How to Remove Tomato Stains


Nichole asked: How can I remove spaghetti sauce stains from my clothing once it has already been washed? I pre-treated the stain with a stain remover and washed it. When it dried, I noticed the stain was still there. I repeated the process but was still not successful in removing the stain.

Spaghetti sauce stains are tomato-based stains and quite difficult to remove. If the item was dried in the dryer, the heat from the cycle has set the stain making it nearly impossible to remove. None the less, there have been stains that have been successfully removed, even after they were supposedly “set” by the heat of the dryer. Here are some methods to remove the stains both immediately as well as tips for those stains that have been left through the entire washing and drying cycles.

Removing Fresh Tomato Stains

You Will Need:

  • Palmolive or Dawn dish soap
  • Cold water

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Tomato stains have an oil component that dish soaps are effective at removing.
  2. Begin by applying a small amount of dish soap such as Palmolive or Dawn.
  3. Scrub the stain gently with your fingers or by rubbing the two sides of the fabric together.
  4. Rinse with cold water.
  5. Repeat if any stain remains.
  6. When the stain is removed, launder as usual.
  7. Avoid drying the shirt until the stain is completely removed.

Removing “Set” Tomato Stains

You Will Need:

  • Dishwasher detergent (ensure it does not include bleach if the clothing is colored)
  • Ice cube
  • Vinegar

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Begin by wetting the stained area with water.
  2. Apply dishwasher detergent and gently rub it into the stain. Be sure to test a small, hidden area first to check for any changes to the color or texture of the fabric.
  3. Next, rub over the stained area with an ice cube as you are rubbing out the stain.
  4. If any stain remains, blot it with a clean cloth moistened with vinegar. The acid in the vinegar should cut through any remaining stains.
  5. When the stain is removed, launder as usual.

Boiling Water Method

You Will Need:

  • Boiling water
  • Heat resistant bowl

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Place the shirt over the bowl so that the stain is positioned in the center of the bowl. Stretch the shirt slightly so that there is not a lot of slack in the shirt.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle or pan.
  3. Pour the boiling water through the shirt at the stained area.
  4. The boiling water will remove the stain as it goes through the fabric.

Salt and Baking Soda Method

You Will Need:

  • Salt
  • Baking soda

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Mix the salt and baking soda in equal parts with a small amount of water to form a paste.
  2. Rub the paste into the stain and work it in with your fingers.
  3. Launder the garment as usual.
  4. Do not dry the clothing in the dryer until you are sure the stain was removed.
  5. If any stain remains, repeat the steps above.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Whenever applying a new cleaner to a fabric, always test a small, hidden area first to ensure there is no damage to the fibers or texture of the fabric.
  • If the clothing is white, try dabbing the stain with hydrogen peroxide. Apply with a clean cloth, allow it to set for a few minutes an then blot dry with a clean cloth. Repeat until the stain is removed and launder as normal.
  • Sunshine is a natural bleaching agent. Place the item in the sunlight and it will naturally bleach the stain away.


  1. Amanda says:

    I just bought a new shirt that is made of polyester. I got a few pasta sauce spots on it and I am not sure of the best way to get them out. The shirt is colored so I do not want to do anything to bleach it. The sauce got on it this morning and I did not notice it until this afternoon. I’m not sure if I should try and use cold water to wipe it away before I get home and can wash it or just leave it. I have a stain remover at home, but I am not sure if that is the best thing to use.

  2. Barbara says:

    I have a pair of white NYDJ shorts that got splashed with tomato sauce. As soon as I was done eating, I applied stain remover, let them sit for the recommended 10 minutes and then put them in the washer with non-chlorine bleach, detergent booster, and detergent. The majority of the sauce washed away, but what was left was orange stains where the sauce was. The recommendations on the washing instructions of the garment is “non-chlorine bleach only.” I also tried Dawn D.W. detergent, followed by an ice cube, followed by vinegar. Do you have any other suggestions?

  3. Alissa says:

    Thanks for the ideas! I used the dish soap method to remove spaghetti stains from my daughter’s dress (which she used as a napkin)! A little cold water, dish soap, and light scrubbing with my finger nail quickly took out the stains! Amazing!
    The dress was blue and white, with a lot of the spaghetti sauce on the white portion. I can’t even see where the stain was.

  4. Robin says:

    The best remedy to remove a tomato stain from cotton (light color fabric) is hydrogen peroxide, a cotton ball, hot water, and sunlight. Before treating the stain with peroxide, use the standard stain remover spray, and wash in as hot a temperature of water as possible. Do not dry until you are certain the stain is removed. If this method does not bring complete results, soak a cotton ball in peroxide and saturate the stain and continue to saturate until the stain begins to lighten. Once the stain doesn’t lighten, hang outside, with the stain fully exposed, on a sunny, hot day. Sunlight is a great stain remover. Once the stain is removed, wash normally.

