How to Remove Caramel Stains From Clothes and Carpet

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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.

Stain type Combination food stain
Detergent type Heavy-duty detergent
Water temperature Cold to warm
Cycle type Depends upon the type of fabric

How to Remove Caramel Stains From Clothes

Project Metrics

Working Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 1-1.5 hours

Before You Begin

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.

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.

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 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.

Warning

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

If attempting to remove caramel from upholstery and the fabric is silk or vintage, consult a professional before attempting to remove the stain.

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Ice cube
  • Paper towel or cloth
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)

Tools

  • Dull-edged knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Cold water faucet
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Washer
  • Dryer, drying rack or clothesline
  • Sink or large tub
  1. Lift Away Caramel Solids

    When a drip or spill happens, allow the caramel to harden (an ice cube will help) and remove it 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 paper towel or cloth dipped in plain water until it can be washed thoroughly.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 fifteen minutes.

    Tip

    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. 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.

  4. Wash As Usual

    Then launder in the water temperature and cycle recommended on the care label. Check the stained area before placing the garment in the dryer and repeat the steps if necessary.

  5. Dry As Recommended on the 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.

How to Remove Caramel Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Warm water
  • Paper towels

Tools

  • Dull-edged knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Vacuum
  1. 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.

  2. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl or bucket, mix a solution of one teaspoon dishwashing liquid with one cup of warm water.

    Tip

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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. This is important because soap can attract soil if left in the carpet.

  5. Air-Dry and Vacuum

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