How to remove red wine stains: 5 of the best ways to do it (and what not to do)

Here's how to remove red wine stains from everything, plus what not to do with your upholstery and more

Living room carpet by Carpetright
(Image credit: Carpetright)

Knowing how to remove red wine stains is something that – in theory – every wine drinker should know. However, many of us don't, and as we all continue to drink it, it's high time we dispelled a few myths and let you onto the best wine removal secrets out there.

So, follow our advice to remove red wine stains from upholstery, clothes and more with many magic store cupboard stand-by ingredients. These methods are tried and tested by none other than the Real Homes (red wine drinking) experts, so you are in very safe hands! Not only do we explain how to effectively remove red wine, we also advise what not to do, saving you from costly mistakes. 

Lots of our methods include staples you will already have at home. Give them a go, or for dried on stains, check out the best upholstery cleaners for a bit more oomph.

1. How to remove red wine stains from carpet

Sipping a glass of wine in your living room on a weekend is so relaxing – until you spill it and panic ensues. Calm yourself. Coming from someone who has been there, red wine will come out of even a pale carpet if you act fast.

Use paper towel to dab and blot the red wine until it's almost dry. Then flush it with carbonated or soda water. Dab and blot again. Flush the stain again with the water, then repeat the drying process.

If the wine stain has fixed, you can still attempt to remove it with the fizzy water method – flush then blot, flush then blot. Failing that, you may need to try one of the best carpet cleaners around or call in a professional.

For more advice on how to get red wine out of carpet check out our guide, and if your whole carpet could benefit from a general refresh too, don't miss our advice on how to clean a carpet.

What not to do: Swap the soda water for white wine – it's as effective at setting a red wine stain as salt is. 

2. How to remove red wine stains from fabric and clothing

Whether from a tablecloth or your favorite shirt, here's how to remove red wine stains. 

Do not sprinkle with white wine or with salt. It is a waste as neither enhance the cleaning process. Instead, blot the stain first, then soak the item in cool water for around 30 minutes. Next, pre-treat the stain with a laundry stain remover and allow it to soak in (following the manufacturer's instructions). 

You can swap out the laundry treatment with a mixture of one part three percent hydrogen peroxide and one part washing up liquid; allow to soak for up to three hours. 

Rinse out the stain in cold water. If it has disappeared you can put it in the washing machine on the hottest wash the fabric will take, using a color-safe laundry bleach if the fabric will take it. 

Always follow the care instructions on the label so that you don't damage your item further, and do a patch test with any cleaning product or recipe to ensure the fabric can take it.

What not to do: Dry – and especially tumble dry – the fabric if the stain hasn't come out. Once it's dry it's more likely to set.

3. How to remove red wine stains from upholstery

Start by blotting up as much of the red wine as possible from the couch/armchair/cushions to prevent the stain from spreading further. 

Once the stain is as dry as possible with blotting, use the methods described above for both carpets and clothing, ensuring that you a) have patch tested the fabric first to avoid further damage and b) don't over-soak the upholstery. 

Repeat the steps as necessary then use plain cold water (if you've used anything other than soda water) to remove any remaining cleaning products from the upholstery. Blot dry. 

What not to do: Put removable covers straight on a hot wash. This will set the wine stain. 

4. How to remove red wine stains from walls and wallpaper

Yes, red wine up the wall does happen. The important thing about removing red wine stains from walls and wallpaper is to ensure you don't over-soak them or scrub hard at them: both will cause further damage. 

Instead, dab, using a (ideally) natural sponge that's lightly dampened with a solution of warm water and a dash of washing up liquid. Allow to dry and repeat. Give the wall a final gentle dab with a clean sponge and clean cold water. Allow to dry.

What not to do: Try the above before you've done a patch test on an area of wall usually hidden behind a piece of furniture. 

5. How to remove red wine stains from decanters or glasses

Got glassware you don't like to put in the dishwasher? Getting red wine deposits out is simple: just fill the decanter or glasses with soapy water or distilled white vinegar (cleaning with vinegar is a great hack for most things), add a few grains of uncooked rice and swirl the glassware about. The deposits will be removed by this action and you can then wash it as usual.

Does salt remove red wine?

While adding salt won't make things worse, it is simply a waste as it doesn't noticeably enhance the cleaning process. 

Does white wine remove red wine?

White wine is not much better at removing red wine than water or soda water. It is believed the old trick of countering red wine with white simply came from this being an available solvent to hand at dinner time when wine spills are most likely. 

The same is true of salt. Their infamy for removing red wine simply comes from them being in the right (or wrong) place at the right time.

What to do with a red wine stain that won't come out?

If all the above methods fail, bleach is your best bet as it removes any coloration. Sadly, in the case of most things, this means it will remove intended color and pattern. Our advice? Maybe a white shirt for dinner with a glass of red is not the worst idea as at least any mishaps can be bleached away,

Lucy Searle

Lucy is Global Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of in 2018 then moving to Homes & Gardens in 2021. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.