5 Top Thanksgiving Stains & How to Make Them Disappear

Wine glass on its side, spilling out its contents of red wine onto a white linen table cloth and creating a stain

One big holiday table, ten hungry people and a dozen dishes being passed around create an ideal combination for food stains. But there are plenty of household staple “magic ingredients” that will help make stain removal easy.

These tips are for white or very light-colored clothing and table linens. If you have a colored item, first test your treatment somewhere inconspicuous to check for color-fastness.

One more important note, right up front: If you can still see a bit of stain after running the item through the washing machine, try one more round of stain removal and wash it again. Don’t put the item in the dryer, hoping it will look better when dry – heat will set the stain and make it permanent.

1. Gravy

Everyone’s Thanksgiving must-have is at the top of the list because it’s a double whammy combo stain – greasy pan drippings and butter (cream) are combined. Magic ingredient: Liquid dish soap.

First, scrape and rinse off all the gravy solids with water. Scrub a bit of liquid dish soap into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse with water again. Now you can pre-treat with a laundry stain remover. Wash in the hottest water the fabric will allow, using chlorine bleach or color-safe bleach, depending on fabric instructions.

2. Cranberries

The tannins that give cranberries their healthy properties also give them the power to make that red color stain just about anything. Magic ingredients: Distilled white vinegar and liquid dish soap.

Mix 2 cups water, 1 cup distilled vinegar and ½ cup liquid dish soap. Soak the stained area in this solution for about 15 minutes. Remove and rinse thoroughly with cold water. If a little stain remains, repeat the soaking process. Then wash in the hottest water the fabric will allow.

3. Pumpkin

That festive orange color isn't so festive on your white tablecloth or good shirt. You need a special agent to help fight this protein stain. Magic ingredients: enzyme-based laundry pre-wash (the bottles will say enzymes on the label) and liquid dish soap. Rinse the stain with cold water. Rub in an enzyme-based pre-wash solution with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let sit about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water again. Now rub in liquid dish soap with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse again, then wash in hot water.

4. Red Wine

Red wine is famous for not wanting to leave a party. It wants to stick around…forever! Hasten it on its way with two surprising staples. Magic ingredients: table salt and club soda.

Don’t rub a wine stain - that makes it worse. Instead, rinse it with cold water. Cover the stain with table salt. Let sit about 15 minutes. Pour club soda over the salt and let it sit for several hours. Rinse with very hot water. Now you can run it through the washing machine.

5. Butter

Everything is better with butter, except your favorite tablecloth, dress or pants. Magic ingredients: baking soda and liquid dish soap.

Take a piece of thick cardboard and slide it under the stain. You know how a greasy stain seems to spread to anything beneath it? Use that to your advantage and let the cardboard soak it up. It also gives you leverage for scrubbing. Rub a bit of dishwashing liquid into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let sit about half an hour. Rinse and then apply a paste of baking soda and water. Let that sit about half an hour. Scrub with the toothbrush, and rinse. Then launder in hot water.