How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Clothing

How to Remove Ketchup Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Like most stains, ketchup (or catsup) stains are easier to remove when they are fresh, so try to get to them early. Even if the stain has been forgotten until laundry day, you can still get rid of it if you take the time to work through the cleaning process. The keys to successfully salvaging your favorite shirt or pants are patience and using the right cleaner for the fabric. Whatever you do when you see that blob of ketchup on your shirt, don't rub it as you can make the stain worse. You also don't want to dry the clothing until you're sure the stain is gone. Tomato-based stains are notoriously stubborn, so removing them may take a while, but it's a relatively simple process. Fortunately, removing ketchup stains from clothing can be done effectively with household products you have on hand by following some simple steps.


Watch Now: How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Fabric

Stain Type Tomato-based
Detergent Type Standard
Water Temperature Per garment care instructions
Cycle Type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

Most of the cleaners you can use for removing ketchup stains are probably already in your laundry room or kitchen. You have a few options for stain removers, and household cleaners like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or dish soap may work even better than a commercial product. Some ketchup stains, especially if they have dried, will require a combination of cleaning agents.

Check the care label on your garment, and if it's dry clean only, take it to your dry cleaner as soon as possible and point out and identify the ketchup stain. If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the spot with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Sponge (Optional)


  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Stain remover
  • White vinegar (Optional)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (Optional)
  • Lemon juice (Optional)
  • Mild dish soap (Optional)


items to remove ketchup stains

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Clothes

  1. Scrape Off the Solids

    Remove as much of the excess ketchup from the fabric as possible with a spoon or the back of a butter knife—which won't damage the fabric. Try not to rub or push down hard, as this can trap the stains deeper into the fibers. Any excess ketchup can smear and spread the stain when you apply cleaners.

    scraping solids off of a garment

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Flush the Stain

    Run cold water through the back of the stain as quickly as possible. Flushing from the wrong side of the fabric will force the ketchup back out through the fibers. Don't run it through the front of the stain, as this will only push it deeper into your clothing.


    Be sure to use cold water because hot water will set this tomato-based stain.

    flushing the stain with cold water

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  3. Rub in Detergent

    Rub a liquid laundry detergent into the stain. Gently work it into the fabric in a circular motion, working from the outside in to prevent spreading the stain. Liquid laundry detergent helps to remove the color as well as the oily component of the ketchup stain. You can also use mild dish soap, as that also can help remove the oil.

    working detergent into the stain

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  4. Apply a Bleaching Agent (Optional)

    Apply a mild bleaching agent, if desired, but do this only if the garment is white or you have tested it for colorfastness. Usually, the best options are hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar applied with a sponge. You can also use lemon juice—on white fabrics only. Be sure to use only one bleaching agent at a time. Rinse out any cleaner thoroughly before trying a different one.


    Before applying any type of bleaching agent, make sure it's right for the color of your clothing. If necessary, do a small spot test in an inconspicuous area to see if it affects the color. White and colorfast materials can handle most cleaning agents without problems.

    applying vinegar

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  5. Check for the Stain

    Hold the stain up to the light to make sure all of the ketchup is gone. If you see any hint of brown or pink, repeat the previous steps. Ketchup is notorious for seeming to be gone, but when the garment dries a faint hint of the stain may remain.

    checking to see if the stain persists

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  6. Hit It With Stain Remover

    Apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray. Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes.

    spraying the stain with a stain remover

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  7. Wash as Usual

    Wash the garment as you normally would, using your regular detergent. Before drying, double-check to make sure the stain is completely gone. Stains that are dried in the dryer will often be permanent.


    If you have any suspicion that traces of the stain may remain, play it safe by air drying for a wash cycle or two. If you air dry, you can always attack the stain again. If you use a dryer, the stain may be set for good.

    washing the garment per the care tag instructions

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Additional Tips for Handling a Ketchup Stain

  • If the stain still remains after a full removal treatment, try rubbing detergent into the fabric, soak it in warm water for 30 minutes, and rinse it well. Then, apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray, and wash the garment as usual.
  • When getting ready to do laundry and you find a piece of clothing that has dried ketchup stains on it, try soaking the stained area in cold water for 15 minutes. This will help loosen up the ketchup from the fibers. Then go through the treatment steps to remove the stain.