Removing Ketchup Stains

by Amy Gordon
(last updated December 14, 2015)

Ketchup, like many other tomato-based stains, can be an obvious and stubborn stain. One squirt too many from the condiment bottle or a drip from your hotdog can ruin your favorite shirt—and your afternoon.

If you have gotten ketchup on your shirt or your pants, avoid dabbing at the spot. This can make the stain bigger. Also, it is important to act on ketchup or other tomato-based stains as soon as possible—the longer the delay, the more likely it is that the stain will be very difficult to remove. If you are not at home, do as much as you can to remove the ketchup immediately with napkins, wet wipes, and whatever else you may have.

Start by running cold water backwards through the stain. This removes much of the ketchup that has not already been caught up by the fibers of the fabric. Take advantage of the water pressure by holding the fabric right up near the faucet. Be careful that the ketchup doesn't end up right on another part of your shirt—keep as much of your shirt as possible out of the sink. Rub a liquid detergent or soap into the stain as gently as possible. (If you are not at home, rubbing the stain with soap may be as much as you can do. Rinse out the soap and wait to do the rest as soon as you get home).

Let the stained area soak in cool water for ten minutes. Rub more liquid detergent into the stained area and try to work some of the stain out by rubbing the stain against itself. Once you have worked out as much as you can, rinse the garment well.

If the fabric is colorfast, dab some hydrogen peroxide or some white vinegar on the stain. If you are not sure if the fabric is colorfast, test the peroxide or the vinegar on an inconspicuous area first, such as the seam allowance. Lemon juice will also work in place of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Dab the peroxide or vinegar onto the stain with a sponge or a clean white cloth. This should get out more of the stain. Rinse the area well, and if the stain remains, try rubbing in and rinsing out liquid detergent again, followed by another round with the hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.

There are many stain removal products that may help once you've gotten rid of as much of the stain as you can. Try dabbing or spraying a stain removal spray or stick onto whatever remains of the stain, letting it sit for five to ten minutes, then laundering the garment as you normally would. Don't forget to check the garment for the stain before you put the article of clothing in the dryer—drying the stain will set the stain and make it very difficult to get out.

Author Bio

Amy Gordon

Amy Gordon loves keeping things simple, natural, and safe so she can spend more time having fun. Every day she learns new things about making life at home easier and she loves to share it with you! ...

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