Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it true that you can clean a red wine stain with white wine? What's the best way to clean a wine stain?
—Emily, New York, N.Y.
Not exactly. White wine isn’t considered a cleaning agent, but in some situations it does seems to dilute red wine stains, and possibly dissolve some of the pigments in red wine. But it can also make a stain spread, and you’ll still need to clean the stain afterward if you don’t want your carpet or couch to smell like old wine, so why waste some perfectly good white vino?
When you spill red wine, the best thing to do is attack it while it’s still fresh. First, soak up as much of it as possible with a dry paper towel or napkin, by blotting it (don't scrub!).
After that, there are several ways to treat it, and their effectiveness can depend on how much wine is spilled and what material has absorbed the wine. If it’s a sturdy cloth like a tablecloth, boiling water will help dilute the stain before you wash it. Other methods include club soda, dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and laundry detergent, oxi cleaners, or kosher salt to absorb the wine (I’ve also heard baking soda, talcum powder and kitty litter are good absorbents, but have never tried them out).
If you’re like me, you’ll probably attack the stain with a few or more of these methods, and that’s perfectly normal. I also have to give a shout out to the sprays made specifically for removing red wine stains—they work very well when I get some splatters on my shirt. For larger stains, I usually have to bring in at least another method or two.