or at least having faded significantly.)
  4. Throw the ravaged garment in the washing machine and wash it on any cycle.
  5. Admire your odorless, stain-free clothing.

Over the years, some adherents of this practice have suggested that it’s possible to circumvent this boiling process altogether and simply dab your clothing in a vat of warm milk for about an hour. I don’t doubt that works, too; after all, this removal process owes itself to the wine’s phenolic compounds, which give it that deep, dangerous red hue. The milk’s fat content acts as an absorbent for red wine’s phenolic compounds, ultimately muting its color. The fattier the milk, the more likely it’ll be to soak up the red wine.

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There's no way around the fact that red wine stains are awful. I’ve lost many a precious grey shirt thanks to red wine. So pesky and persistent are these stains that they’ve forced me to be proactive rather than reactive about my sartorial habits, like wearing black and burgundy clothing as a preventive measure. I know I'm not alone. Next time your hands go flailing at a party and your Merlot gets on a nearby linen, give this method a shot. Though if you spill it on your couch, I’m afraid I can’t help you there.

What's your preferred method of getting rid of red wine stains? Ever try this method? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.

1 Comment

Whiteantlers April 10, 2017
I'll assume this method is effective after the fact (like 24-48 hours later) because if one is at the point where red wine is getting spilled, one is probably past the point of boiling milk and treating said stain immediately. By the way, the salt is effective on couches.