I Tried “Home Comforts”ʼ Popular Red Wine Stain Removal Method to See If It’s Worth the Hype

published Dec 18, 2019
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Morgan Smith

In an effort to find the absolute best method for removing red wine stains (or should I say, one that actually works), I’ve been testing out methods from various published authors. To test, I mark one corner of the towel and let a red wine stain sit overnight, and then add a few fresh drops of red wine to the opposite corner of the towel a few minutes before testing out the different removal methods. 

I’d heard of the heavy hitters like Martha Stewart (duh) but am a little ashamed to admit I’d never heard of Cheryl Mendelson, or her book “Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House” before testing the method. While the method was a little vague, it was the easiest method that yielded results—not the best results, but results nonetheless!

The “Home Comforts” Method: How To Remove a Red Wine Stain 

1. Soak stain in cool water. Seems simple enough. I grabbed a big bowl and filled it with cool water, submerged the towel, and let it soak. I was a bit annoyed there wasn’t any guidance as to how long I needed to let the towel soak, so I just left in there for 15 minutes. I was blown away by how much the fresh stain had faded with just a simple soak in water. The overnight stain was a different story—nothing had changed.

Credit: Ashley Poskin/Apartment Therapy
The fresh stain after a cool-water bath—almost totally gone! The overnight stain was a different story.

2. Pre-treat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of powder detergent and water. I just grabbed my generic liquid laundry detergent because it qualified as “liquid laundry detergent” and pre-treated the stains. I treated the towels for 60 minutes before taking them down to the laundry.

Credit: Ashley Poskin/Apartment Therapy

3. Launder with the bleach safe for that fabric. I added bleach and laundered in cold water. 

Credit: Ashley Poskin/Apartment Therapy

Once the cycle was finished, I pulled the towel out and immediately saw a bit of a shadow where the overnight stain had been, and a faint shadow of where the fresh stain had been—but only after looking for a few seconds. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Morgan Smith

My Honest Review of Cheryl Mendelson’s Method for Removing Red Wine Stains

The Home Comforts method reminded me of an old Volvo station wagon a friend of mine drove around in high school, the license plates said “WRKSOK.” (That car did “work ok”—but it didn’t work great.)

This pre-treat and wash combo seemed to be on the right track, but was so vague that simply following the instructions didn’t deliver the crisp results I expected from such a well-loved cleaning book. I do believe I would have had a better outcome if the directions had been more specific; some steps were definitely lacking in product details. For example, step two says to “Pre-treat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of powder detergent and water”—but I feel strongly that a prewash stain remover is not equal to a generic laundry detergent, or a powdered detergent like Biz or OxiClean. Had the method stated to pre-treat with an enzyme detergent, or prewash stain remover containing enzymes, I think the results would have been a bit more impressive. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Morgan Smith

I really wanted this method to work because it seemed very doable. It involved hardly any hands-on time at all, and that is the way I like to work: set it and forget it. A soak, a pre-treat, and a wash in bleach—easy enough. Maybe it was too easy, though? I think, for a stain like red wine you just really have to be more hands on. Give it a little tamp, use a powerful stain-fighting detergent, throw everything you’ve got at it.

All in all, I gave this method a seven out of 10 because it moved in the right direction but wasn’t specific enough. Had there been more defined instructions, like: “use a prewash stain remover with enzymes” instead of vaguely suggesting I use a “prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of powder detergent and water,” I’m confident the stain would have come out completely. Instead, I was left with a dingy shadow where the wine had stained the towel. 

Overall rating: 7/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Morgan Smith

I appreciated this method because it introduced me to Cheryl Mendelson and her book (which is now at the top of my Christmas list). If I had to guess, I’d expect Cheryl is the type of gal who assumes people reading her book aren’t idiots, and already know to treat their laundry with powerful stain removers and detergents with enzymes and don’t necessarily need everything spelled out for them.