Red wine on white pants. Is there anything more tragic? Apart from being the punch line in many a movie, this very real disaster is no stranger to the red wine lover. Even if your pants aren’t white, it can be quite useful to know how to release a red wine stain now, so that you’re armed with the proper know-how for when you inevitably experience a spill later.
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Act Smart, Not Fast
Your best bet at saving your clothing item is to make deliberate choices in treating the stain. While your instinct may be to jump up, grab a napkin, and desperately try to remove the stain, that’s hardly the most effective plan of action. So take a deep breath, stay calm, and start by checking your item’s care label before you do too much. Specialty fabrics like leather, suede, lace, or silk often require dry cleaning, and DIY stain removal could actually make the problem worse instead of better. Assuming your stained item is not dry clean only, following these simple steps should help you get the stain out quickly.
Quick Change Artist
While it may be impossible to swap out the stained clothes for fresh the instant a spill occurs, it’s generally your best bet to get out of the stained item and treat the stain as quickly as possible. If you’re not able to change right away, order some sparkling water or club soda and apply a small amount to the stain straight away. If you can, keep the stain moist until you can change and treat it. This will help prevent the pigment from setting.
Don’t Rub it In
The natural instinct is to grab for a napkin and try to wipe the stain away. This instinct is halfway correct. While you should grab that napkin, you do not want to rub the stain. This creates friction, and that creates heat. Heat is the enemy for red wine stain removal because it will set the stain. So that instinct to rub the stain away can actually set the stain as opposed to lifting it. Instead, try dabbing and blotting the stain. This removes as much wine and pigment as possible before laundering and treating the stain.
Once you’re able to change, lay the item flat and cover the entire stain with salt. Coarse salt is best, but table salt will work fine in a pinch. The salt will absorb the remaining wine and pigmentation from the service of your item, helping to lighten the color and release the stain. When you remove the salt, if the stain is still visible, repeat the process with fresh sparkling water or club soda. Continue this process until the stain is gone or until additional attempts fail to lighten the stain.
Launder your Item
At this point, if the stain is still visible, your best bet is to apply a strain lifter to the item and launder it as directed. An oxygen based stain lifter seems to produce the best odds at full removal. Again, make sure the water temperature is set to cold, as heat will set the stain.
Once the item is laundered and the stain is removed, either entirely or as best it can be, let the item air dry if possible. Keeping the heat at bay for the first full laundering is your best bet at getting as much color out of the item as possible.