Tips and Tricks To Remove Tough Tablecloth Stains

woman wiping spilled wine up with a napkin

A stunning tablecloth can add sophistication and appeal to any dining table, but inevitable spills and stains can be worrisome. Whether it's a dinner party mishap or an accidental spill during a casual meal, knowing how to effectively remove tablecloth stains can save you from unnecessary stress and extend the life of your cherished linens. But how do you get rid of those pesky stains once the damage has been done? Well, on this page, we'll walk you through some tried-and-true methods to remove common tablecloth stains. From coffee and tea stains to the dreaded red wine and grease stains, you’ll learn how to effectively remove anything from your linens. We’ll go through each section at a time – let’s get started!

Coffee and Tea Stains

  Tea is definitely the most stubborn stain of the two. Use OxiClean™ or any other oxygen-based stain remover. Keep a spray bottle filled with equal parts white vinegar and water in your laundry room, spray the area, and then gently rub it before going into the washing machine. A very important rule that applies to any stain is to inspect the tablecloth when it comes out of the washing machine. If there are still any stains, do not put your tablecloth in the dryer. The heat will cause the stain to be permanent. Instead, continue treating the stain.  

Mug Spilling Coffee on Tablecloth

Dairy Stains

Milk stains are one of the easiest to remove. If milk has spilled, gently blot with a clean cloth or paper towel, removing the liquid. Rub the stain with laundry detergent and then rinse. Since milk, creamers, and ice cream contain protein, rinse the area in cold water (warm or hot water sets protein stains into the tablecloth even more).  

Glasses of milk and bowls on a tablecloth. A ring of milk stains the tablecloth.

Red Wine

Removing red wine stains can seem like a nearly impossible challenge. The good news is that a spill does not have to ruin your evening or your tablecloth. The quicker you act, the easier it will be to remove. The longer it is allowed to sit, the more stubborn it will be. Immediately blot as much as possible with paper towels. Blot do not scrub! Then generously apply table salt to the stained area. Salt will pull the red wine out of the cloth. Leave the salt until you have finished your meal. If you do not have salt, use baking soda, baby powder, or even cat litter. Allow the salt to settle for five minutes. If none of these dry materials are available, blot the stain with vinegar, WD-40, hydrogen peroxide, or even milk. Boiling the milk first works even better!  

Glass of red wine spilling on white table cloth.

Grease or Oil Stains

Since grease and oil stains are not water soluble, simply washing is not going to remove butter, gravy, and oil stains. Apply either a dry powder (baking soda, cornstarch, or flour) or spray WD-40 to the soiled area and allow to sit for an hour. This allows for the grease or oil to be absorbed. Next, brush off the powder and soak the stained area in a bowl with hot water and dish liquid for an hour before rinsing. Allow the affected area to dry out and then inspect to see if the stain has come out. If not, repeat the process.


Lipstick is not a kiss of death to your napkins. On the contrary, removing lipstick stains is very easy. Take a white vinegar spray bottle, spray it on the lipstick, and then dab gently before putting it into the wash.

lipstick laying next to a lipstick stained cloth

Water Stains

Water splashed onto your tablecloth or a liquid ring left from a cold beverage usually comes right out in the wash cycle. If it does not, spray the stain with vinegar.

Common Stain Removers

WD-40 is our favorite for removing any stains from grease to wine, even candle wax. Made to dissolve rust, this solvent breaks up the particles of red wine and is safe to use on tablecloths. Spray the stained area and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Dab gently with a clean wash rag or paper towel. When the stain begins to transfer to the cleaning cloth, use a clean area to continue to remove the stain from the tablecloth.

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are also great for removing stains from tablecloths. If using one of these, mix with a smaller amount of liquid detergent. Soak the stained area in your sink or bowl for at least 30 minutes before rinsing and then placing the cloth in the washer. Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide neutralizes the red and purple pigments while the detergent helps clean the fabric.

Remove Any Stain With These Simple Instructions
We hope this page has provided you with the answers you need on removing tablecloth stains. If you have specific questions about how to wash polyester tablecloths, we have another resource page dedicated to just that. Feel free to check it out for additional instructions!