Memorize This Handy Trick to Get Red Wine Out of Clothes

It's easier than you'd think.

July 20, 2022
Photo by Bobbi Lin

On a recent Friday night, I ventured to a BYOB restaurant for dinner with a group. After waiting in line for 30 minutes to place our orders, we sat at a picnic table and started to uncork the bottles of wine we'd brought. I was pretty jazzed about my 2017 Les Heretiques, a natural, French Carignan, so I carefully poured healthy servings into flimsy plastic cups and set the open bottle down in the middle of the table. I took a sip and was delighted to find the red table wine was just to my taste—tannic, medium-bodied, and full of dark fruit.

My cup quivered ominously.

Soon after, our plates of jerk chicken, plantains, rice, and beans arrived before us. Just as I finished my first bite, a friend of a friend reached for her own bottle and in the span of a second, collided with my bottle of wine, which knocked over my cup of wine, both of which drenched my food and my outfit. For a moment, I was speechless and distraught by my sudden trifecta of loss. Gone were my wine, my food, and my jeans.

This friend of a friend did help me get a new entrée, though due to dim lighting, no one could tell that my favorite dark grey jeans had acquired a large purple stain. Nor could they detect the significant splatter on my beloved, medium-wash blue jean jacket.

According to California Winery, La Crema, red wine contains chromogens, the primary substance in colorful plants—also responsible for pigments in many natural dyes. Oh, and the tannins in red wine are also used in ink production. Combine red wine (basically a bottle of dye molecules) plus the porous nature of fabric, and your dinner table is poised and waiting to make your prized white shirt an experiment in tie-dye. Sigh.

I anxiously endured the rest of the evening, unable to immediately treat my stained clothing. When I finally got home, I took my mom's advice and poured my regular detergent on the stains and let it soak in overnight. My mom warned me against trying to rub in the detergent, which she explained might actually remove the color of the jeans themselves. In the morning, I threw the soiled pieces in the washing machine and put on a cool cycle. After a harrowing 50 minutes, I returned to the laundry room to check on my dear items. I breathed a sigh of relief when, after scrutiny, I didn't detect any remaining stains.

Later that night, I joined a group of friends for a beach bonfire, another BYOB endeavor. Not having sufficiently learned my lesson (and too stubborn to drink white wine, which I like less than red), I brought an organic, Chilean petit verdot. I nearly survived the evening unscathed, but managed to drizzle a few drops onto the ankle of my stonewash jeans before I left.

When I got home, I repeated my routine from the previous night and the next day my jeans exited the washer in pristine condition.

While I've had lots of luck with plain detergent, depending on how long the stain has been set, it might have varying degrees of success. Here are some of the more popular solutions to removing red wine stains from around the Internet:

  1. La Crema warns not to rub, wait too long, or apply heat to the red wine stain. Use dry material to draw the stain out (like table salt or baking soda), and follow by applying boiling water and blotting out.
  2. Submerge the wine stain in milk for a few minutes, as it has absorption properties, and rinse the fabric clean with water.
  3. Club soda is the most classic of all methods, which is likely made better by the addition of vinegar to the solution, since both liquids absorb and break up the wine molecules.
  4. "Oxi" variety stain treatments and detergents work especially well on already-dried stains that the above methods might not help. Most of these products contain sodium percarbonate, which when combined with water, breaks down into bubbling hydrogen peroxide. Apply it to the stain, let it sit for 20 minutes to an hour, blot, and rinse clean.
  5. Three-parts hydrogen peroxide and one-part dishwashing liquid are a DIY "oxi" cleaner, just follow the above steps for the store-bought kind.

While I’d like to think I can avoid future red wine spills, I know I’m just one glass away from another stain—but at least now, I know the secret to salvaging my jeans.

This article was updated in July 2022 with additional details on how to remove red wine stains. We’re re-running the story because we still live in fear of red wine stains.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.


anniette July 29, 2022
There’s a stain-remover bar called Vanish, like a bar of soap, that removes wine stains, grease stains, and every other stain I’ve met. Wet the stain with a little cold water, rub on Vanish, then launder in cold as soon as possible. I travel with a Vanish bar and recommend it to all, as it was recommended to me.
[email protected] July 29, 2022
White wine neutralizes the red wine and comes out every time on any surface. I keep a cheap bottle of white on hand for those times.
Pat T. July 28, 2022
I drink fruit juices, esp. grape...found hydrogen peroxide full strength fades the stain completely
Nicole A. December 15, 2020
White wine takes out red wine. If you spill red wine on yourself, pour white wine on it, let it sit a bit, and launder as usual.
Resolve for pets spray also works.
Terry March 15, 2020
As an ounce of prevention, I might suggest dining with only people you know and saving the friend-of-a-friend situations for occasions that don't include red wine (or the like), as it seems that larger parties inevitably include at least one person who thinks it's perfectly funny to ruin the clothes or the dinner or the fill-in-the-blank of someone they don't know, if entirely by accident.

Otherwise, I used a package of Rit Dye Remover on a load of formerly white socks and tees that had been washed with a presumably very old red blanket. Upon being added to the pot of hot water with dissolved powder, the pink items immediately turned a light lavender and returned to their original white within 60 seconds. This product may be very much like or identical to the "Wine Away" that others here have commented on.
Nicki I. March 15, 2020
I use windex (or any window cleaner for that matter). It works every time. Wine Away is also awesome. I bought it on a whim, my daughter spilled almost an entire glass of red wine on my newly purchased sofa...stain gone.
Barbara G. August 4, 2020
Ha! Makes me think of the movie Big Fat Greek Wedding - The cast used Windex for literally everything :)
Steingass March 12, 2020
Pour white wine on red wine spills. Magically erases it!
deverainnyc July 14, 2019
I am a recent (2 years or so) convert to Oxy-Clean (Stain Remover) powder. I use a couple of scoops of said powder mixed up, in hot water (regardless of soak-ee's instruction), soak overnight and wash in cold water. Stains of every kind removed every. single. time.!
Linda C. July 14, 2019
Just read an article that suggested saline solution, as for contact lenses. Goes back to the salt answer.
Dianne July 11, 2019
Having worked many years in a tasting room, pouring red wine only, my favorite is OxyClean. Spray it on the stain, rub it in, let it sit over night and launder in cold water.
Jan July 11, 2019
You said you “poured” - can I presume that means liquid laundry soap? I use powder as I have HE washer which likes powder better. Please explain. Thanks
Bonnie July 11, 2019
There is a product called "Wine Away" that is truly amazing for removing red wine stains. I spilled a glass of red on a white carpet at a friend's house and was horrified until he sprayed it with Wine Away. We watched in amazement as the stain slowly disappeared. We have kept a bottle handy ever since and have used it many times. It has a nice lemony smell. Just checked on Amazon and it's available for under $7!
BLE6278 July 9, 2019
I spilled red wine at a part on a real lace tablecloth and the owner of it didn’t get excited, she took it and poured salt on the stain and waited a few hours and then soaked it in water and the stain manically came out.
BLE6278 July 11, 2019
You pour salt directly from the round salt container with the metal spout. Not a small shaker. That way you use plenty of salt.
KC B. July 28, 2022
Never, ever pour hot water (or any other hot liquid) on a wine stain, unless you want to “set” that stain.