How to remove red wine stains?
Red wine – it’s surely one of the great wonders of human endeavour: the delicious alchemy of earth, sun and water working in harmony; of careful nurturing, skill and patience.
And a total pain when you spill it, whether it’s sploshed on your favourite shirt or the sofa. Now, we’re never going to give it up, to paraphrase Rick Astley, so what’s the best way to deal with that inevitable red-wine spillage?
Let’s take a look at why red wine – which we all know brings us so much pleasure – can also be the cause of so much grief, and the best ways to fix red-wine stains.
Can red teeth be avoided when drinking red wine?
Before we get to the big issue of those accidental blots on our furniture or clothes, many of us are prone to developing ‘blue’ teeth after we’ve enjoyed some of our favourite red wine. The reasons are pretty straightforward, and not that dissimilar to why red wine can wreak havoc on fabrics. The combination of red wine’s ‘evil twins’, chromogens and tannin, and the acid content of red wine, allows the red ‘dye’ of the wine to be absorbed quite readily.
So the reason some people aren’t affected at all when they drink red wine is because the enamel on their teeth is more robust. Apart from giving it up – heaven forbid! – there’s not much we can do about the stains, although there are ways of mitigating them and removing them. That is, until the next glass…
Drinking lighter reds will lead to less staining – in fact, the thicker the grape skin and the longer the grape juice is in contact with that skin, the more likely the wine will stain. So a pinot noir is less likely to be a problem than a robust shiraz.
Don’t drink white wine before a red, as the acid in it will prepare the way for the red to stain further in the ‘tooth-etching’ process.
Brush your teeth before (strangely, not after) drinking red wine, as it will clear the teeth of any stain-absorbing plaque. Although we’d suggest a long time before (at least 30 minutes), because after using toothpaste, you may as well give up the ghost and stick to water, for all the good it will do to the taste of your wine!
Drink water (and even swill it around) between sips of red wine: this will at least dilute the effects of staining, plus be better for your overall health – and hangover.
Eating cheese can help, too, by coating the mouth and repelling the tannins. In fact, try eating anything that stimulates saliva production, which will dilute the impact of the wine.
And last – wipe your teeth with a piece of damp paper towel after you’ve had a glass of red wine. Yes, seriously, it’s actually said to work.
How to get red wine stains out of a couch, carpet or clothes
We’re relaxing with a glass of red after a long, hard day – or a long, hard dinner with friends. Perhaps we’re getting just a little too relaxed. The glass tips, the wine spills, and suddenly there’s a large red splash that’s slowly blooming outwards.
The first thing to remember is – don’t panic! The last thing you want to do at this stage is start scrubbing at the stain. This might take out some of the colour, but it’s more likely to spread the stain and actually make the dye penetrate the fibres in the fabric more deeply.
That said, it’s important to act quickly. He who hesitates is lost, as someone once said (probably a red-wine drinker), so don’t leave the stain to dry.
Here’s what you should do:
Immediately apply a liberal amount of a ‘wicking’ agent. Reach for the table salt – the fine stuff will be most effective – talcum powder, soap powder, baking soda or even kitty litter. Then apply it liberally to the stain – making sure that it reaches beyond the edges, to ensure total coverage. Then it’s a matter of waiting for a reasonable amount of time for it to do its work – we’d give it five to 10 minutes. Remove the coating by blotting it, not rubbing. Again, the lighter the pressure on the stain, the more likely it won’t set. You may well find this removes the stain completely. If not, and the stain is still damp, re-apply the salt or other powder and repeat the process.
If the wicking method doesn’t work effectively, there’s a school of thought that argues white wine can be an effective cleaning agent for red-wine stains. While we’d rather drink it than waste it on cleaning, there may be some basis in the argument, as white wine may help to dissolve the pesky pigments that caused the problem in the first place.
Depending on the fabric (be careful with pure wool, cotton or linen, as they could shrink), try blotting the stain with boiling or hot water. If the stain is on an article of clothing, napkin or tablecloth, try to keep the fabric stretched tight for maximum exposure. The hot water should help to ‘loosen the grip’ of the red-wine molecules on the fabric, so a normal washing process can do the rest afterwards. Some people also suggest trying this method using milk to absorb the red wine. Others suggest soda water, in which the minerals are said to break down the red-wine molecules; or white wine vinegar (and even a mixture of the two).
When all else fails, try one of these fall-backs. Good old Napisan, or any other kind of ‘oxi’ or pre-wash containing sodium percarbonate, is designed to break down stains. The action of adding them to water turns the sodium percarbonate into a mild hydrogen peroxide (bleach) solution. Again, just apply it to the stain and leave it for at least 30 minutes before blotting it dry.
To make your own ‘pre-wash’ for a red-wine stain, you can combine dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide (most people will have some in their bathroom cabinet) in a ratio of 1 part of the former to 3 parts of the latter. Apply it in the same way as the Napisan.
Whichever of these method you use, you’ll probably want to wash the item (unless it’s the couch or carpet) as normal afterwards.
How to get red wine stains out of a leather couch or clothing
Very similar approaches apply when you’re faced with a red-wine spillage on leather or suede. Though it’s probably best to avoid any ‘chemical’ applications, such as the ‘oxi’ approach, as this may affect the finish and colour of the original leather. It’s worth testing the surface to ensure it’s been treated. If not, you’ll probably need to seek professional cleaning help. The best way is to use the wicking and blotting method, but this can be helped along afterwards by the following:
- Once you’ve blotted the offending stain, make a frothy solution of mild soap and warm water and apply the foam to the stain with a sponge. You don’t want to use any harsh cleaning agents, so pure soap flakes or similar are best. Rinse well using a clean cloth, then gently wipe (no scrubbing!) dry. It’s worth finishing the process by polishing it up with some leather conditioner, too (though not on suede, for obvious reasons).
After all this, we’re going to settle down and open a bottle of something Redman. But we’ll be sure to clean our teeth at least half an hour beforehand. Cheers!