Home Remedies for Cleaning Food Stains

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It never fails… the darkest colored, juiciest and runny foods will find their way onto your shirt, tablecloth or carpet. As you stare at the discoloration – don’t lose all hope. You can still salvage your fabrics and other materials with the help of home remedies for food stains.

About Food Stains

There are many factors that can increase the difficulty of removing a food stain. For starters, the color of a food stain plays an important role – darker foods (such as deep red berries) pose a larger issue. Whether or not the food is greasy or oily affects the success of stain removal. Mayonnaise, salad dressing, and fried chicken stains can leave behind a ring, discoloration or oil spot if not treated properly. Above all, acting quickly will prevent the food stain from setting into a fabric and make it easier to remove.

Food Stain Home Remedies

Act swiftly to minimize the damage that food stains can cause to your fabrics and other materials. The color, oiliness, and level of saturation are all factors to consider when choosing the proper course of action. A few home remedies for food stains to become familiar with include:

a) Hydrogen Peroxide and Cream of Tartar:

After you’ve finished eating and have discovered a stain on your shirt, but you have no idea where it came from – mix one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a little bit of cream of tartar. Rub the paste on the stain using a soft cloth. Rinse the garment, and your stain may have disappeared.

b) Hydrogen Peroxide and Non-Gel Toothpaste:

To treat unknown food stains, combine one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a dab of non-gel toothpaste. Use a soft cloth to rub in the remedy. After rinsing your article of clothing – the stain may have disappeared.

c) Meat Tenderizer:

When you’ve suffered a protein-based stain (such as chocolate), meat tenderizer can come in handy. Sprinkle a bit of the tenderizer on fresh wet stains – covering the area. Let it sit for one hour before brushing off the dried tenderizer. Place the garment in the laundry as usual. To treat stains that have already set, mix meat tenderizer and water to create a paste that is rubbed into the stain. Wait one hour before placing in the laundry to clean.

d) Window Cleaner:

Remove stubborn food stains (such as tomato sauce) by using a colorless window cleaner with an ammonia base. Spray the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Use a clean rag to blot the stain, and then rinse with cool water. Follow up by putting the garment in the washer. This remedy is not suggested for silk, wool, or their blends.

e) Cool Water:

Some fresh fruit juice and berry stains are easily removed by running cool water over the spots. It is important to quickly respond to such stains. You may have to soak the garment in chlorinated laundry bleach if you can still see the stain. Rinse and launder as usual.

f) Boiling Water:

To remove berry stains (especially strawberries) from white cotton clothing and linens, stretch the material over a basin and pour boiling water over the stain. Treat remaining stains with a soak of chlorinated laundry bleach.

g) Lukewarm Water:

Remove ice cream or cream stains from washable materials by sponging with lukewarm water. Follow up by washing the article of clothing as usual.

h) Dull Knife [1]:

Use a dull knife to remove excess food (such as chocolate and baby food) before using a stain removal solution.

i) Bread:

Some people have removed fresh dark-colored food stains (like beets) by blotting with a piece of white bread to absorb some of the liquid.

j) Paper Towels:

When you need to blot a food stain, white paper towels are effectively absorbent.

k) Shaving Cream:

A can of non-gel shaving cream can come in handy after spilling tomato sauce on your shirt [2]. Spray the cream onto the stain, and gently rub it in. Let the residue dry before washing as usual.

l) Cold Water and Salt:

To treat a tomato-based sauce stain, blot with cold water, and then sprinkle the stain with salt so that it can absorb the liquid. After a few moments, wipe the stain clean with club soda before putting in the wash. This remedy also works to treat soda stains.

m) Ice:

A shirt stained with chewing gum is removed by hardening the ingredients with ice. Use a dull knife to scrape off the gum, and then place the garment in the wash.

n) Velvet:

When solid food has dribbled down your favorite shirt, wipe it up with a small piece of velvet – a quick fix that you can easily keep in your purse for those emergencies while on the go.

o) Old Toothbrush:

An old soft-bristled nylon toothbrush can help reach stains found in the soft fibers of fabric. Gently dab into a treated stain to work in the stain remover.

p) Vinegar and Liquid Detergent:

To treat an older, set-in stain – try pre-treating with a solution of three tablespoons of white vinegar, two tablespoons of liquid detergent, and one quart (1 liter) of warm water. Rub the solution into the stain, and then blot dry before putting in the wash.

q) Paintbrush:

Using a paintbrush to apply liquid stain removers can help you treat stains more accurately and make the process less of a mess.

r) Plastic Bag [3]:

Keeping a stain from drying can make removal much easier to accomplish. Let’s say chocolate ice cream falls onto a shirt. Keep the stain from drying by taking off the shirt, spraying with a stain remover (or soak in water), and then storing in a sealable plastic bag until you are able to wash.

s) Spray Bottle:

Treat a fresh stain before it has time to set by filling a spray bottle with homemade stain remover and having it ready to go when accidents happen.

t) Old T-Shirt or Towel:

Save your old white T-shirts and towels (100% cotton cloths) to help you soak up liquid stains. They are one of the most absorbent items you can use.

u) Q-Tip:

The cotton and small size of a Q-tip doubles as a stain removal tool that allows you to more accurately treat spots.

v) Eye Dropper:

When removing a stain requires precision and only a small amount of removal solution, use an eye dropper to increase your precision.

w) Salt and Rubbing Alcohol:

When you’ve dropped the greasiness of nachos on your white or light colored carpet, rub in a mixture of one part salt and four parts rubbing alcohol into the greasy stain. Make sure to rub the solution in the direction of the rug’s natural nap.


[1] Stain Rescue by Good Housekeeping Research Institute; pg. 42.
[3] Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest’ pg. 296.