How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains from Clothes Carpet Upholstery

BBQ sauce stains
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People are passionate and quite opinionated about their preferences in barbecue sauce. Some like it sweet and smokey, others hot and spicy. Barbecue sauce can be tomato, oil and vinegar or mustard-based. But whatever type you love and defend, the stains can be tough to remove. And, why bother to eat barbecue unless there is plenty of sauce to drip down your shirt?

How To Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains From Washable Clothes

Most barbecue sauce stains are combination tannin-based stains from the vegetable and herb plants used in the recipe.

 Add the oily component from the formula or meat and there's even more reason to treat the stain as soon as possible. 

If you have a barbecue drip while on the go, lift away as much as possible with the edge of a dull knife or credit card. Do not rub because that will only push the sauce deeper in the fabric. Unless the fabric is silk which can watermark, blot the stained area with a clean white cloth dipped in plain cool water. If possible, flush the area from the wrong side by holding the stain under a faucet of cold running water. If any color remains, you can use a stain remover pen. Just remember, that the stained garment will still need to be washed as soon as possible when you get home.

Before washing the stained item, pretreat the area with a bit of heavy duty liquid detergent apply a heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide, Wisk or Persil (these are leading high-performance brands) or a stain removal spray or gel like Zout or Shout or Spray 'n Wash.

Gently work in the stain remover with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush and allow it to work for at least ten minutes (20 is better) before washing. This step is particularly important if the coffee spill contained cream or other added flavorings. Then wash following care label directions using a good detergent and the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

While they work well on oily stains, never use natural soap in a bar or soap flakes like Fels-Naptha or Zote on a barbecue sauce because the soap can make tannin stains more difficult to remove.

If the barbecue sauce stain is older or has not been removed properly, it may need to be treated with bleach to remove all the color. Chlorine bleach can be used on white garments and linens by following product directions. For colored clothes, mix a solution of warm water and oxygen-based bleach like OxiClean or Clorox 2 or Tide Stain Release. Completely submerge the stained garments and allow them to soak for at least four hours or overnight. Then wash as usual.

How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains from Dry Clean Only Clothes

When a sauce drip falls on a garment labeled as dry clean only, use a knife or dull edge to lift away as much as possible. Then, blot the stain with a dry white cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Sponge lightly with a white cloth damped with plain cold water and blot dry. As soon as possible, head to the cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional dry cleaner.

If you are 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.

How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains from Carpet

When that juicy rib or dollop of sauce hits the carpet, lift away the solids and then use a white paper towel or old white cloth to blot up as much of the liquid as possible. Keep blotting until no more moisture is transferred from the carpet to the cloth. If possible, go ahead and treat the stain completely to prevent staining that is more difficult to remove later.

Mix a solution of two teaspoons of dish washing detergent in two cups of warm water. Dip a clean white cloth, sponge or soft bristle brush in the solution. Working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep it from spreading, work the cleaning solution into the stain. Blot with a dry cloth to absorb the solution, Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred.


Finish by dipping a clean cloth in plain water to "rinse" the spot. This is especially important because any soapy residue left in the carpet will actually attract more soil. Allow the stain to air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

If the stain is older, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach - OxiClean or Tide Oxi - in cool water following package directions. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, work the solution into the carpet. Do not over wet.  Allow the solution to remain on the stain for at least 30 minutes before blotting away.

Use a dry clean white cloth to blot away moisture. Allow to dry completely and vacuum to restore pile of carpet.

How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains from Upholstery

The same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet can be used for barbecue sauce stains on upholstery. Take care not to overwet the fabric because excess moisture in the cushions can cause problems.

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, it is best to call a professional cleaner. Home cleaning may result in water spots.

For more stain removal tips: Stain Removal A to Z