Wine and Other Alcohol Stains

Spilt red wine has to be high on the list of most hostesses’ nightmares – although other types of alcohol, such as beer, can be just as bad, if not for the sight of the stain, then for the pungent smell. Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with wine and other alcohol stains:


As you probably know, white wine does not really stain – it can simply be blotted out and then the area sponged gently with soapy water. Red wine, however, is a totally different matter. If it is not treated correctly, it will leave a very ugly purple-blue stain.

If you can bear it (and afford it!) then pouring white wine onto a red wine stain is actually one of the most effective methods; leave it for a few moments and then watch the red wine marks disappear as you rinse everything away. If you are treating a red wine stain on carpets, be careful of using too much white wine as this can soak the carpet and cause shrinkage. Follow the recommended method for rinsing carpets (alternately dampen the area with water and blot with paper towels, working from the outside of the stain inwards) and do not scrub.

If you not wish to use white wine or do not have a bottle handy, then salt can be just as effective: simply pour a large enough amount onto the area to cover the stain and then wait as the wine soaks up into the salt. Repeat, until the salt stops absorbing the wine. It is best to wait until the salt dries a bit before sweeping it up, as the action of sweeping could push some of the wine back into the fabric/carpet.

Soda water has also been recommended for red wine stains but can be less effective. Another alternative is hydrogen peroxide mixed with mild detergent – note however that hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent and as such can remove colour from your fabric/carpet as well. For wine stains that are dried and old, you may need to resort to pouring boiling water through the stain, if your fabric can withstand this treatment (this is, of course, not possible for carpets which may require professional cleaning) – otherwise, hydrogen peroxide solution mixed with mild detergent should shift the stain. For carpets, remember to use the soak and blot method. The key to wine stains is to act quickly – the longer you leave the stain, the harder it will be to remove it successfully.

Beer and Other Alcohol

Fresh beer is no real problem – just wash it immediately as normal, preferably with a biological washing powder. If the stain is on carpet, soak up as much of the spillage as possible with absorbent cloths or paper towels and then gently remove the stain with a little detergent and warm water, using the soak and blot method. If the beer stain is old and dried, you may need to soak the fabric in a solution of warm water and detergent before washing. If a stain persists (such as from some of the darker beers) then try rubbing some glycerine into the stain, which should loosen it. Next, soak it in a solution of warm water and borax and then rinse thoroughly and wash as directed above.

For general alcohol stains, rinse the fabric thoroughly in cold water, focusing on the stained area. Rub a liquid detergent gently into he stain and leave it for 5-10mins. Rinse again and then wash according to instructions. If the stain remains, you may need to soak the fabric in cold water with a liquid laundry detergent, for at least half an hour – before rinsing and washing as directed.

Alcohol Stains on Wood

Alcohol stains on wooden surfaces can be particularly deadly as they can dissolve many finishes. It is essential to quickly wipe up the spill and then rub the area with a cloth dipped in furniture polish (or even just your palm).

If the stain is older, you may need to make up a paste of rottenstone (a very fine abrasive, found in some hardware and paint stores) and baking soda, mixed with mineral oil, linseed oil or lemon oil. Rub this lightly onto the stain, in the direction of the wood grain and then wipe with plain linseed oil. Rub again, quite vigorously, with a soft cloth along the grain.

Whether on wood, clothing, furniture or carpet, prevent alcohol stains by taking care with drinks, medicines, lotions and perfumes which may contain alcohol.

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