How to Banish Cranberry Stains From... Everything

The good news? It's totally doable.

November 26, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Cranberry sauce is a mainstay at many Thanksgiving dinners, which means that cranberry sauce stains are as well. While not pretty, stains are a sign of a fun evening and a plentiful meal—replete with red wine, rich gravy, buttery treats, and delicious chocolate. Another sign of a well-enjoyed gathering? Snug waistbands, groggy heads, and achy limbs (that is, if you were standing in the kitchen all day; if you were watching football from the couch, glass in hand, this ain't you).

If only cranberry stains were less of a headache to get rid of...

Actually, they don't have to be. Virtually every kind holiday stain can be removed, provided you get to it quickly enough. Yes, including that dreaded cranberry sauce stain on your favorite white tablecloth.

How to remove cranberry sauce from fabric

The tricky thing with stains is that the older it gets, the harder it is to remove. Treat stains first—and quickly—before laundering or drying, for easier and lasting removal.

According to, the boiling water method works wonders on those dark red and purple stains from cranberry sauce. If you have a stain on clothing or a piece of fabric like a cloth napkin, stretch the soiled item over a bowl, secure with a rubber band, and pour hot water over it. Northern California-based Pacific Heights Cleaners also suggests blotting the stain with a solution of one-part distilled white vinegar, one-part laundry detergent, and 10-parts cool water. (Fun fact: The same ingredients work well for tannin-based coffee stains, too.)

If the stain is stubborn, repeat the steps until it has gone. Now wash the garment as recommended.

How to remove cranberry sauce from carpets

Carpets can be blotted with a mix of one-part liquid dish detergent to two-parts cold water until the stain is gone, adds. Here are the steps:

  1. Lift any cranberries away from the carpet with a dull-edged knife or spoon.
  2. Mix one-part liquid hand dishwashing detergent with two-parts cool water.
  3. Using a clean white cloth, dab the stain with the detergent solution until fully absorbed.
  4. If the stain remains, mix one tablespoon of bleach with two cups of warm water and blot the stain with the solution.
  5. Keep blotting until the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Sponge with cold water until the stain disappears and blot dry.
  7. Air dry away from sunlight and direct heat.

    Home52 Tip: Once completely dry, vacuum the area to restore the fluffiness of your carpet.

How to remove cranberry sauce from upholstery

If there’s cranberry all over your upholstered dining chairs (ugh! but no fear!):

  1. Lift away any cranberry sauce solids from the fabric.
  2. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to two-thirds cup of bleach and blot gently. (Another popular option is a solution of 2/3 of a cup of rubbing alcohol and one tablespoon of white vinegar.)
  3. Blot until the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the stain disappears.
  5. Now that the stain is removed, using cold water and a fresh, clean cloth, sponge the area to remove the cleaning solution, and then blot dry.

    A very helpful hint from the blog Stain Removal 101: To avoid water rings in your upholstery, be sure to get it only as wet as necessary to remove the stain from the cranberries.

Do you have a better, easier, more lasting trick for cranberry stain removal? We're all ears.

See ya, turmeric stains

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Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.

1 Comment

Mary E. December 5, 2021
Oxyclean for red stains, only way I can continue enjoying pomegranates.