How to Remove Citrus Juice Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

How to Remove Citrus Juice Stains

The Spruce / Alison Czinkota

Lemon wedges, lime zest and grapefruit segments enhance other foods and drinks and are pretty tasty all on their own. Whether you're making some lemonade, eating grapefruit or just have a lime wedge squirting accident, it's important to remove the citrus juice stains as soon as possible.

Citrus fruit and juices seldom leave much of a visible stain right away. The danger comes in leaving the juice on clothing or carpet for too long. Citrus juice and pulp contain citric acid which acts as a bleaching agent, especially when exposed to sunlight. You might want to remember this fact if you need to use lemon or lime juice as a natural stain remover on white fabrics or to clean other things around the house.

Orange juice stains contain more sugar than most other citrus fruits and require a bit more treatment, so it's important you know how to treat those stains as well.

Washable Clothes

If any citrus pulp is sitting on the surface of the fabric, lift the pulp away with a dull knife or spoon. Do not rub because that will simply push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers. As soon as possible, hold the wrong side of the stained area under a faucet to flush the area with cool, clean water to help neutralize the acid. Then wash the clothes or table linens as recommended on the care label.

If the fabric is colored, especially dark color, and can't be flushed under a faucet right away, wet a clean white cloth or paper towel with plain, cool water and blot the citrus stain. This will help dilute the citric acid and delay bleaching. Be sure to wash the garment as soon as possible and do not expose to excessive sunlight. 

Citrus stained white cloth rinsed under kitchen sink

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, remove any citrus solids with a dull knife or spoon. Again, never rub because that pushes the acid deeper into the fibers. Dip a white cloth in plain water and blot the stain. Follow up by blotting with a dry cloth until no more moisture is transferred. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. 

If you choose to use a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

White cloth dipped in water blotting dry clean clothing sleeve to remove citrus stain

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Carpet and Upholstery

Remove all the citrus pulp solids from the carpet by lifting away with a spoon or spatula. Never rub because you can make the stain larger.

Dip a clean white cloth in plain cool water and saturate the citrus stained area to dilute the citric acid. Work from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep it from growing larger. Immediately blot away the moisture with a dry white cloth. Always use a white cloth or paper towel to prevent the transfer of dye to the fabric.

If the citrus juice is sweetened or combined with other ingredients, mix a cleaning solution of one tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent and two cups warm water. Follow the same sponging steps, using the detergent solution. Again, always work from the outside edge of the stain toward the center.

It is important to remove all of the cleaning solutions from the carpet by rinsing because the soap can actually attract soil. Wet a white towel or paper towel with plain water and sponge to rinse away any soapy residue.

After blotting away the moisture, allow the carpet to air dry away from direct heat. When dry, vacuum to lift the fibers.

Even if the spill doesn't look like it will leave a stain, don't skip the cleaning steps. The citric acid can bleach the carpet fibers and that cannot be reversed. Plus, if the stain contains any sugar, darker stains can appear and actually attract more soil.

The same cleaning techniques recommended for carpet can be used on upholstery. It is important not to overwet the fabric because that can cause problems with mildew in the cushion filling. Allow the upholstery to air dry away from direct heat and sunlight.

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult a professional before cleaning or if you need more stain removal tips. Water spotting can occur.

Citrus pulp solid removed from carpet with silver spoon next to folded paper towels and glass bowl

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida