We Tested 3 Popular Red Wine Stain Removal Methods and Found a Proven Winner

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

A red wine stain can seem like a death sentence for a favorite outfit (or tablecloth) if you aren’t equipped with the right skills for stain removal. It might even seem impossible—a task better left to professional cleaners. Good thing you’ve got pro cleaners in your back pocket.

We’ve tested three published professional methods for red wine stain removal and are happy to report: It is possible to remove a red wine stain, at home, without paying a pro to do it for you.

We used a 100% cotton white dishcloth for each method tested. Each cloth had two red wine stains: In one corner, a fresh stain (approximately 20 minutes old); in the other corner, a stain that had sat overnight. We used methods by Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart, and Cheryl Mendelson (aka the author of “Home Comforts“), all experts in home care and keeping.

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

But First, the 5 Biggest Takeaways from My Red Wine Removal Showdown

  1. Act quickly. The longer the stain has to set in, the tougher it is to get out. In all cases the overnight/dried stains were tougher to get out than the fresh stains. Only one method almost eliminated the stain—you have to look closely, but it’s still sort of there.
  2. Cold water and dish soap are your first line of defense. You can find these two things almost anywhere red wine is served, so if you have a spill, seek it out and treat the stain until you can attack it further.
  3. Removing a red wine stain is not easy. If you want the stain to come out, you’re going to have to work for it. Simply tossing a stained item into the laundry expecting magical results is, well, not a great idea. Grab your chemist jacket and put on your safety goggles, your laundry room is about to become a laboratory.
  4. Not all laundry detergents are created equal. I discovered along with all the other stain fighting agents in my arsenal, it’s a good idea to have a detergent with high levels of enzymes like Persil to use on super tough stains, in addition to the everyday detergent I use to launder non-stained clothing items.
  5. “Tamping” is not the same action as “brushing.” Tamping is a stain removal method where you’re essentially pushing the stain through the fabric by way of smacking the brush down over and over across the surface of the stain. 

Meet Our Stain-Fighting Specialists 

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

1. The method you can use to treat wine stains while you’re still at the restaurant: Good Housekeeping

I really expected the Good Housekeeping stain removal method to be a solid contender, but this one left a shadowy mark behind. To be fair, the stain was pretty large, but definitely did not come out. There are times, when you’re just having too much fun to leave the restaurant or a party on account of a little red wine spill, and for these times, you can use this simple method. It’s going to give you results in the form of the effort you put in to getting them out. We’re giving it a six out of 10 because it makes a good effort, but doesn’t quite cut the mustard… er, tannins.

Overall rating: 6/10

Read more: The Good Housekeeping Method You Can Use To Treat Red Wine Stains at a Party

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

2. The “good enough” method for removing stains from non-white clothing: Cheryl Mendelson in “Home Comforts”

I really expected the method from the much-lauded “Home Comforts” housekeeping tome to work. I mean—bleach? Enough said! Again, the results were not 100% and we were left with a shadowy discoloration where the original stain was. I’m going to give this method a “Meh” out of five stars. If all you have at home is detergent and a little bleach to throw at the stain, it’s good enough-ish, but the stain won’t disappear completely. That said, this might be the laziest way to remove wine stains from clothing, since you already have everything you need.

Overall rating: 7/10

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

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

3. The hands down, G.O.A.T method for removing red wine stains from white clothing and tablecloths: Martha Stewart in “Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook”

All hail Martha, maven of clean, deliverer of delicious, friend of Snoop. She did it. Again. The method from her “Homekeeping Handbook” was, as expected, the best. I admit, there was a bit of eye rolling as I walked aisle after aisle at Target, gathering all SIX stain fighting compounds—but her method worked! Not only did the fresh stain come out, but the overnight stain came out as well. It’s difficult to know if the stain is out completely, but I’ve stared and stared at it and I can’t pinpoint where either stain was. This method is involved, but totally worth it! Thank you, Martha! We’re not worthy!

Overall rating: 9/10

Read more: Martha Stewart’s Elaborate 6-Step Method Is the Best for Removing Red Wine Stains