How to Remove Cranberry Stains from Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Red berries on a dark background. cranberries in a bowl.
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Cranberries aren't just for Thanksgiving anymore. Cranberries are everywhere from juices to mixed drinks to barbecue sauces. We may enjoy the taste but not the stains they leave behind.

Remove Cranberry Stains from Clothes and Table Linens

  1. If the bright red stain is caused by cranberry juice, start by blotting the area with a clean white cloth or paper towel to absorb as much of the juice as possible. For a small stain, after you get the initial spill blotted away, wet a clean white towel with plain water and blot away at the remaining color. This might remove the stain if you caught it in time.
  2. If the stain is caused by cranberry sauce (whole or jellied), use a dull knife or spoon edge to lift away the sauce. Do not rub or wipe because you'll push the sauce deeper in the fabric fibers and make it more difficult to remove.
  3. Cranberries produce a tannin stain - a plant stain component that often shows as a color in the final product. Fresh tannin stains can usually be removed by laundering the table linens or clothes using a heavy duty detergent in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.
  4. Never use natural soap like Fels Naptha in a bar or soap flakes because natural soap makes tannin stains more difficult to remove. Older cranberry stains may need to be treated with bleach to remove the dye component. Chlorine bleach can be used on white garments and linens. Use color-safe or oxygen-based bleach for colored fabrics.
  1. If the stains do not come out completely, repeat the cleaning steps. Never place a stained item in a hot dryer. The high heat will set the stain in the fabric and make the stain nearly impossible to remove.
  2. If the garment or table covering is dry clean only, 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 fabric in the kit's cleaning bag.

Remove Cranberry Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

  1. For cranberry juice on carpet, use a white paper towel or old white cloth to blot up as much of the liquid as possible. For cranberry sauces, use a dull knife to lift away any solids. Don't rub! It will make the stain harder to remove as the sauce gets ground deeper into the carpet or upholstery fibers.
  2. To remove the dye component of the stain, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach-brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite-in cool water following package directions. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to prevent spreading, work the solution into the carpet. Do not over wet.  Allow the solution to remain on the stain for at least 30 minutes before blotting away.
  3. Use a dry clean white cloth to blot away moisture. You do not need to rinse the area. Oxygen bleach solutions turn into pure water within a few hours. Allow to air dry completely away from direct heat or sunlight. Repeat cleaning steps if needed until stain is removed. When stain is gone, vacuum to restore the pile of carpet.
  1. The same cleaning solutions recommended for carpet can be used for upholstery. It is very important, however, to take care not to over wet the upholstery fabric with cleaning solution. Excessive moisture in the cushion can cause problems with mildew. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult an upholstery cleaning professional.