6 Steps to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains From Clothing

Child eating barbecue wings

Juanmonino / Getty Images

Barbecue just wouldn't be barbecue if it was neat and tidy to eat. Most barbecue fans are okay with that, but it doesn't make the sauce stains any less visible. Like ketchup and hot sauce, barbecue sauce is hard to miss on almost any garment. Both sauces typically are tomato-based, but barbecue sauce often has some grease to go along with the red fruit component.

Stain type Plant- and oil-based
Detergent type Liquid laundry detergent
Water temperature Hot
Cycle type Varies by fabric

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 to 35 minutes plus washing time

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

  • Spoon
  • Sponge (Optional)

Instructions

  1. Remove the Excess Sauce

    Using a spoon or the back of a butter knife, gently scoop up the barbecue sauce from the fabric. You won't be able to get the stuff that has soaked into the fabric, but any that is pooled on the outside can be removed. This will keep the stain from spreading or affecting other parts of the clothing.

  2. Flush With Cold Water

    Run cold water through the back of the stain as quickly as possible. This will force the stain back out through the fabric the way it came. Be sure to use cold water. Hot water can set this stain and make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to remove. You can keep running water on it for several minutes, or even longer if you feel it is helping and making a difference in fading or removing the stain.

  3. Apply Liquid Detergent

    Rub a liquid laundry detergent into the stained portion of the fabric. Work it in gently with your fingers. You want both sides to be soaked through. Liquid laundry detergent is excellent at removing the greasy parts of the barbecue sauce that cling to the fibers of the clothing. Most laundry detergents will pack a punch needed to soak into the stain. Tide and Persil are both highly effective for this. Let the detergent sit for up to 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing in ​lukewarm water. If you don't have liquid laundry detergent, you can substitute a mild dish soap for this step.

  4. Add Bleach (Optional)

    If the garment is white, or you have tested it for colorfastness, apply a mild bleaching agent, like hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar, using a sponge. You can also use lemon juice on white fabrics. If the clothing has a color or a pattern, be sure to test the cleaner in a hidden area of the clothing. Even mild bleaching agents can remove the color of clothing, so skip this step if you are concerned. Rinse the clothing thoroughly.

  5. Apply a Stain Remover

    Apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray of your choice and allow it to sit for five to 15 minutes or as directed. Liquid or gel stain sticks often are the best for penetrating the fabric fully. You can also apply the stain remover to both sides of the fabric to make sure it is fully covered.

  6. Wash and Air-Dry

Wash the clothing with your favorite laundry detergent and the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Before drying, check to make sure the stain is fully removed. But just to be safe, line-dry the garment and check again for the stain after the clothing is dry. Sometimes only a faint ring near the outside of the stain remains. Do not put the clothing in the dryer unless the stain is completely gone.

Tip

Barbecue sauce is broken down by acid, which is why vinegar helps remove the stain. Vinegar is safe to use on whites but can fade some colored fabrics; for those, you can wash with a color-safe bleach instead.

If the barbecue sauce stain remains after washing, try rubbing liquid laundry detergent or dish soap into the stain and soak in warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse the clothing well, then wash it again as usual. Air-dry it and confirm the stain is gone before putting the item in the dryer.