How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Prevent stains from becoming permanent with a quick cleaning

How to Remove Ketchup Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

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

Getting ketchup out of clothes, upholstery, and carpet can be tough. Like most stains, ketchup (or catsup) is easier to remove when it's fresh. Even if the stain has been forgotten until laundry day, you can still get rid of it by taking the time to work through the cleaning process. The keys to successfully salvaging your item is to use the right cleaner. If you see a blob of ketchup on your shirt, do not rub it as you can make the stain worse. You also do not 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 and other textiles can be done effectively with household products you have on hand by following some simple steps.

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Watch Now: How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Fabric

Stain Type Tannin-based
Detergent Type Liquid laundry detergent
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type (Cotton/Synthetic) Follow garment's care label
Cycle Type (Delicates) Follow garment's care label

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)
  • White cloth (Optional)
  • Bucket or basin (Optional)

Materials

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

Instructions

items to remove ketchup stains

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Cotton and Synthetic 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.

    Warning

    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. 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.

    • Gently work it into the fabric in a circular motion.
    • Work from the outside in to prevent spreading the stain.
    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.

    Warning

    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. Use Stain Removers (Optional)

    • 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.
    • Apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray.
    • Allow it to sit for at least five minutes.
    checking to see if the stain persists

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  6. Wash as Usual

    Wash the garment as you normally would, using your regular detergent.

    washing the garment per the care tag instructions

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  7. Air-Dry Clothes

    • To make sure all traces of the stain are gone, play it safe by air-drying your item 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. If you must use a machine to dry your garment, double-check to make sure the stain is completely gone before you put it in the dryer.

How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Delicates

Always refer to the care label of your garment. Some wool and knit clothing may say "dry clean" or "dry clean only" on the label.

  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. A plastic spoon may be ideal for delicates.
    • As with any other fabric, do not rub or push down hard on the stain as it can push it deeper into the fibers.
  2. Soak in Detergent and Water

    • In a sink or basin, mix a few drops of detergent and cool water. Place the garment into the water (remember to check the label to see if it's dry clean or dry clean only).
    • Gently rub the stain with your fingers for a few seconds.
    • Let the garment soak for about 10 minutes.
  3. Wash as Usual

    • Rinse the garment.
    • Wash normally per the care label (if it is not dry clean or dry clean only).
  4. Air-Dry Clothes

    • If the stain is gone, dry the garment.
    • Do not put delicates in the dryer. Air-dry only.
    • If the stain is still present, repeat the steps, but do not dry yet.

How to Remove Ketchup Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

  1. Scrape Off the Solids

    • Remove as much of the excess ketchup from the carpet or upholstery as possible with a spoon or the back of a butter knife—which won't damage the fibers.
    • Do not rub or push down hard on the stain so it stays on the surface and does not become pushed down into the fibers.
  2. Dab

    Once the solids are scraped up, you will dab the stain.

    • In a bowl or bucket, mix 1 tablespoon of a mild liquid dish soap into 2 cups of cool water.
    • Soak a clean white cloth in the cleaning mixture.
    • Squeeze most of the cleaning mixture out of the fabric, but leave it moist.
    • Dab the moist cloth onto the ketchup and repeat until the stain is gone.
  3. Rinse

    Once the stain is gone, use another clean white cloth to rinse the area thoroughly in cool water.

  4. Air-Dry

    • Let the area air-dry.
    • You may have to fluff up the carpet fibers with your fingers or with a light vacuuming once it's dry, depending on the type of floor covering you have.

Additional Tips for Handling a Ketchup Stain

  • If the stain 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.

When to Call a Professional

If you cannot seem to remove the stain or the smell from your carpet or upholstery, call in a professional cleaner to do the job. They will have the proper equipment to handle the toughest stains and odors. In addition, if you have very delicate upholstery, such as silk or velvet and you are concerned about creating areas with uneven color or water stains, a professional cleaner can help.