How to Remove Thanksgiving Day Stains from Clothes and Upholstery

Enjoy dinner and tackle stains later with this helpful guide to removing common Thanksgiving Day stains.

Pie, eaten. Plates, cleared. Thanks, given. It's time to survey the damage to your table linens. "They can get a workout on holidays," says cleaning pro and founder of Detroit Maid Danielle Smith Parker.

Whether you're in the kitchen preparing a feast, or you're lounging on the couch watching football enjoying a plate of appetizers, stains are inevitable on Thanksgiving. A holiday full of good times with friends and family and delicious food shouldn't lead to clothes or a favorite table cloth being ruined by a small stain.

Red wine, chocolate, candle wax, and gravy are all common holiday culprits. But don't fret just yet if one of them takes a tumble. The following Thanksgiving stains can be fixed with a little effort and on-hand ingredients. So feel free to gobble down all your favorite Thanksgiving foods—sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and more. This easy stain guide will keep you and your home stain-free.

Overhead of a Thanksgiving table with turkey and several side dishes
Karla Conrad

1. Food Grease

Put dish soap on the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes before laundering with cold water. Repeat if there are still traces of the stain. Remember: You should always confirm a stain is completely gone before using the dryer.

2. Pumpkin & Sweet Potato

Scrape off any excess with a dull knife and run the fabric inside out under cold water to flush out as much of the stain as possible. Pretreat with a laundry stain remover, then wash the fabric on hot.

3. Cranberry Sauce

Rinse the stain with cool water. Add 1 Tbsp. white vinegar and 1/2 tsp. liquid laundry detergent to 1-quart cool water. Blot the mixture on the stain with a clean cloth until the spot has disappeared.

4. Red Wine

Red wine stains can be tricky to get out. Saturate the area in white vinegar, then rub in liquid detergent. Next, run under hot water to lift the stain. Remember to have your water very hot, not just warm, for the optimal stain-removing power.

overhead view of a messy plate and glasses of wine with wine spilled on white surface
Marty Baldwin; Stylist: Lauren McAnelly

5. Candle Wax

Scrape off what you can with a dull knife, then use a hairdryer to melt the remaining wax. This will leave an oily residue you can dab away with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Launder the item as usual.

6. Chocolate

Remove any crumbs or hardened chocolate with a dry, clean toothbrush. Add 1 tablespoon dish soap to 2 cups warm water and apply the mixture using a microfiber cloth, gently dabbing the stain. Do not rub, which can work the stain deeper into the fabric. Repeat a few times before soaking up the solution with a clean towel.

7. Gravy

Add 1/4 tsp. dishwashing liquid and 3 drops ammonia to 1/2 cup warm water. Using a clean cloth, press the solution into the stain; do not rub. If the spill is on wool or silk, use club soda instead of ammonia.

8. Lipstick

Pretreat with liquid laundry detergent, working it in with a toothbrush. Allow the detergent to sit for at least 15 minutes, then wash the fabric on hot. If necessary, repeat before drying.

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