How to Remove Butter Stains From Clothes, Carpet, Upholstery

How to Remove Butter Stains

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Let's face it, butter makes most food better. However, a butter smear does not make clothes, carpet, or upholstery look any better. Whether you choose butter or margarine, it can be tough to erase the oily stain on fabrics. 

Washable Clothes

As with any stain, the quicker you react the easier it will be to remove the stain. If a butter drip lands on fabric, immediately blot away as much of the stain is possible. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel-even a slice of white bread can soak up the oily component. If it is a butter blob, use a dull knife or spoon or the edge of a credit card to lift as much of the solids as possible away from the surface of the fabric. Do not rub because that can force the stain deeper into the fabric fibers.

If you have some cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder handy, sprinkle one on the stain. The powder will absorb the oil and may even remove the stain. Sprinkle generously and allow to sit on the stain for at least fifteen minutes, then brush away with a soft bristled brush.

As soon as possible, oily stains should be pretreated using a solvent-based stain removal product, like Shout, Spray 'n Wash, or Zout. If you don't have a pretreater, apply a bit of heavy-duty liquid detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down the oil (Tide or Persil are leading brands) to the stain and work it in by gently rubbing with your fingers or a soft bristle brush. Allow the stain remover to work on the fabric for at least fifteen minutes before washing.

After pretreatment, wash the garment or table linens as usual in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric following the recommended steps on the care label. Inspect the stained area before tossing the item in the dryer to make sure it is gone. This is particularly important for synthetic fabrics like polyester and acrylics because high heat can permanently set the oily stain.

If the stain is not gone, repeat each cleaning step.

spraying stain treatment onto a butter stain
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Dry Clean Only Clothes

With dry clean only clothes, the key is to blot away as much of the oil as possible. Never rub and there's no need to apply water, it won't help. Blot and use cornstarch, talcum powder, or baking soda to absorb as much of the oil as possible.

As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaners and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. You can also spot treat the stain with a dry cleaning solvent. Follow the product directions for use and always test on an inside seam or hem to be sure there is no color change or damage to the fabric.

sprinkling talcum powder on a butter stain
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Carpet and Upholstery

Buttered bread always lands upside down on the carpet. To remove the stains, lift as much of the solids away from the fibers as possible using a dull knife. Do not rub because it will only push the oil deeper into the fibers and make the stain larger.

Sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Use a soft bristle brush to work it slightly into the carpet. Allow the powder to sit on the stain for at least fifteen minutes. Use a vacuum to remove the powder. Blot the stain with a dry cleaning solvent following the product instructions. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel. Keep blotting until no more oil is transferred from the carpet to the cloth.

If you do not have a dry cleaning solvent or carpet cleaning product, mix one tablespoon of hand dishwashing detergent in two cups of hot water. Add one tablespoon household ammonia. Blot the stain with a sponge dipped in the cleaning solution with a dry paper towel until the stain is removed. Be sure to "rinse" the area with a cloth dipped in plain water to remove any soapy residue that will actually attract more soil.

The same cleaning techniques and products recommended for carpet can be used to remove butter stains from upholstery. If you use the wet cleaning steps, be careful not to oversaturate the fabric because excess moisture in the cushions can cause a problem. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, sprinkle with cornstarch and call a professional before attempting to remove the stain especially if you need more stain removal tips.

using a dull knife to lift a butter stain
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida