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Do Red Wine Stain Removers Actually Work?

Written by Madeline Puckette

You just spilled red wine on yourself or someone else… now what? We tested several wine stain removers to find out which one works!

Removing Red Wine Spills From Synthetic or Non-Synthetic Fabrics

Linen is possibly the world’s most stainable fabric, so this test with linen should also work well with other materials such as cotton, silk, modal, polyester, wool or spandex. Surprisingly, one technique we used was able to nearly completely remove the stain, to the point where it was not visible under normal lighting.

Prepare the Material for Cleaning Immediately.

In all scenarios, your best bet is to move as quickly as possible to prepare the material for cleaning. As the wine’s color pigments and acids linger longer, the stain will set and become more difficult to remove.

Red Wine Spills: Ice Water or Hot Water?

We’ve heard folks recommend either hot water or ice water on stains. Which is it? We decided to test both scenarios to see which one works best.

Step 1: Grab a clean, preferably white, cloth, towel, old shirt and blot as much of the excess wine off of the offended shirt (shorts, skirt, jeans). In your panic, don’t rub the stain “clean”, just gently blot and soak up as much juice as possible.

Step 2 (best option): Next, submerge garment in ice water or cold soda water to keep it from setting. Keep the stain wet until you can complete Step 3.

Hot Water Option: If there’s no way you’ll be able to clean the material anytime soon, put the material in boiling water. Use a utensil to irritate the material and you’ll see most of the stain dilute and diffuse almost to nothing. Unfortunately, this method also sets the stain making it nearly impossible to clean all the way out later on, but it does a surprisingly good job on the fly.

Step 3 (best option): Spray with a red wine stain remover (we used Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover) and gently rub fabric against itself with your hands.

Best red wine stain remover option

If you don’t have a wine stain remover, the next best option is to dab with liquid laundry detergent and rub fabric against itself gently with your hands to create a lather.


Step 4: Rinse fabric and either launder or let dry.


Don’t Bother With Other Stain Removers

We also tested Oxy-Clean, Shout and Folex and found that they didn’t work as well as just plain detergent. They changed the pH of the stain to a basic solution, which just turns the red to a blueish-gray color. In all cases it appeared to worsen the wine stain.


Last Word: How it works

Stain removers specifically formulated to target anthocyanin (the pigment) in red wine work much better than standard stain removers. After testing several stain removers from Oxy-Clean to Shout to the awesome carpet spot remover Folex, we didn’t see the same results as a wine specific stain remover or even just plain detergent. We asked Chateau Spill’s founder a little bit about how these stain removers work and here’s what he said:

Surfactants is a very different mechanism from bleaching or oxisiding that is changing the structure of the stain by breaking it up. Basically surfactants are “dissolving” the stain causing molecules by coating them and keeping them out of the fabric. The immediate effect is the surfactant almost “popping” the stain molecule so it breaks down. To be more specific we are using Non-Ionic surfactants. The removal works on nearly all stains but it is just particularly fast on wine, berries or iodine. For others it needs some rubbing or a wash to remove the residue (e.g make up / blood / grass / ketchup etc…).
A brief overview of the different ways that stains can be removed can be found here. The other good option that I used before I developed ESR (Emergency Stain Rescue) is Dawn dish detergent (surfactant) and some hydrogen peroxide. This works great but is a real pain to mix and totally ruins a party (plus you have some issues with color loss).

Harry Smail, Creator of Chateau Spill

If you’re wondering if we tested Wine Away, we haven’t… yet!

Special Thanks
To Stacy Slinkard for co-authoring this article and initiating the quest for the best solution.
To Sandy for letting us destroy her nice linen napkins (she didn’t really have a choice, but took it surprisingly well).

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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