Time moves in slow motion as the glass of red wine tips but rapidly speeds up as everyone rushes to blot it out.  The good news is, if caught quickly, red wine is not a difficult stain to remove.

The first step for washable fabrics is to dilute the stain.  (Dry clean only fabrics are in a totally separate category and need taken to the cleaners.) Water is a great option and really works just as well as club soda.  To keep the stain from spreading use small amounts of water at a time.  (For carpet stains put salt around the edges to block the stain.)  Then start blotting (not rubbing) with a rag.  Fabric works best but paper towels will do in a pinch.

The dyes in red wine won’t stick to cotton and polyester fabrics, so a mixture of equal parts dish soap (like Dawn) and cold/lukewarm water will work.  Blot until the stain is removed then wash as usual.

For fabrics like silk, wool, and nylon a different method is needed.  (Again, read your labels these are often the fabrics that need to be dry cleaned.)  The dyes in red wine will stick to these fabrics so, in addition to diluting the stain you need to bleach it so you can’t see it or use an acid to release it.  While bleaching (using equal parts dish soap and hydrogen peroxide) works really well, I always worry that my fabric will discolor.  So, my first choice is to use a mixture of:

  • 2 C warm water
  • 1 T white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 T dish soap (something neutral like Dawn- do not use the soap for your dishwasher or ammonia- they will form a salt that is really difficult to remove)

Reapply this treatment until the stain is removed then wash as usual.  Do not put the item in the dryer unless the spot has been completely removed.