How to Remove Stubborn Ketchup and Mustard Stains

If you find yourself in this situation, don't panic.
If you find yourself in this situation, don't panic. / TommL/E+/Getty Images
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As two of the most popular condiments in America, ketchup and mustard are also among the most common sources of stains on your clothing. If your first hot dog of the summer ends in a messy disaster, you don’t have to toss your white shirt in the trash. There are plenty of tips and tricks for getting blotches from both out of your clothing. 

According to Lifehacker, the first and most important step toward damage control is the same whether you’re dealing with a ketchup or mustard stain: Use a spoon or butter knife to remove the excess condiment off your clothes, taking care not to spread it around the fabric. Blot whatever the utensil couldn’t remove with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

From here, the best stain removal practices for the two condiments start to differ. Mustard gets its signature yellow color from turmeric, which can cause permanent staining if not treated immediately. The best way to prevent this is by tackling the blotted area with a stain remover

If you don’t have the right product at home, you can make one yourself, either by mixing three parts dish soap with one part rubbing alcohol, or half a cup of water with half a teaspoon of dish soap and a dash of white vinegar. Soak your garment in the DIY solution for 10 minutes before rinsing it with hot water and running it through the washing machine. When using commercial products, defer to the instructions on the label. 

Though just as much of an eyesore, ketchup stains are slightly more forgiving. After blotting the condiment, pour cold water through the back of the stain to rinse out the excess. Next, use a wet dishcloth or soft-bristle toothbrush to scrub the problem area with dish soap, stain remover, or laundry detergent. Rinse the fabric with cold water after allowing it to sit for several minutes. 

For especially persistent stains, scrub the garment in a solution of detergent and cold water and let it soak for 10 minutes. Stains on white or colorfast clothing may benefit from being sponged with a bleaching agent like white vinegar (hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice also work).

Repeat the process as many times as necessary to break down the ketchup. When you’re ready to machine-wash the item, select the hottest setting the material can handle and skip the dryer, which can set stains. 

No matter what condiment you’re dealing with, fast action is your best tool against stains. Here are more tips for removing wine, coffee, and other stubborn foods and drinks from your wardrobe.