Tried-and-true tricks for removing wine, spaghetti sauce, ketchup and other food stains


Stains and eating go together like peanut butter and jelly, but not in a cute or delicious way.

How many times have you vowed not to eat spaghetti while wearing a white shirt? How many commutes have doubled after you've splattered hot coffee all over your brand-new work clothes? (Also, ouch.) Getting dirty is sometimes just a part of enjoying food, but it doesn't have to ruin your wardrobe. For those of us who aren't dining in bibs (not the worst idea), here's how to get out all those common food stains.


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Carolyn E. Forte, director of the home appliances and cleaning lab at Good Housekeeping Research Institute — Good Housekeeping's laboratory of all things cooking, cleaning and living — recommends sponging the wine stain with cool water as soon as it happens. Then, apply a product dedicated to wine removal, like Wine Away (spillers should probably just keep this spray alongside their bottle openers) and wash according to the care label.


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As soon as that Heinz drips off the end of your burger and onto your lap, scrape off any excess with a spoon or knife. Then, "flush the stain from the back with cold water to push it out of the fabric and keep it from setting," Forte advises in an email. After that, apply a prewash laundry spray (this frequent spiller relies on Shout) or rub in liquid laundry detergent. Wash the garment in warm water with fabric-safe bleach added in.

Spaghetti Sauce

Melissa Kravitz

After your spaghetti splatters, Forte recommends applying the same method as with ketchup. You can also try sponging white vinegar on the stain and alternate with rinsing until it starts to fade. Alternatively, you can tuck a napkin in your shirt before you even start eating and maybe avoid this whole tomato-y situation.


As soon as you mindlessly wipe your chocolate chip cookie hands across your pants, scrape up the excess with a spoon or dull knife. Then, work a little dish liquid, liquid laundry detergent or prewash spray into the stain and wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric with a fabric-safe bleach added, Forte recommends.


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As soon as your morning coffee hits your clothes, sponge the spot with cold water. If there was milk or cream in the coffee, "Rub a little enzyme-containing liquid laundry detergent into the stain or use a prewash spray containing enzymes," instructed Forte. Then, wash in warm water with a fabric-safe bleach added.



Fans of greasy food know the curse of a ruined shirt post fried food indulgence. As soon as the grease splatters your clothes, try to blot the oil spot up with a napkin. Then, treat with a prewash stain remover and launder at the hottest setting.

And for any stain ...

Beware the dryer. "Never put stained garments in the dryer unless you are certain the stain has been removed," Forte said. "Always air dry any stained item until you are sure [the stain is out]." Happy eating!