How to Remove Tomato Stains


If you have a hard time getting tomato stains out of clothes or carpets, don’t worry. You’re not the first or the last person that has to clean up after a messy family.

Tomato stains may be tricky to get out. However, you have a better chance if you know what type of stain you’re dealing with. Choosing the correct cleaning method for the stained fabric can make a lot of difference.

Dealing with Tomato Stains in Clothing

Swift action is the key when dealing with tomato stains in clothing. You’ll want to deal with the immediate stain as quickly as possible, before moving onto a more in-depth wash later on. This is especially important if you spill ketchup or cooked sauce on your clothes.

Firstly, try to clear up as much of the spilled sauce as possible. Get rid of any lumps of sauce while trying to keep the excess contained within the original stain area. Don’t wipe carelessly, as this will just spread the tomato sauce around. Instead, use a tissue to scoop up as much of the sauce as possible.

Now, head to the restroom or any faucet in your home and take off the stained clothing. Carefully turn it inside out and shower it with cold water. Turning the clothes inside out means the cold shower spray pushes the stain residue back out of the clothes, rather than bedding it further in.

If the item is machine-washable, a delicate wash should eliminate the rest of the stain. However, you may have to do it manually for some items of clothing.

When you’re at home, grab a liquid detergent and wipe it gently on the stain. A sponge should do the job nicely, as you can gently dab the clothing without rubbing it too hard. Wash the stain with water, which combines with the detergent to get rid of the sauce residue. You can repeat this step several times if the stain persists.

Dealing with Tomato Stains in Carpet

Stains don’t have a tendency to stick close to the table. Often times the sauce just flies right off and onto the carpet, especially if you have young kids.

If you’re dealing with a carpet stain or a furniture stain, here’s what you need to know.

First, you’ll want to scrape off excess sauce with something non-absorbent, such as a spatula, a spoon, or a knife. After that’s done, you can use a damp sponge to gently clean the area.

Now you’ll want to use a dry towel or piece of cloth to dry the stain. At this point, direct sunlight or a UV light might also help with breaking down the stain.

Another method involves rubbing lemon juice over the stain. This doesn’t always work so just try it on a small portion of the stain first. If that works, proceed to the entire stain.

Don’t use lemon to remove the stain from a piece of wooden furniture, as that’s just asking for trouble. Just scrub off the excess, dab the spot with a clean towel and dry the area out. After that, just use any furniture cleaning spray to finish the job.

Some Tips for Unwashable Fabrics

Getting rid of tomato stains from unwashable fabrics involves the same steps as presented above. One difference would be if the stain also has grease in it. If that’s the case you want to also use some dish detergent.

It’s best if you use detergent to break down the grease first. Otherwise, all that scraping and rubbing will just spread the grease or oil all over the place.

Using Your Washing Machine

Obviously, the washing machine will do the best job. The thorough scrubbing, heated water, and professional cleaning solution just get the job done easier. However, there are still some things you should do before sticking it in the washer.

Just because you decide to use the machine it doesn’t mean you can stick a T-shirt drenched in tomato juice in it. You should still scrape off as much as you can and absorb the liquid afterwards.

If the stain is heavy on oil and grease, you may even want to soak it overnight before you put it in the washing machine. To get the best results, try drying the shirt with the stain facing the sun. The UV rays will continue to break down any leftovers from the stain.

Dealing with Specific Stain Types

There are three major types of tomato stains and each has its own implications. Here’s how we categorize them.


Ketchup is a staple in most households. It also makes for a more complicated stain removal process. Ketchup doesn’t just have tomato juice in it. It contains vinegar and a lot of sugar.

It’s important to know so that you don’t use the wrong approach. For instance, you shouldn’t use hot water or heat on a ketchup stain. You risk caramelizing the sugar on the fabric and making a permanent stain.

Fresh tomato

A fresh tomato stain is perhaps the easiest one to clean up. That’s because it doesn’t come with any additives. If you’re lucky enough, you might not even have to use cleaning solutions or take a break from preparing the meal.

Cooked tomato sauce

This is another hard one to deal with. If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, chances are your tomato sauce has some meat in it too. Now you have to add grease on top of the sugars and vinegar. Typically, such stains will require a detergent of some kind to life the grease.

Keep this information in mind when dealing with the stain. The specific type of stain could slightly alter the cleaning methods mentioned above.

Some Simple Rules to Live by

If you want the easy way out, shop smart. There are many specialty cleaning products these days that help with specific stains. It shouldn’t be hard to find something that’s tailor made for tomato-based sauces, sugar, vinegar, and grease.

However, always check the label. Maybe your clothes can’t handle that particular cleaner. If that’s the case, revert to the previously mentioned hands-on techniques.

If you want to get it done yourself quickly, you don’t always need hot water. If your stain doesn’t contain any grease or oil, just use cold water as quick as you can.

When you’re scraping and rubbing, be gentle with the fabric. If you go at it hard or with a rugged towel you could cause the color to fade from that spot. You could also break down the fibers.

If you’re trying more than one cleaning solution, don’t mix them. It’s best to clean the first one with water before applying the new cleaner. This isn’t always necessary but it doesn’t hurt either. It also saves you having to read multiple labels.

Final Thought

As long as you enjoy cooking with tomatoes, chances are you’re going to have to learn to remove stains. If the tomatoes are ripe enough, it’s easy for the juice to go places.

To give yourself the best chance to succeed, start by trying not to panic. Even if it’s your favorite dress or table cloth that stands to be ruined.

Keep calm and act fast. You’ll often be able to remove the bulk of the stain before using detergents or other cleaning products. Fast action also prevents the stain from bedding in.

The above tips offer some advice for different fabrics and cleaning methods, as well as some more information about some of the specific types of tomato stains you may face. Use them to remove those stains without damaging the fabric.