  5. Smileyrie says:

    Thank you so much for the advice – after a great 70th birthday ended with a bowl of tomato chutney on the white carpet, all it took was some gentle rubbing with dish washing liquid and cold water, followed by a final go-over with a steam cleaner, and you’d never know it happened.

  6. Marjory says:

    Can any one tell me how to get pizza sauce out of a pair of white plastic pants (rubber pants)? My 13-year-old daughter made her first Holy Communion back in September and we had pizza for her party. She sat on some spilled pizza sauce on a chair and it stained the back of her communion rubber pants. I want to put the rubber pants away with her dress, veil, etc.

  7. Melanie says:

    Lay the stained rubber pants in the sun for several hours. To clean any stain that remains after that, soak a sponge with white vinegar, coat the front of the sponge with baking soda and scrub the stained area.

    Source: Remove-Stains – How to Remove Tomato Stains from Plastic

  8. Ken says:

    I tried all of the above and still had a stain on my white pants.
    I finally rubbed benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-10) on the stain, let it set for a while, and VOILA! The stain was gone.

  9. Alice Mae says:

    I tried these things and the stain got worse. Thanks a million. You don’t know how to de-stain anything!

  10. Kelly says:

    I had already tried to get a spaghetti bolognaise stain out of a pale blue business shirt by soaking it in Napisan, but it didn’t lift. Found this advice, so tried the Palmolive soap trick (I used the liquid hand wash as it was all I had!) and with a bit of scrubbing, it came clean. Have just put it in the machine to rinse through and pulled it out to see not even a trace of the stain! Very impressed; thank you!!

  11. Linda M. says:

    To Melanie- you are a life saver! We just baptized our 16-year-old daughter on December 21st and she wore the traditional white, poofy, mid-thigh length baptism dress with the matching bonnet, lace anklets and white shoes. Instead of the normal disposable diaper worn under the dress, she chose the cloth diaper and white rubber pants to wear under the dress. She too sat on spilled lasagna and it stained the back of the rubber pants. I followed your instructions and got the stain out completely! She has to wear the diaper and rubber pants again under her communion dress in May, so I don’t have to buy her new ones, thanks to you!

  12. Naomi says:

    You are brilliant – thanks! My daughter managed to spill tomato soup all down the front of her light blue dress – completely ruining it! I was extremely doubtful your instructions would work on removing the stain, but thought I would give it a go… So pleased I did as the stain has completely gone. Thanks so much.

  13. Brian says:

    I have spilt to tomato juice from a tapas on my new tee-shirt. My wife washed it immediately, but it has not been removed at all. Can I try the methods mentioned in three days time? If so, which is the best to try then?

  14. Melanie says:

    It is always best to treat a stain as soon as possible, however many stains can be removed even after they have set; it’s just usually more difficult to remove them. Any of the methods for set stains should work, but if one method isn’t working, simply move on to another. Usually people select the method that is the easiest for them, depending on what cleaning solutions they happen to have on hand. Personally, I would try the dishwasher detergent method first because I’ve had good luck removing tomato-based stains with that method in the past, but if that didn’t work, I would try the salt and baking soda method next because it’s easier than the boiling method and some clothing doesn’t tolerate heat well.

  15. Ethan says:

    I tried the soap and dishwater for the set stain one. And all it did was fade it. How can I completely remove it?

  16. Sarah W. says:

    To Melanie and Marjory: My 12-year-old daughter made her first holy communion on May 17th and we had her party in the backyard and she was sitting on the grass and got grass stains on the back of her rubber pants. Will using the method you described earlier also take the grass stains out? I am putting the rubber pants away with the rest of her communion outfit. Thanks for any help.

  17. Melanie says:

    Grass stains are best removed with either an enzyme digester or hydrogen peroxide. Learn more about using enzyme digesters in the article How to Remove Grass Stains. For the peroxide, just test it on a hidden spot first, as it can have a bleaching effect on some materials.
    Other options are either Windex or Lysol. Try these last though, as the enzyme digester might not work after you’ve put chemicals on the stain. You should also test these on a hidden spot first, as the blue dye in Windex could leave a stain and it’s always best to test a cleaner on your specific material before using it.
    Source: – How to Remove Stains from Vinyl Siding

  18. Kyra says:

    This really works!!! I was bringing spaghetti to the table when some bread fell on my white leggings. It got all over it. I put the soap on and rubbed for about 3 minutes and rinsed. My pants look as good as new!! Thanks. 😀

  19. Pat says:

    I tried using the dishwasher detergent, ice cube, and vinegar on a tomato stain that was set in a white blouse that had already been washed once. After about a week or two, I finally got some Cascade with bleach (since the blouse was white) and I must say, it helped! Only because I knew the stain was there can I faintly see it if I look in the mirror. Other than that, it’s barely noticeable and I’m able to wear the blouse. Thanks for the tip! 😀

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