The Best Way to Remove Every Type of Holiday Stain — Including Red Wine, Cranberry Sauce, and Gravy Too!

published Nov 20, 2022
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Glass of red wine on off-white tablecloth. There are wine stains on the tablecloth fabric, and a wine bottle can be seen in the upper right corner
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving dinner come with lots of fun memories — but, as with any food-driven get-together, you can also expect lots of chores. From eliminating food prep clutter to tackling piles of dishes, you’ll definitely have your work cut out for you in the kitchen. But you’ll also likely be spending some extra time in the laundry room

As you’re enjoying some of the most delicious food and drinks you’ll have all year, it’s highly likely you’ll end up with a splatter or spill on your clothes, tablecloth, or upholstery. Stains are, of course, easiest to remove the sooner you tackle them — that’s why it is highly recommend that you go into the day with a laundry plan that includes all the right steps and supplies. 

To learn about the most effective ways to stave off common holiday stains, I tapped Sergio Aguirre, owner of the laundry franchise Mr Jeff’s Miami location. Here’s everything you need to know about doing your laundry during the holidays, no matter what you’re cooking up. 

Red wine and cranberry sauce

When somebody spills a glass of Cabernet, don’t fret — your go-to tool is probably already in your pantry. Aguirre suggests applying vinegar directly to the stain, then allowing it to sit for 15 or 20 minutes. Then, scrub lightly with a soft bristle brush. Repeat both steps if the stain persists. This works for cranberry sauce too.

Gravy and grease stains

Gravy and grease stains are notoriously hard to remove, but Aguirre has a surprisingly easy hack: Simply add 100 milliliters (nearly seven tablespoons) of dishwasher detergent or distilled vinegar to the drawer of your washing machine, then wash and dry the garment as normal. 

Potatoes and other starches

Like with grease stains, simply add 100 milliliters (nearly seven tablespoons) of distilled white vinegar to the drawer of your washing machine before washing and drying as normal. Your garment should be good as new, whether you were dealing with mashed potatoes or butternut squash.


Treat dairy stains like whipped cream or ice cream quickly by spraying a DIY mixture of 300 milliliters of water, 100 milliliters of vinegar, and 100 milliliters of dishwashing detergent directly on the stain. After applying the mixture, scrub the affected area lightly with a soft-bristled brush. Then, add 100 milliliters of either dishwasher detergent or vinegar to the drawer of your washing machine and wash and dry as normal.

Coffee and tea

Rogue coffee or tea doesn’t stand a chance if you’ve got hydrogen peroxide on hand. Just pour a bit directly on the stain, then allow it to do its work for 15 or 20 minutes. Scrub lightly with a soft bristle brush. You can repeat both steps before laundering if the stain persists.


Who knew baking soda was chocolate’s No. 1 enemy? To remove it, dissolve three tablespoons of baking soda in 400 milliliters (about 13.5 ounces) of water and apply it directly to the stain. Throw the garment into the washing machine, and pour 100 milliliters of detergent into the chemical drawer before running a normal load and drying. 


If someone spills candle wax on your tablecloth, remove the excess right away to prevent the stain from setting. Then, lay the stained cloth face down on a white paper towel and place another paper towel over the garment. Run a warm (not hot!) iron over it, being careful not to let the iron touch the outside of the paper towel. After removing the stain, put the tablecloth in the washer with 100 milliliters of dishwashing detergent. Don’t add fabric softener until after you ensure the stain has been removed.


To remove lipstick, Aguirre recommends diluting 15 milliliters (about one tablespoon) of dishwasher detergent in 10 milliliters of water, then applying it directly to the stain. Let it sit for five minutes or so, then lightly scrub the stain with a soft-bristled brush. Repeat the steps before you run a load of laundry if the stain doesn’t go away the first time.