How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains

A splattered tomato up-close
Janis Christie/Getty Images

Whether it's spaghetti sauce from dinner or a health drink at breakfast, tomato stains stink. Their pungent smell only increases if they are left to sit. But, the main problem with tomato stains is that they can be very difficult to remove. Here's how to get rid of your red stained mess in a few easy steps.

What You Need To Remove Tomato Stains

An illustration depicting how to remove tomato sauce stains
Illustration: Andrea Hickey / The Spruce

Steps to Remove Tomato Stains

  1. Remove as much of the excess tomato sauce as possible from the fabric. Try a spoon or the back of a butter knife. These won't damage your clothing, and they'll help remove the excess sauce. It's tempting to skip this step, but if you do, you may end up accidentally staining other areas of the fabric with the excess tomato.
  2. Run cold water through the back of the stain as quickly as possible. This will force the stain back out through the fabric. Don't run it through the front of the tomato stain, which will only force it more deeply into your clothing. Run the cold water for 10-15 minutes or until it seems like the water is running clear.
  3. Rub a liquid 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.
  4. If the garment is white or if you have tested it for colorfastness, then you can apply a mild bleaching agent such as hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar with a sponge. You can also use lemon juice on white fabrics. Be aware though that these items will take color and designs out of clothing. Rinse well.
  1. Add more laundry detergent or dish soap followed by the mild bleaching agent until the stain no longer appears. Hold the stain up to the light to make sure it is fully gone. If it's not, apply a stain remover stick, gel or spray. Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes while you wait.        
  2. Wash normally with detergent. Before drying, double-check the stain as stains that go into a clothes dryer come out permanent. You can also let the clothing air dry first so you can inspect for any hint of a stain. If you don't see one when it has finished drying, it's safe to wash and dry normally.
  3. 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 can't see any traces of a lingering stain, to be sure you got it all out.

Tips To Remove Tomato Stains

  • If your stain contains oil, treat the oily part first with some mild dish detergent before proceeding with the directions above. A lot of spaghetti sauces that are made with meat will be oily, and you must remove the oil first before you can deal with the tomato.