6 Steps To Removing Tough Food Stains From Your Clothes

Now that we can all venture outside the confines of our home, no doubt are we all visiting the restaurants we’ve been craving for the past 3 months. After a fancy dine out in your favourite top, or a cozy dine in with a comfy sweater, did your night end with a bit of dinner stuck to the front of it?

Personally, my first instinct is to curse at myself, then remember how I had JUST taken this top out to wear, and now I have to wash it again. But after the initial self-berating, I tell myself that the stain isn’t going to clean itself. So, let’s get down to work.

Step #1: remove

Scrape, scrape, scrape! Using a blunt edged object, get rid of as much of the stain as possible. Never wipe because that will rub it into the fabric more.

Step #2: avoid panic cleaning

It’s very tempting to try and clean it right there and then with a napkin, a bit of saliva, some sparkling water maybe…and before you know it, it’s now just become a wider patch of dilute food. We’ve all done that countless times, each time knowing it’s not going to work but giving it a (regretful) shot anyway.

Leave it till you get home where you have the right cleaning tools!

Step #3: what type of stain is it?

There are 3 types of stains:

  1. Tannins: tannins are natural dyes found in plants. Tannin stains can include tea, coffee, berry, juice, red wine, ketchup, even washable ink.
  2. Proteins: stains that are meat-/dairy-based. These can include milk, yoghurt, eggs, blood, etc.
  3. Grease: stains that are, well, greasy. These can include butter, oil, etc.

Knowing what type of stain helps you decide what cleaning products to use to effectively remove it, as each product chemically works at each stain differently.

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Step #4: what type of fabric is it?

Different fabrics will chemically react with each stain differently. There are do’s, such as certain cleaning products you can use and steps you can take, which will increase your chances of removing the stain successfully.

More importantly though, there are don’ts, as certain fabrics are harder to remove stains from or are more easily damaged, and these are best left to professional drycleaners to handle.

Keep reading to find out what to do and what not to do.

Step #5: now that I know the stain and fabric, which stain remover should I use?


Tannin stains can be pretreated with a vinegar and water solution. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before running the fabric through a hot cycle (make sure to check the care label for the maximum temperature allowed).


Pretreatment with a degreaser is recommended, such as detergent, or a stain remover with enzymes. Several liquid laundry detergents have some enzymes in them already. Soak in cold water with the degreaser or stain remover. Then, machine wash in cold water while following the care label.

Two important things to avoid:

  1. Avoid heat, as it will set the stain.
  2. Avoid using specific enzyme cleaners on wool and silk fabrics because they are both proteins and the fabric will become damaged.


It is easier to remove grease stains from natural fibers, like linen or cotton. However, if the stain is on synthetic fiber, like nylon and polyester, it becomes more difficult to remove as the molecules will create a strong hard-to-break bond with the fiber.

You can sprinkle some baby/talcum powder or cornstarch onto the stain and let sit for 15 minutes, before brushing it away.

Now, pretreat the stain with heavy duty liquid detergent, such as Persil, which is made up of the right enzymes to break down the molecule-fiber bonds. Use a soft toothbrush and rub the pretreated stain. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.

Finally, machine wash as indicated on the care label.

Like protein stains, use a cold wash, as high temperatures will set the grease stain.

Step #6: when in doubt, call us out.

If you’re unsure of what to do, contact us and we can help you out. You can flick us a message and attach a couple of photos so that we can assess the stain and give you some guidance as to what to do.

The best option is to leave it to us to remove the stain for you. We have a wide variety of industry leading solvents in our stain removal toolkit that have all been tried and tested. All evidence of your inner messy eater will be washed clean!

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Our stain removal toolkit

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