How to Remove Caramel Stains From Clothes and Carpet

Couple Eating Churros Together

HEX/Getty Images

Caramel and salted caramel are popular toppings and flavors in the food world these days. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to remove the delicious stains from clothes and linens, carpet, and upholstery.

How to Remove Caramel Stains From Washable Clothes

Homemade caramel stains are a combination stain of sugar and butter but commercial products may have added food coloring that may cause tough stains that need additional treatment.

When a drip or spill happens, first remove any excess caramel from the fabric with a dull knife, a spoon, or the edge of a credit card. Do not rub or wipe with a cloth because that can push the caramel deeper into the fibers of the fabric. After removing as much of the caramel solids as possible, blot the area with a cloth dipped in plain water until it can be washed thoroughly.

As soon as possible, hold the stained fabric under a running cold water faucet with the wrong side of the fabric directly under the stream of water. This will help force the caramel out of the fibers. Next, treat the stain from the front of the fabric with an enzyme-based stain remover like Zout or Shout or a bit of heavy duty liquid detergent (Tide or Persil are rated as the best brands and have enough enzymes to break down the oily component of the stain). Work the stain remover into the fabric with your fingers or a soft bristled brush and allow it to work for at least fifteen minutes. Then launder in the hottest water temperature recommended on the care label. Check the stained area before placing the garment in the dryer and repeat the steps if necessary.

If there has been food coloring added to the commercial caramel, you may need to remove the color by mixing a solution of oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and tepid water. Submerge the entire garment. Allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight and then launder as usual. This is safe to use for all washable fabrics-white and colored-except for silk, wool, and anything trimmed with leather.

How to Remove Caramel Stains From Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only and is structured, remove as much of the solid caramel as possible with a dull edge. Head to your dry cleaner as soon as possible where you should point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. 

If the garment is soft, like a sweater and you are using a home dry cleaning kit, remove the caramel solids and be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

Do not store a dry clean only garment that has had a caramel stain without cleaning it first, even if it looks clean. The sugars left in the fibers can attract insects that will damage the fabric.

How to Remove Caramel Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

When that dollop of caramel lands on your carpet, move quickly to get it out before it gets tracked around the room. Use a dull edge (knife, spoon, spatula) to lift the caramel out of the fibers. Don't rub because it will only push the caramel deeper.

Mix a solution of one teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent with one cup of warm water. Mix well and dip a clean sponge or cloth or a soft-bristled brush in the solution and work it into the stain. Work from the outside edges toward the center to keep the stain from spreading larger. Blot with clean white paper towels as the stain is loosened. Keep moving to a clean area of the towel as you work.

Finally, use plain cold water to rinse the area. Dip a sponge or cloth in the clean water and saturate the cleaned area to remove the soapy solution. This is important because soap can attract soil if left in the carpet.

Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. When dry, vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

The same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet can be used to remove caramel stains from upholstery. Do not over wet the fabric because that can cause moisture problems (mold and mildew) in the cushion filling.

If the upholstery is vintage or silk, consult a professional cleaner or if you need more stain removal tips.