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Never Again Will You Panic in the Face of a Red Wine Spill

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There's an episode in Season 3 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in which friend-of-the-'wives Marisa Zanuck attempts to remove a small red wine stain from her white Alaia dress using white wine. She explains that her mother-in-law had been at a party at Barbra Streisand's house, spilled some red wine and Babs used white wine to take out the stain. Kyle Richards snottily observes, "I'm certainly not going to take laundry advice from Barbra Streisand."

Barbra Streisand is entirely right here.

Here's the thing: Barbra Streisand is entirely right here and also? Barbra Streisand totally does seem like the type to know an odd little tidbit, like that white wine can be used to remove a red wine stain. Most importantly, Kyle Richards needs to take several seats.

I share that anecdote because I'm dedicated to Housewives frippery and also because it makes for a great lead-in to today's discussion about how to remove red wine stains from clothes, furniture, carpeting and so on. If you prefer to hear, rather than read, check out the red wine episode of Ask A Clean Person.

White Wine

Well let's just start with the white wine trick, since we're already on the subject. The way to use white wine to remove red wine stains is to apply the white to a cloth — a bar towel or napkin would be a great choice here, since those are things that tend to be available in situations in which you might be drinking red wine — and to use that cloth to dab at the stain. As the stain appears to lighten, refresh the wine on the cloth and keep repeating as necessary. If the red wine spill is a larger one on carpeting or furniture, you can pour the white wine directly onto the stain and blot it up, but be careful not to pour too much out.

For older, more set-in stains, white wine can be combined with baking soda.

For older, more set-in stains, white wine can be combined with baking soda; start by applying white wine to the stain, then put baking soda on top of the wine and allow it to sit for 30-90 minutes, dampening with water as needed, before washing or wiping away the soda and treating the area with a small amount of soap.

Now then, this will work (DON'T QUESTION THE STREISAND) but if you prefer, as I do, to drink your white wine rather than use it as a stain remover, stick with me — because here are a whole bunch of other ways to cope if you've spilled red wine.

Club Soda

You've probably heard people call for club soda after spilling a bit of red wine, and oftentimes simply dabbing a stain with club soda will do the trick. The club soda treatment is probably best used for smaller stains on clothing, or when there's a spill on carpeting (this article in Scientific American explains a bit more about how the club soda works on stains).

Just like when employing white wine, you may want to apply the club soda to a cloth so that you can control how much you're using.


[Salt] is particularly helpful on large spills.

This is my favorite trick for treating red wine stains, it's so weird and great. The idea is to use table salt as a desiccant on a fresh red wine stain by pouring a liberal amount on the spill and allowing the salt to soak up the wine. This technique is particularly helpful on large spills on carpet, upholstery, or tablecloths because it will remove a good deal of the wine. Then, you can treat the residual staining with a product like Resolve, all without risking flooding the stain and causing it to spread.

Saline Solution

In a pinch, a few drops of saline solution can be used to remove small splatters of red wine from clothing or other fabrics. The idea is similar to the use of salt and/or club soda, which contains some salt.

Dish or Liquid Laundry Soap

Massaging a small amount of liquid dish or laundry soap into a fresh red wine spill and rinsing the fabric with water will go a long way in eliminating the stain. If the stain has happened on something larger and less movable, like carpeting or upholstery, you can use dish or laundry soap. Dilute the soap in a bowl with water and dab it onto the stains using a cloth or sponge.

Wine Away

There are a number of products on the market that bill themselves as red wine stain removers. Many are good, and many are not, but Wine Away is the best of the bunch, so for our purposes today it's the one I'm telling you about!

Wine Away is a cute add-on present.

One of the nice things about Wine Away is that they sell small travel-sized bottles, which are great for tossing in a purse or laptop bag — if you're a big red wine drinker and frequently splatter or spill, it's a handy thing to have on hand. Wine Away is also a cute add-on present if you're giving someone a bottle of red wine as a gift.

Oxygenated Bleach

Oftentimes after events like holiday meals, in which the table is set with its finery and wine flows abundantly, a host or hostess will find themselves with a tablecloth that's been stained with red wine. Soaking a badly stained tablecloth in warm water and a powdered oxygenated bleach like Clorox Oxi Magic for several hours before laundering as usual will remove those stains with very little effort.

Just Plain Old Water

If you've spilled on your clothing and are in a place where you can take your shirt off, try flushing it with cold water. That'll go much further than you think it will in pushing out a fresh red-wine stain.