red wine spill

How to remove red wine stains from cotton sofa covers

29th November 2022

Don’t despair if your beautiful cotton sofa cover has been the victim of a red wine spill. There are dozens of ways you can treat the stain before you pop it in the washing machine. Here are some common methods.


Why are red wine stains hard to shift?

Red wine contains a natural pigment called anthocyanin, which comes from the fruit that made it, like grapes, cherries or plums. Red wine also contains tannin, an organic substance that’s present in tea and coffee and can also leave a stain. Just think about the inside of your favourite mug!

The need for speed

Anthocyanin is such a strong pigment that it will leave a stain immediately. It’s important to act straight away. The longer it is left before you try and remove it, the tougher the stain will be to remove. Sparkling water (club soda in the US) is traditionally the favourite ingredient, though some say plain, cold water works just as well.

The good news is that almost everything you need should be easy to hand!

  • Towels, cloths or paper towels to soak up the spill
  • Clothing stain remover, sparkling water or plain, cold water

Do this first

  • Remove the sofa cover from your sofa frame or loosen it and slide a towel between so the stain doesn’t soak through.
  • Dab the stain on your cotton sofa cover gently to remove the excess moisture. Work from the outside in. Don’t rub – this will press the pigment deeper into your sofa cover cotton material.
  • Apply the stain remover according to its directions, or pour water on the stain. Treat your cotton sofa cover and your upholstered sofa frame, if necessary.
  • If you don’t have either, salt will prevent stains from taking hold. Sprinkle it liberally on the affected areas to soak up the stains while you pop to the shop.

3 ways to remove red wine from cotton sofa covers – UK methods

1. White wine

White wine potentially works in 2 ways – it will help you dilute the red pigments and lift the stain out, and the acidity might help you lift the stain out too. Cold water might work just as well – but don’t use hot, as this could ‘fix’ the stain. This method is best tried immediately after the spillage. If it doesn’t remove the stain completely, follow up with one of our other methods.

Your tools:

  • Bowl, sponge and a dry cloth
  • White wine (amount dependent on the depth of stain)
  • Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in the US)

Your method:

  1. Gently pour white wine over the stain and leave to sit.
    After a few minutes, blot the liquid with a cloth.
  2. Repeat these steps on your naked/uncovered sofa upholstery itself.
  3. If you can still see the stain, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda onto the area to try and lift the pigment. Remove this with a damp cloth after a few minutes.
  4. If the stain has vanished, wash your cotton sofa covers at 30 degrees with your normal laundry detergent. If not, go to the next method below.

2. Washing-up liquid

This common kitchen cleaning agent is suitable for your cotton sofa covers and the naked sofa beneath.

Your tools:

  • Bowl, sponge and a dry cloth
  • Washing up liquid (any brand)
  • Cold water

Your method:

  1. Mix one-part washing-up liquid with two parts cold water.
  2. Gently sponge the stain with the solution.
  3. Blot with the dry cloth until the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Wash your cotton sofa covers at 30 degrees with your normal laundry detergent.

3. White vinegar & bicarbonate of soda

These common kitchen ingredients can be combined into a gentle yet powerful cleaning agent. When you mix them, a chemical reaction makes the solution froth!

Your tools:

  • Bowl, cloth
  • Cold water
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar

Your method:

  1. Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda liberally onto the stain on your cotton sofa cover.
  2. Carefully pour or sprinkle vinegar over this and watch it foam up naturally.
  3. Repeat for the stain on your naked sofa upholstery.
  4. Allow a few minutes for it to soak in and act on the stains.
  5. Wipe gently with a damp cloth to remove the mixture.
  6. Inspect the areas and repeat if necessary.
  7. Wash your cotton sofa covers at 30 degrees with your normal laundry detergent.

Drying and ironing your cotton sofa covers

Please make sure the stain has been completely removed to your satisfaction before you put it in the washing machine or iron if they need it – heat can fix stains. Find out more about caring for your sofa covers in our guide.

Remove red wine from cotton sofa covers – US method

Hydrogen peroxide is less common in UK shops, though you can buy it online or from specialist cleaning retailers. It’s a chemical used for oxidation and as a bleaching agent, so is stronger than other methods listed. Test a hidden patch of your cotton sofa cover first to make sure your colours don’t fade under its use.

Your tools:

  • Bowl, cloth
  • Cold water
  • Spray bottle
  • Hydrogen peroxide (handle with care)
  • Bicarbonate of soda

Your method:

  1. Spray hydrogen peroxide over the red wine stain on your cotton sofa cover, ensuring it’s covered.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda over the top of the hydrogen peroxide.
  3. Leave to sit for a few minutes, then rinse your cotton sofa cover with cold water.
  4. If applying to your sofa upholstery, sponge it using clean water.

Ask an upholstery cleaning specialist

These household methods might not be effective for every red wine or every cotton sofa cover. Consult a professional upholstery cleaner before you remove red wine stains yourself.

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