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

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The best way to remove a coffee stain from clothing is to quickly rinse it with cold water, and white vinegar if it's available.

Picture this scenario: You’re wearing your fanciest clothes, sitting at a fine restaurant, enjoying a lovely medium-rare steak and a nice glass of cabernet. You reach for your water glass but in the process nudge your wine glass ever so slightly, watching to your horror as it topples over, depositing its contents directly onto your lap. What do you do? (Crying in a corner isn’t an option.)

How to Remove the Most Common Restaurant Stains (Slideshow)

We’ve all been there at one point or another, and getting a nasty stain on your clothes at a restaurant can put a damper on an entire evening. Because who wants to be seen leaving a restaurant with a giant smear of tomato sauce on their shirt? Nobody, that’s who. 

Believe it or not, though, there are some handy tips and tricks for removing even the toughest restaurant stains, and they’re all usually easily accessible right there in the restaurant. 

The secret to removing stains is to get to them quickly, before they’ve had time to set. The very first thing you should do when you spill something on yourself is to remove as much of the offending food or drink from the article of clothing as possible with your napkin, blotting away as much liquid as youc an and wetting the spot with some cold water. Whatever you do, don’t run to the bathroom and drench your shirt with hot water and soap; that can actually make the stain worse. It’s also always a good idea to carry Shout Wipes or a Tide Pen with you; those are great on stains in a pinch.

But no matter what kind of stain you might incur – be it grease, red wine, tomato sauce, coffee, or chocolate – there’s a way to remove it (or at least make good headway on removing it until you can get home and put it in the washing machine) while still sitting at the table, with items that you can find at just about every restaurant. With a little help from your server, that blouse will be good as new.


When you drop something greast 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. 

Click here to learn how to remove five more common restaurant stains. 

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