Caramel and salted caramel are popular toppings and flavors in the food world, and luckily caramel stains are usually quite simple to remove. However, if after the initial treatment the stain remains, it may not be caramel. Rust stains and benzoyl peroxide (acne medicine) stains also can look like caramelized sugar. When in doubt, do a bit of investigating before treating the stain again.
|Stain type||Combination food stain|
|Detergent type||Heavy-duty detergent|
|Water temperature||Cold to warm|
|Cycle type||Depends upon the type of fabric|
Before You Begin
If the garment is labeled as "dry clean only," let the caramel harden and remove any solids pieces. Do not rub while the caramel is soft because that will make the stain larger and more difficult to remove. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner 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.
Do not store any garment that has had a caramel stain on it without cleaning it first, even if it looks clean. The organic sugars left in the fibers can attract insects that will damage the fabric.
Equipment / Tools
- Dull-edged knife, spoon, or credit card
- Cold-water faucet
- Soft-bristled brush
- Dryer, drying rack, or clothesline
- Sink or large tub
- Ice cube
- Paper towel or cloth
- Heavy-duty laundry detergent
- Stain remover (optional)
- Oxygen bleach (optional)
- Dishwashing liquid
- Warm water
How to Remove Caramel Stains From Clothes
Lift Away Caramel Solids
When a drip or spill happens, allow the caramel to harden (an ice cube will help). Then remove any hardened solid bits from the fabric with a dull knife, a spoon, or the edge of a credit card. After removing as much of the caramel solids as possible, blot the area with a paper towel or cloth dipped in plain water until it can be washed thoroughly.
Flush the Stain With Water
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.
Treat the Stain
Next from the front of the fabric, apply an enzyme-based stain remover or a bit of heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide or Persil 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 15 minutes.
Wash as Usual
Dry Per Care Label
Once you are sure the stain is gone, the garment can be dried in an automatic dryer or air-dried on a clothesline. Follow the guidance on the care label for different types of fabric.
Check the stained area after treating it. If the stain is not removed, do not place it in a hot dryer. High heat may set the stain permanently and make it difficult to remove.
How to Remove Caramel Stains From Carpet and Upholstery
The same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet can be used to remove caramel stains from upholstery. Do not saturate the fabric because that can cause moisture problems (mold and mildew) in the cushion filling. If attempting to remove caramel from upholstery and the fabric is silk or vintage, consult a professional before attempting to remove the stain
Remove the Caramel Solids
Allow the caramel to harden (an ice cube placed on top of the caramel speeds the process). 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 the Cleaning Solution
In a small bowl or bucket, mix a solution of one teaspoon dishwashing liquid with one cup of warm water.
Clean the Stained Area
Dip a clean sponge 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.
Rinse the Area
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.
Air-Dry and Vacuum
Allow the area to air-dry away from direct heat or sunlight. When dry, vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.
If the stain persists, you may need to know what type of caramel spilled on the garment. 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.
If food coloring has been added, you may need to remove the color by mixing a solution of oxygen-based bleach and tepid water in a large sink or tub. Make sure to do a colorfast test first by using a cotton swab dipped in the mixture on a hidden spot of the garment. If you see color on the swab, do not use this method. If the swab is clear of color, then submerge the entire garment in the mixture. 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.