How to Get Rid of Tomato Stains
Time is of the Essence
Letting a tomato stain (or any red based stain) to sit will make the removal that much more difficult. As soon as possible, remove any excess material using something that won’t push the stain in to the fabric any more than it is. A utensil such as a spoon or handle, side of a toothpick or nail run gently across the stain will softly remove excess tomato product without damaging the fabric.
Turn the material inside out and run the coldest water you can find to flush the stain thoroughly. Do NOT use hot water; it will set red stains: blood, tomato, wine, etc should never be touched by hot water until very late in the removal process. If the tomato stain was minor and the fabric was not white, this might be all you need to do and you can simply launder the material as normal. If the stain remains and you are unable to proceed immediately to the following steps, keep the stain damp and cool if possible without having the stain touch unstained material (in other words don’t fold the item if possible).
If you simply can’t rinse the stain because you’re wearing the item and without a change of clothes, ask for a bit of white wine or club soda. Dip a napkin in the white or soda and blot the stain until damp, do not rub. If it will be hours before you can start treating the stain, try to continue to cover the stain with cold water, white wine or club soda—remember your body heat may set the stain if left untreated.
Next attack the stain based on two things: is there oil in the tomato product and is the material white or color fast? If there is oil in the tomato product, please see the article on removing oily stains located on our website. You can use an oil absorbent/whitening agent such as baking soda or cornstarch soaked in hydrogen peroxide to lift the oil out of the stain. For meat based tomato stains, we recommend a dish washing liquid advertised to be good on grease.
If the fabric is white or you’ve checked it to see if it’s colorfast, you can use white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice to lighten the stain by removing the red pigment. Diluted bleach may be used but please know that bleach can weaken the fabric and make it more susceptible to future staining or change the fabric in a way that appears to be a different color. Saturate the stain in the lightening agent and allow to soak undisturbed for 30 minutes.
Flush with warm water. Hold the fabric up to a bright light to see if you still have remnants of the redness. If you do, it’s time to break out the big tools: detergent sticks, gels or sprays specifically designed for stain removal should be used according to package directions but generally you should plan on leaving the product on the stain for a minimum of five minutes.
The next round of steps will require some patience on your behalf. Using liquid laundry detergent, gently rub it in the stain (do not rub fabric on fabric) starting with the outside of the stain and working inward to avoid spreading the stain in to a larger stain.
Rinse and repeat the lightening steps above using a whitening agent. Continue to alternate the laundry detergent and whitening agent until the stain is no longer visible. Rinse liberally with hot water. Again, hold up to the light to make certain that all the traces of red are gone.
Launder as normal but DO NOT DRY. Once dried, stains often are set and much more difficult to work with without harming the material. Check the stain. If it looks great, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
If the stain is visible, use the laundry stick, gel or spray liberally on the stain. Soak in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Rinse. Rub laundry detergent on the stain using the outside to inside motion again. Rinse. Continue to repeat these steps until you no longer see the stain.
Launder as normal. Enjoy a stain free garment!