How to Remove the Most Common Restaurant Stains

Staining your clothes at a restaurant is never fun, but these tips and tricks can make them vanish

How to Remove the Most Common Restaurant Stains

The secret to removing stains is to get to them quickly, before they’ve had time to set. 


When you drop something greasy on yourself, the first thing you should do is wipe away as much of the excess as possible. After that? Reach for the artificial sweetener. The fine powder will soak up the oil; it may take a couple packets and a lot of blotting, but it works! (Some restaurants, especially in Europe, keep a container of talcum powder handy for the same purpose.)

Red Wine

There are actually a few ways to remove red wine stains while still sitting at your table, and they’re all quite effective. First, blot up as much wine as you can with a clean napkin. Then you can pour a few applications of club soda onto the stain, you can cover the stain with a thick layer of table salt and let it sit for as long as possible before brushing off, or you can use either milk or white wine to neutralize the stain. Whatever you do, don’t use soap from the restroom, which can cause the stain to set. 

Tomato Sauce

If you drop a meatball on your lap, don’t despair. First blot (don’t rub) the stain with a dry napkin, then blot it with cold water. If it’s an article of clothing that can be removed, head to the bathroom and run cool water through the back of the stain. Then ask your server for a lemon slice and give the stain a firm rub. 

Coffee and Tea

Coffee and teas are dyes, and the best way to remove them from clothing is to quickly rinse the stains with cold water. Ask the restaurant for white vinegar; that can help as well. Once you get home, add laundry detergent to the stain, rub it in with cold water, let it sit for half an hour (rubbing some more every 10 minutes), then run it through the washing machine on the hottest setting. 


So you almost got through your meal without staining your clothes, but that last bite of chocolate cake found its way onto your shirt instead of into your mouth. What to do? First, use a clean spoon or knife to remove any excess chocolate from the fabric (making sure not to spread it), then pour some cold water or club soda over it. The colored compounds dissolved in fat will be all that remains, so use the sugar substitute trick for the grease. As for the brown color, whatever club soda doesn’t remove should wash off in the laundry. 


If the little one knocks over their glass of cranberry juice onto your shirt, don’t despair. First blot away as much of the juice as possible, then ask your server (politely) to bring over some baking soda and cold water. Mix the two together, then blot the stain with the solution. Hydrogen peroxide actually works best on cranberry juice stains, but most restaurants don’t have that handy. If the garment is dry-clean only, don’t muss with it at all; bring it to the cleaners as soon as you can. 

Ice Cream

For chocolate ice cream, follow the steps above for removing chocolate stains. Ice cream is a protein, which can be difficult to remove, but your best bet is to remove as much of the ice cream as possible then get the stain wet with cold water (If possible, run the fabric, from the inside out, under cold water). Cold water will be your best bet until you get home, when you can pretreat the stain with liquid laundry detergent, let it soak in cold water for 30 minutes, then launder.