How to Remove Soft Drink Stains from Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

soft drinks
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Even if the sales of soft drinks are dropping in the United States, there are still plenty of spills to clean up from clothes, carpet, and upholstery. Whether you call it soda, pop, or cola, learn how to remove the stains.

Soft Drink Stains on Washable Clothes

As with any stain, it is important to treat a soft drink stain as soon as possible to remove the dye from fabric. Most brown soft drinks are simply a tannin stain caused by a plant component that shows up as a color on fabrics and carpets.

If the soft drink is bright in color like orange or cherry sodas, then the stain is from a food coloring dye.

Start by blotting away as much of the moisture as possible with a white paper towel. If you can, hold the fabric under a faucet with a running stream of cold water. Flush the stained area from the wrong side of the stain so that the dye is forced away from the surface of the fabric.

Next, if the stain is brightly colored, sponge the stain with a bit of plain rubbing alcohol or non-sudsing household ammonia and rinse well. If the color is gone, wash as recommended on the care label.

If some stain remains, treat the stained area with a solvent-based stain remover like Zout or Shout. If you don't have a stain remover, use a bit of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent (Tide or Persil are highly rated brands) to treat the stain. These detergents contain enough enzymes to break down the stain.

Less expensive brands may not work as well. Never use natural soap in a bar or soap flakes on the stain because they make tannin stains more difficult to remove.

Allow the stain remover to sit on the fabric at least fifteen minutes and wash as usual. Check the stained area before tossing the garment in the dryer.

If the stain is not gone, move to the next step. Drying the item on high heat if it is still stained will make the stain even harder to remove.

If soft drink color remains on the fabric, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and tepid water following package directions and submerge the garment. Allow it to soak at least four hours or overnight and then launder as usual. This type of bleach is safe for natural and synthetic fabrics that are either white or colored.  If stain is not gone, repeat this step. When no stain remains, launder as usual.

Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, blot away as much of the drink stain as possible with a white paper towel. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain.

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit for a small stain, be sure to treat the area with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

How to Remove Soft Drink Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

There's never been a party that didn't end up with a few spills and stains. When the soft drink hits the carpet, move as quickly as possible to treat the stain.

Begin by using white paper towels to blot up as much of the stain as possible. Use an old shoe or spatula to press the towels into the stain. Keep moving to a clean towel until no more color is transferred.

Mix one tablespoon of liquid hand dishwashing detergent, one half cup distilled white vinegar and two cups of warm water. Use a clean white cloth to blot this solution into the stain. Work from the outside edges toward the center to prevent spreading the stain. 

Blot away the cleaning solution with a clean dry white cloth until no more color is transferred. Dip a clean white cloth into plain water to "rinse" the area. It is important to remove all the soapy residue because it can actually attract soil.

If the stain is gone, allow the carpet to air dry away from direct heat. If the stain remains, mix a solution of oxygen bleach and cool water following the package directions.

Use a soft bristle brush to work the oxygen bleach solution into the carpet. Allow to work for at least one hour before blotting away and rinsing with cold water on a cloth. Repeat until all of the stain is gone. Allow the carpet to air dry and then vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

To remove soft drink stains from furniture and car upholstery, use the same cleaning solutions and techniques as recommended for carpet. Be careful to not overwet the fabric because excess moisture can cause problems with the cushion fillings. Allow the upholstery to air dry away from sunlight and direct heat.

If the furniture fabric is silk or vintage, blot away the stain and then contact a professional upholstery cleaner.

For more stain removal tips: Stain Removal A to Z.