How to Remove Salad Dressing Stains

How to Remove Salad Dressing Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Salad dressings can leave behind frustrating stains on your clothes, carpet, and upholstery. The stain composition can vary from tannin-based to dye-based, depending on the salad dressing's ingredients, but all contain oil. Creamy dressings may be easier to remove than oil-heavy vinaigrettes, but with simple steps, you can likely treat stains at home using items you already have in your pantry. Never place a still-stained garment in a machine dryer, as the high heat will set the stain and make it extremely difficult to remove.

Stain type Tannin-based, protein-based, dye-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Varies depending on type of fabric
Cycle type Varies depending on type of fabric

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Do not rub immediately. That will only push the stain 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. Older or dried stains will be harder to remove, so know that you might need to repeat the cleaning process several times before the stain disappears.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cloth
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Toothbrush (optional)
  • Dull knife
  • Spoon
  • Credit card (optional)
  • Basin or bowl
  • Vacuum (optional)
  • Paper towel
  • Washer/dryer


  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Household ammonia
  • Cornstarch
  • Baby powder (optional)
  • Baking soda
  • Stain remover


Overhead view of materials needed to remove salad dressing stains

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Remove Salad Dressing Stains From Clothing

The most effective way to remove salad dressing stains from clothing is to treat them immediately.

  1. Remove Excess

    Lift away any solid matter with the edge of a dull knife, spoon, or credit card. This is essential when handling creamy or chunky dressings. Blot the stain with a white cloth or paper towel to absorb excess oil.

    Removing excess salad dressing with a spoon

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Sprinkle Powder

    Sprinkle cornstarch, baby powder, or baking soda onto the stain to aid absorption. Let your powder of choice rest for about 15 minutes before brushing it away.

    Sprinkling baking soda onto a salad dressing stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Pretreat the Stain

    Pretreat the stain with a solvent-based stain remover spray or gel, like Zout, Shout, or Spray 'n Wash, before washing as usual. You may also apply a heavy-duty liquid detergent directly onto the stain. Using a detergent with adequate enzymes is essential to break down the stain. Highly recommended brands include Tide and Persil. Work in the detergent with your fingers or a toothbrush. If you only have powdered detergent, make a paste with a bit of warm water and apply it to the stain.

    Pretreating the stain with a stain remover

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Let Sit

    Allow the stain remover to sit on the stain for 15 to 30 minutes as the chemicals break apart the oil. Follow by washing the garment as usual in the hottest water advised by the item's care label. If the dressing stain is on synthetic fabric, stretch the pretreated stained area over a bowl and pour a steady stream of hot water directly onto the stain.

    Letting the stain remover sit on the fabric

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  5. Inspect Before Drying

    Inspect the stained area of the garment before machine-drying. If the stain persists, do not dry and repeat the treatment as necessary.

    Checking to make sure the stain is removed before drying

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena


If you don't have a paper towel or cloth on hand, you can use a piece of soft bread to absorb excess oil. 

How to Remove Salad Dressing Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

You can use the same cleaning techniques and products recommended for carpets to remove salad dressing stains from upholstery. Be careful not to oversaturate cushions while cleaning, as excess moisture can create mold and mildew.

  1. Remove Excess

    Lift as much of the salad dressing solids as possible away from the fibers using a dull knife or the edge of a credit card.

    Removing excess salad dressing from carpet with a dull knife

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Sprinkle Powder

    Sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Use a soft bristle brush to work the powder into the carpet. Allow the powder to sit on the stain for at least 15 minutes—vacuum to remove excess powder. 

    Scrubbing baking powder into a carpet stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Mix a Solution

    Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with 2 cups of hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of household ammonia. Blot the stain with a sponge or soft-bristled brush dipped in the cleaning solution and use a dry paper towel to absorb excess liquid once the stain is removed. 

    Mixing a cleaning solution in a glass container

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Rinse

    Rinse the stained area with a cloth dipped in tepid water to remove any soapy residue. Lingering detergent or soap can attract dirt.

    Rinsing the stained carpet with a cloth dipped in water

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    When to Call a Professional

    If your stained item is labeled as dry clean only, blot excess dressing before visiting your dry cleaner as soon as possible. Point out and identify the stain to help your professional cleaner choose the proper treatment. When using a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the kit's cleaning bag. If your stained upholstery is silk or vintage, call a professional cleaner instead of attempting to remove the stain at home. 

    Additional Tips for Handling Salad Dressing Stains

    If the salad dressing stain is very small, you may be able to remove it by spot treating it with a dry cleaning solvent. However, stain removal pens will not be effective in removing oil. In addition to sprinkling the stain with talcum powder or cornstarch, you can use a touch of artificial sweetener on the stain to help with oil absorption. If the stain persists, you may repeat the cleaning steps as many times as you see fit.