How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains From Clothing

How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Tomato sauce stains can pack a punch on fabrics. Tomatoes have tannins that easily stain fabrics, which can be compounded by stain-causing oils in the sauce.

Removing the tomato sauce stain is simpler than you think, though. Run your garment under cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, work in a liquid detergent or dish soap until the stain is no longer visible, rinse well, and let dry. With the right steps, your favorite wardrobe staples can look brand-new again.

Below, learn further how to effectively remove tomato sauce stains at home.

Before You Begin

If the tomato stain contains oil, such as from a jarred pasta sauce or tomato sauce, treat the oily part first with mild dish soap before proceeding with the directions. Also, any spaghetti sauce containing meat or cheese will be oily and could compound the stain type by making it a protein-based stain. Heavy-duty laundry detergents are specially formulated with enzymes to remove protein residue from fabric.

The following method should work on fresh and set-in stains. The only difference is a set-in stain may need the process repeated a few times before the stain comes out.

Stain type Tannin-based, oil-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water temperature  Cold 
Cycle type Varies with fabric content

Watch Now: How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains From Clothing

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Water faucet
  • Sponge (Optional)
  • Washing machine


  • Cold water
  • Heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent or mild dish soap
  • Stain remover (Optional)
  • White vinegar (Optional for white/colorfast clothing)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (Optional for white/colorfast clothing)
  • Lemon juice (Optional for white-only clothing)


How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains From Clothing

materials for removing tomato sauce stains
The Spruce / Ana Cadena
  1. Remove Excess Tomato Sauce

    Lift away as much tomato sauce as possible from the fabric using a spoon or dull knife. Avoid further rubbing in the sauce or spreading it to unstained parts of the material.

    removing excess sauce with a spoon
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  2. Run Stain Through Cold Water

    Run cold water for 10 to 15 minutes through the back of the stain as soon as possible after the stain occurs. Flushing it will force the stain back out through the fabric. Do not run it through the front of the tomato stain, forcing it more deeply into the fabric fibers.

    rinsing the garment under cold water
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  3. Apply Liquid Laundry Detergent or Dish Soap

    Rub a liquid laundry detergent or dish soap into the stained portion of the fabric. Work it into the fabric gently in a circular motion beginning on the outside of the stained area and working inward. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

    rubbing dish soap on the garment
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  4. Add More Detergent or Soap Until Removed

    Add more laundry detergent or dish soap, then sponge on a mild bleaching agent until the stain no longer appears.

    Mild bleaching agents include hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar. For white fabrics, use lemon juice. Although mild, they are strong enough to remove color and designs from clothing.


    To prevent damaging your garment with a mild bleaching agent, test it for colorfastness by dampening a clean white cloth or cotton swab. Rub the cloth or swab along an interior seam or hem of a colored garment. If any color rubs off, the item is not colorfast. The bleaching agent will likely ruin the item.

    Rinse well, then hold the stain up to the light to ensure it is entirely gone. If it is not, apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray. Allow it to sit for at least five minutes.

    putting dish soap on the garment
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena
  5. Machine Wash and Dry

    Wash normally with detergent. You can also let the clothing air dry first, then inspect for any hint of a stain. The high heat of a clothes dryer can set the stain. It is safe to wash and dry normally if you do not see a stain when it has finished air drying.

    putting the garment into the washer
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Additional Tips for Handling Tomato Sauce Stains

If the stain still remains, rub detergent in again and soak in warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse well and again apply stain remover stick, gel, or spray and launder according to directions. You can do this step even if you cannot see any traces of a lingering stain to be sure you got it all out.

Never put stained fabrics in the dryer, which can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove. Household cleaners like dish soap and laundry detergent can be used to treat these stains on most fabrics. Apply bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice to remove tomato stains on white clothing.