How to Remove Tomato Stains

How to Remove Ketchup and Tomato Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10-15

Whether the stain is from ketchup, marinara sauce, or a tomato straight from your garden, tomato stains are easy to remove when you follow a few simple, at-home steps. Tomato stains are tannin based, meaning they come from a color-causing, natural compound found in fruits and vegetables. Like most tannin stains, you can remove tomato stains at home using products you likely already have in your cupboard, such as heavy-duty detergent, commercial stain remover, and bleach. Never use soap or soap flakes on a tannin stain, as they can set it and make it very difficult to remove. 

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Watch Now: How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains From Clothing

Stain type  Tannin-based
Detergent type Heavy duty
 Water temperature Tepid or cool
Cycle type Varies depending on type of fabric

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner a fresh tomato-based stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Remove any food solids but do not rub the stain immediately. That will only push it deeper into the fabric fibers and make the stain harder to remove. Check the care label on the garment and test any detergent or cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric. While most cleaning methods are gentle enough for a diverse range of fabrics, knowing an item's specific care needs will help you choose the best stain removal option.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • White cloth
  • Soft brush
  • Paper towel
  • Bowl or small bucket
  • Vacuum
  • Butter knife or spoon

Materials

  • Chlorine bleach (for white natural-fiber fabrics)
  • Oxygen bleach (for colored and synthetic fabrics)
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • Laundry detergent

Instructions

How to Remove Tomato Stains from Washable Clothes

Tomato stains on washable clothing are relatively simple to remove, using a combination of detergent, bleach, stain removal, and soaking. Repeat the following steps as many times as you need if the stain doesn't come out the first time.

  1. Apply Liquid Detergent

    Work a bit of liquid detergent or stain remover into the stain using your fingers or a soft brush. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before washing the garment as you usually would.

    Using laundry detergent on a ketchup stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Apply Chlorine Bleach

    Applying a chlorine bleach solution to tomato stains removes tannins in white fabric. You can use chlorine bleach on natural fiber white garments and linens in the washing machine following package directions. Do not use chlorine bleach on synthetic materials because it can cause yellowing. Always check garment labels before using chlorine bleach in the laundry.

    Using a bleaching agent to remove ketchup stains

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Apply Color-Safe Bleach

    Apply a color-safe oxygen bleach (recommended brands include OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) to synthetic and washable colored fabrics. Following product directions, mix a solution of the oxygen bleach and cool water. Completely submerge the stained fabric and allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight. Wash as usual.

    Using color safe bleach to remove ketchup stains

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Tip

In some cases, you can use ketchup to clean stains on non-fabric surfaces, such as removing rust from metal.

When to Call a Professional

If the stained garment is labeled dry clean only, visit your dry cleaner and point out the mark. If you're 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.

Additional Tips for Handling Tomato Stains

In addition to detergent and bleach, you can create a baking soda/vinegar solution to apply to the tomato stain. You may also rub an ice cube on the stain before applying detergent. Many tannin stains require a similar removal process, so once you become familiar with these standard treatment practices, you can apply your knowledge to a wide array of stains.