How To Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains From Clothing

How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains from Clothing

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Barbecue sauce spills create some of the messiest stains on clothing. Not only are they wildly colorful, thanks to tomato paste and spices, but they also contain oils that settle deep into fabrics.

The good news is that barbecue stains can be cleaned. Begin treatment, per the steps below, as soon as possible after the sauce has spilled. This will yield the best chances of completely removing all traces of the delicious but disastrous BBQ blunder.

Stain Type Plant pigment and oil-based
Detergent Type Liquid laundry detergent
Water Temperature Hot
Cycle Type Varies by fabric

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Do not rub immediately. That will only push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers and make the stain harder to remove. Check the care label on the garment. If barbecue sauce spills on clothing that is colorful or patterned, be sure to test any cleaner or stain remover in a hidden area of the clothing before proceeding with a stain treatment. Older or dried stains will be harder to remove, so know that you might need to repeat the cleaning process several times before the stain disappears.

Even mild bleaching agents like vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can remove the color of clothing, so skip these cleaners if you are concerned about colorfastness. 


Click Play to Learn How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spoon
  • Sponge


  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, or white vinegar (optional)


ingredients to remove barbecue sauce stains
The Spruce / Kori Livingston 

Steps To Remove Barbecue Stains From Clothing

  1. Scoop Up Excess Sauce

    Scoop any excess food or sauce off the garment with a spoon. Take care not to press too hard, or you may drive the stain deeper into the clothing fibers.

    Removing excess barbecue sauce with a spoon

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  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. (Avoid hot water, which can set this stain and make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to remove.)
    • Keep running water through the stained fabric for several minutes, or even longer if you feel it is helping and making a difference in fading or removing the stain.
    flushing the stain with cold water
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  3. Apply Liquid Detergent

    • Rub a liquid laundry detergent into the stained portion of the fabric (liquid dish soap will also work). Work it in gently with your fingers. You want both sides to be soaked through.
    • Let the detergent sit for up to 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing in ​lukewarm water.


    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.

    applying liquid detergent to the stain
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  4. Bleach With Peroxide, Lemon Juice, or Vinegar

    • Sponge a mild bleaching agent, like hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, or lemon juice onto the stain if the garment is white or you have tested it for colorfastness. Vinegar is safe to use on whites but can fade some colored fabrics; for those, you can wash with a color-safe bleach instead.
    • Rinse the clothing thoroughly.


    Hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar make good bleaching agents, but don't mix them. The mixture contains corrosive acid and produces fumes that can damage skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.

    applying lemon juice to the stain
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  5. Apply a Stain Remover

    Apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray to both sides of the fabric to make sure it is fully covered. Allow it to sit for 5 to 15 minutes (or as directed).


    The best stain remover for the job is one designed for fats and/or ketchup.

    pretreating a stain
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  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, you need to be sure the stain is fully removed because heat from a dryer will set the stain. 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. Repeat the above steps until the stain is completely gone. Then, wash and dry as usual.
    washing the garment as usual
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 

When to Call a Professional

Barbecue sauce is an oil-based stain with pigments that can be extra hard to get out. If you can't get the stain out on your own, bring the garment to a dry cleaner. They have solvents that might work more effectively, and in the long run, if it's requiring too much of your time and it's frustrating you, let the pros handle it.

Additional Tips for Handling Barbecue Stains

If a stubborn 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 per the care label instructions. Air-dry it and confirm the stain is gone before putting the item in the dryer.