Successful tips on removing red wine on natural fiber upholstery


Oct 18, 2006
Ross Craig
Alkaline detergent - let sit for a min -may turn grey -rinse off - apply acid rinse at 1:10 - rinse off and respray with your normal upholstery detergent. May go a lighter grey again - repeat same cycle with acid rinse - alkaline etc. It should lighten each time. Leave acid rinse as final and should be gone by next day.
If not completely gone odds are on that there is a food dye in the wine and you'll have to go with stronger chemicals and/or poultice

Jim Pemberton

MB Exclusive.
Oct 7, 2006
Jim Pemberton
  • 12 Steps That Will Remove Wine (and other Tannin Stains)
by Jim Pemberton - Fabric Pro Specialist
Today, 'Fine Fabric Specialists' often receive pictures via text with messages like this:

"We have this cushion with a large wine stain. We put salt on the stain. Can you clean it, and how much will it cost?"


This is what you need to know:

A - Is the fabric made from a natural fiber? Natural fibers are susceptible to texture damage, water marks, and browning.

B - Are the dyes color fast? Most anything that might be needed to remove the stain could cause color damage.

C - Does the wine contain artificial dye? (some wine does, most doesn't).

This is What You Should Do:

#1. Tell the customer that wine stains are very difficult to remove from natural fibers, and the process of removing the stain may cause discoloration, texture changes, shrinkage, or browning. Be sure that they understand that you are not responsible for any of these potentially negative outcomes. (use a written pre-understanding)

#2. Vacuum the fabric and get the salt out of it.

#3. Mist the fabric with distilled water. Many natural fiber fabrics have sizing present, which can create water marks where spills occur. The use of distilled water will help to remove such stains, and also help to prevent them should your spotting process create an uneven drying scenario (something you should try to avoid, by the way).

#4. Clean the fabric with an acidic detergent (no stain removers yet). Tannin stains (wine as well as coffee and tea) often come out when cleaned with an acidic detergent.

Since the best cleaners for natural fibers are usually acidic, you might just get the stain out with cleaning. My favorite product for this application is Chemspec Natural Fiber Cleaner, which can be applied either as a prespray or foaming preconditioner.

Apply the detergent evenly over the entire cushion (not just the stain), allow a few minutes of dwell time, agitate gently, then extract with clear, warm water.

#5. If the fabric had a protective treatment applied before the spill, and if its not been allowed to stay in very long since the spill, you might remove most if not all of the wine with this step alone.

#6. If a stain remains, the next product that I would try is an acidic tannin spotter. Mist the spotter over the entire cushion face again (this also prevents water marks), agitate gently, blot, then extract again with clear, warm water. If the towel you blot with shows a color transfer of the wine, and more comes out when you rinse, repeat this process.

Be certain that you get the fabric "slightly damp dry" in between each step so that you don't cause browning or water stains from over wetting.

Make sure your tannin spotter is just an acid product, not a reducing agent or bleach at this point!

I am fairly confident you will have success by following these steps.

If you don't, however, the next steps take some careful thought, and additional communication with your customer.

#7. Wine that remains after cleaning and treating with spotters designed to remove tannins should be considered a stain. Tannin stains may come out with either reducing or oxidizing agents. Reducing agents are safer, but slower and possibly less effective. Oxidizing agents work more quickly, but they do act as true bleaches.

If the fabric is dyed, the same stain removers that can decolorize the stain may decolorize the fabric! Even the milder reducing agents may cause this problem, and neither reducing nor oxidizing agents should be used on natural fiber fabrics such as cotton without a clear, written understanding with your customer.

#8. If you apply a reducing agent, start with a mild browning treatment or coffee stain remover that contains sodium meta-bisulfite. This product should be applied, and then allowed to dry. DO NOT continue to apply it while its wet, as it will only create a residue that will make the fabric appear to be bleached, and will be time consuming to remove later. Instead just apply, then let dry.

#9. Some red dye removers may work if the above product does not, but these should not be applied without rinsing all previous cleaning and stain removal products from the fabric. These also increase the chance of color damage or "over bleaching" of off white fabrics. Try the product without heat, and instead allow it to dry naturally.

#10. If you choose to try an oxidizing agent, remember that such products are more aggressive and more likely to cause color loss. Also remember that you will need to remove all traces of reducing agents that have already been applied. This in itself is risky, as repeated rinsing of the fabric may cause browning.

#11. Never apply strong peroxide based stain removers to natural fibers! Such products are made for synthetic fiber carpet, not upholstery. Strong (over 3%) peroxide can damage cellulose fibers, as well as discolor them. Use only fresh, 3% hydrogen peroxide that you can purchase in a grocery store or pharmacy. Apply the product, and do not blot or rinse, but simply allow to dry.

#12. Once you've removed the stain, by whichever means needed, you still might have a remaining water stain. Apply distilled water to the entire cushion, then dry with fans, rotating the cushion during the drying time to allow for even drying.

The most important step of these 12 steps is, of course, step #1!