How to Remove Honey and Syrup Stains

How to Remove Honey and Syrup Stains from Clothing

The Spruce / Joules Garcia

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Honey and syrup are tannin-based stains made from plants' sugars, appearing as a colored mark on affected fabrics. Most of these sticky stains are relatively simple to eliminate, but added dye to the honey or syrup can make the removal process more difficult. While the stains are frustrating, fresh tannin can be removed easily by washing garments with laundry detergent at the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabric on the care label. You can remove honey and syrup stains using a range of products you likely already have in your cupboard. Never put a still-stained garment in a machine dryer, as it can set the stain and make it permanent. 

Stain type Dye-based, tannin-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Cold to hot
Cycle type Varies depending on type of fabric

Before You Begin

Before beginning the treatment process, resist the urge to rub the stain, as it will only push the matter deeper into the fabric fibers, making it more difficult to remove. Always adhere to the recommendations on your garment's care label before washing. Different fabrics call for different washing protocols. Test any detergent or cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Eye dropper
  • Sponge
  • Washer
  • Dull knife
  • White cloth
  • Vacuum

Materials

  • Heavy duty detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol

Instructions

honey stain on a shirt

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Remove Honey and Syrup Stains From Clothes

Whether a squirt of honey missed your cup of tea or a drip of maple syrup made its way from the table to your lap, the occasional spill on an article of clothing makes a sticky mess. Fortunately, you can remove these stains using everyday household items.

  1. Scrape Residue

    Use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to lift as much residue from the fabric's surface as possible. Do not rub the untreated stain because it only forces the spill deeper into the fabric fibers. 

    using a dull knife to scrape off excess honey
    The Spruce / Michele Lee
  2. Blot Stain

    Dip a clean white cloth or paper towel in tepid water and blot the stained area to prepare for washing the garment.

  3. Use Bleach on Whites

    If the honey or syrup stain is old and has set, or if an artificial color is in the spilled product, the garment may need additional treatment. You can use chlorine bleach to remove stains on white cotton garments and linens. Always check the care label and test for colorfastness before using bleach on a garment. Mix bleach with water according to product label directions. Submerge the entire garment in the bleach solution to avoid spotting. Soak for several hours, checking periodically. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. If the stain is gone, launder as usual. If the stain persists, repeat the process.

  4. Mix an Oxygen Bleach Solution

    For synthetic fabrics and colored or printed clothes, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (recommended brands include OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and tepid water following package directions. Mix enough solution to submerge the stained garment completely. Allow the stained item to soak at least four hours or overnight and then launder as usual.

Tip

Natural soaps like Fels Naptha are great for removing oily stains but never use natural soap in a bar or soap flakes to treat syrup stains because soap can make the tannin more challenging to remove.

blotting honey stain on a carpet
The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Remove Honey and Syrup Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

You can use similar methods to remove honey and syrup from carpet and upholstery as you would for clothing. Be mindful of the color of your stained fabric before applying specific products.

  1. Mix a Solution

    Mix a solution of one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent liquid and two cups of warm water. Dip a clean white cloth or paper towel in the solution and blot the honey or syrup stain. Repeat until the color no longer transfers onto the cloth. 

  2. Blot Stained Area

    Dip a cloth in plain cool water to blot the cleaned area. Removing all the detergent residue is essential because lingering detergent can attract soil.

  3. Apply Rubbing Alcohol

    Treat the stain with a clean cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide if there is a dye in the honey or syrup. This treatment should only be used on white or light carpets because discoloration can occur. For dye stains on colored carpet, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach in cool water following package directions. 

  4. Sponge Solution

    Dip a clean sponge into the solution or use an eye dropper and apply it to the stain. Working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, work the solution into the carpet. Allow the solution to remain on the stain for at least 30 minutes before blotting away.

  5. Air Dry

    Allow the cleaned area to air dry away from direct heat and vacuum to lift carpet fibers. To remove honey or syrup from upholstery, you can use the same cleaning solutions and techniques as you would for removal from carpet. Avoid over-wetting cushions because excess moisture can cause mold and mildew.

When to Call a Professional

If your stained garment is dry clean only, lift away as much of the drip as possible with a dull knife and, as soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner. Point out the stain to the dry cleaner. If you use a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. Remove the solids if the stained upholstery is vintage or silk, and consult a cleaning professional.

honey dripping onto a sofa arm
The Spruce / Michele Lee

Additional Tips for Handling Honey and Syrup Stains

As always, treating a stain as soon as possible is best. Hardened honey and syrup stains are much more difficult to remove than fresh stains. Even if you can't perform the entire stain removal process immediately, try to keep the stain wet until you can treat it thoroughly. You may repeat your cleaning method of choice as many times as you see fit.