How to Remove Salad Dressing Stains from Clothes, Carpet, Upholstery

Italian vinaigrette dressing in a mason jar
VeselovaElena / Getty Images

While salads are healthy choices, oily or creamy dressings can add lots calories and leave some pretty tough stains on fabrics. Whether the salad dressing is just plain oil and vinegar or creamy ranch or Thousand Island, these tips will work to remove the stains.

Washable Clothes 

When any type of salad dressing drip happens never rub or wipe it with a napkin because that will push it deeper into the fibers of the fabric.

 Using a stain removal pen or wipe may help but probably won't remove all of the oily stain. If the dressing is very liquid, blot with a plain white cloth or paper towel to absorb the oil. For chunky or creamy dressings, gently lift away any solid matter with the edge of a dull knife or spoon or credit card.

Next, sprinkle on some cornstarch, baby powder, baking soda, or even use a piece of bread to absorb as much of the oil as possible. It usually takes about 15 minutes for the powder to absorb the oil before you should brush it away. Blotting up as much of the oil as possible will make removing the stain easier when it is time to wash.

As soon as possible, head to the laundry room and pretreat the stain with a solvent-based spray or gel like Zout, Shout, or Spray 'n Wash. If you don't have a solvent-based stain remover, use a heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide or Persil (these are leading high-performance brands that contain the necessary enzymes to break apart the oil molecules) directly on the stain and work it in by gently rubbing the fabric together with your fingers or use an old, soft toothbrush.

If you only have powdered detergent, make a paste with a bit of warm water and apply to the stain.

Be patient and allow the stain remover to work on the stain for at least 15 minutes; 30 minutes is even better. This will allow the chemicals to break apart the oil molecules, making them easier to flush out of the fabric fibers.

Then wash the garment as usual in the hottest water recommended for the fabric along with the recommended amount of detergent for a regular load of laundry. 

If the dressing stain is on a synthetic fabric like polyester that wouldn't normally be washed in hot water, stretch the pretreated stained area of the fabric over a bowl and pour a steady stream of hot water directly onto the stain, and then wash in cold or warm water.

Inspect the stained area of the garment before drying and repeat the treatment if necessary. Never place an oil stained garment in a clothes dryer. The high heat will make the oil even more difficult to remove. Repeat the cleaning steps if necessary.

Dry Clean Only Fabrics

When salad dressing drips on your favorite dry clean only outfit, use a dull knife or edge of a credit card to lift away the solids. Blot away as much of the oily liquid as possible with a dry white paper towel, a slice of white bread, or you can sprinkle the stain with cornstarch or talcum powder.

If the salad dressing stain is small, you may be able to remove it by spot treating with a dry cleaning solvent. A stain removal pen will not be effective in removing oil. As soon as possible, take the garment to your professional dry cleaner and be sure to point out the stain.

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


Act as soon as possible to remove the stain. It won't get any better on its own! Lift as much of the salad dressing solids as possible away from the fibers using a dull knife. Do not rub because it will only push the dressing deeper into the carpet and make the stain larger.

Sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Use a soft bristle brush to work the powder into the carpet. Allow the absorbing powder to sit on the stain for at least 15 minutes. Next, vacuum to remove the powder. 

Mix one tablespoon of hand dishwashing detergent in two cups hot water. Add one tablespoon household ammonia.

Blot the stain with a sponge or soft bristled brush dipped in the cleaning solution. Use a dry paper towel to absorb the cleaning solution whenl the stain is removed. 

Be sure to "rinse" the area with a cloth dipped in plain water to remove any soapy residue that will actually attract more soil. Repeat the cleaning steps until no more stain remains.


The same cleaning techniques and products recommended for carpet can be used to remove salad dressing stains from upholstery. If you use the wet cleaning steps, be careful not to over wet the fabric because excess moisture in the cushions can cause a problem with mildew.

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, sprinkle with cornstarch and call a professional before attempting to remove the stain.

For more stain removal tips, read Stain Removal A to Z.