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Best stain removers for clothes and fabrics

An effective fabric and clothing stain remover can be relied on to remove everything from red wine stains to melted chocolate. Find out which stain removers and home remedies rated highly in our tests
Joey Willoughby-Rainsford

Whether it's gravy on your favourite white shirt, red wine on your tablecloth or chocolate handprints on your cushion covers, stains on fabric and clothing can be a nightmare to deal with. 

In August 2021, we put nine popular fabric and clothe stain removers from Dr Beckmann, Astonish, HG and others, to the test, as well as six popular home remedies, including baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar.

We assessed how well each stain remover dealt with stubborn red wine, curry, tomato ketchup, melted chocolate and blood stains on both cotton blend and wool blend fabrics.

Pricing and availability last checked: 8 August 2022.


Have you spilt things on your carpet too? Check out our guide to the best carpet stain removers.


The best stain removers for clothes and fabrics from our test

While two stain removers stood out above the rest, most of the others we tested were almost as good.

All the products we tested worked on all the stain types and all the fabrics, but some worked just that bit better and faster than others. 

Editor's Choice: Armor All Carpet and Seat Foaming Cleaner

Armor All Carpet and Seat Foaming Cleaner

Cheapest price: £3.30 available at Wilko, also available at Amazon.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Brilliant stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products

Our Verdict: Strong foaming action which proves effective against almost all stains.

This seat and carpet foaming cleaner from Armour All proved extremely effective against almost all the stains we put it against. 

While it never failed to clean up the mess in our tests, it did struggle with the curry stain and bloodstain on the cotton blend fabric, requiring all the five allowed cleaning attempts. 

With the rest of the stains we tried it on, this stain remover cleaned them up within the first or second attempt.

This stain remover also had a decent drying time, of about an hour, meaning we weren't left with damp patches of fabric for ages. 

Before and after cleaned with Armor All, tomato sauce on wool

Preparation and usage: Shake well before use, then spray directly onto the surface you want to clean. Allow time for the product to penetrate. 

For fabrics, scrub with a damp cloth or sponge, but do not allow the product to dry on the surface and rinse spills and runoffs.

Key features: Aerosol, foaming

Editor's Choice/Great Value: Shout Triple-Acting Stain Removing Spray

Shout Triple-Acting Stain Removing Spray

Cheapest price: £2.50 available at Ocado, Sainsbury's.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Brilliant stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up, even removed a gravy stain from a white shirt

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products

Our Verdict: Excellent in action, this great-value product is worth keeping in the cupboard in case of emergency spills.

A worthy Editor's Choice, Shout Triple-Acting Stain Removing Spray impressed throughout our tests, managing to clean up most stains within the first or second attempt. 

Like our other top pick, it proved very effective on almost all the stain types we tried it against. 

One researcher also tried it on a grease-based gravy stain they found on a white shirt. After a few sprays and a cold wash in the machine, the shirt came out as good as new. 

However, like the rest of the cleaners in our selection, this stain remover struggled with curry and blood stains on cotton blend. 

Before and after cleaned with Shout, gravy stain on a white shirt

Preparation and usage: To use cover the stain with a few sprays and then rub in. 

Leave for one to five minutes and then wash in the warmest water that's safe for the fabric.

Key features: Spray bottle, on/off nozzle

How the rest of the fabric stain removers fared

Here's our verdicts on the other fabric stain removers we tested, listed alphabetically.

Astonish Specialist Premium Edition Carpet & Upholstery Stain Remover

Astonish Specialist Premium Edition Carpet & Upholstery Stain Remover

Cheapest price: £2 available at Ocado, also available at Astonish.

Size: 750ml

Pros: Good stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up, lovely scent

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products

Our Verdict: An effective product with a wonderful and subtle scent. 

This Astonish stain remover proved simple and easy to use and almost as effective as our top picks. It was one of five stain removers to almost be at the top. 

This stain remover just needed a few more attempts to clean some of the stains, which prevented it being an Editor's Choice.

Being one of the cheaper items on our list and with a generous bottle size, it's still one to consider. 

As with all the shop-bought products in our selection, it cleaned up all the stains, but wasn't as efficient at cleaning curry and blood stains on cotton. 

However, all in all, this is a very decent stain remover. 

Before and after cleaned with Astonish, red wine on wool

Preparation and usage: First, gently dab, brush or vacuum excess mess from fabric. Spray the stain and dab with a sponge or cloth. 

Pat dry with a clean cloth or sponge and vacuum the area when it's completely dry. 

Key features: Spray bottle, slight foaming, lotus flower scent, on/off nozzle

Dr Beckmann Carpet Stain Remover

Dr Beckmman Carpet Stain Remover

Cheapest price: £2.75 available at ASDA, Tesco, also available at Sainsbury's, Wilko.

Size: 650ml

Pros: Good stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products, can leak if knocked over, can be harder to grip

Our Verdict: Dr Beckmann was one of five products to come close to our top picks. 

Like the Ecover stain remover, this item from Dr Beckmann comes with a brush.

While this stain remover did prove as effective as most we tested, we did find the design made it difficult to control the amount of cleaning solution being applied to the stain.  

On a few occasions, this led to some very saturated pieces of wool and cotton. 

It's also worth noting, this product can leak if knocked on its side. 

That being said, this stain remover was really good in our tests and only struggled with curry and blood on cotton, like the rest of the selection. 

Before and after cleaned with Dr Beckmann, red wine on wool

Preparation and usage: Before first use, unscrew the brush head, pierce a small hole in the seal of about 2mm in diameter (do not remove the seal as that prevents over-saturation of your fabric). 

Screw the brush head on again, taking care not to overtighten. Remove loose dirt and blot up any spills. Shake the bottle and gently squeeze it to moisten the brush. 

Apply by holding the bottle so the brush is flat against the stain, then work the formula lightly into the stain. Do not soak the stain; let the foam do the work. 

Leave for three minutes, then remove all residue with a damp cloth. Repeat if necessary. Rinse the brush cap after every use.

Key features: Comes with a brush

Ecover Stain Remover

Ecover Stain Remover

Cheapest price: £2.70 available at Amazon, also available at Ecover Direct, Ocado, Waitrose.

Size: 200ml

Pros: Good against certain stains on wool blend fabric, easy to apply, easy to clean up

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products, not great for red wine on cotton blend, not great for tomato ketchup on cotton blend

Our Verdict: Nifty little bottle with a well-thought-out design, just not the best stain remover. 

Firstly, we loved the rubber bristles on the Ecover Stain Remover applicator. The bristles are very kind to fabric and really help work the cleaning gel solution into the material. 

That being said, this plant-based stain remover did need more attempts to clean up the stains than most others. 

It did work eventually, but you need a bit of patience and persistence if you're going to remove stains with this product. 

Before and after cleaned with Ecover, curry on wool

Preparation and usage: First, moisten the fabric with water and then apply the liquid to stain sparingly, working in the liquid with the built on brush. Hand wash afterwards.

Key features: Comes with a brush, cleaning gel

Furniture Clinic Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner Spray

Furniture Clinic Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner Spray

Cheapest price: £14.95 available at Amazon, Furniture Clinic.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Decent results on most stain types on wool blend fabric, easy to use

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products, not great for red wine on cotton blend either, expensive 

Our Verdict: Easily the most expensive but also least effective in our selection.

Although it worked, every other stain remover we tested worked better, therefore, due to the price we'd not recommend this stain remover from Furniture Clinic.

The only stain this item removed easily was the chocolate stain on the wool, which was a type of stain all the products removed in one attempt.  

Before and after cleaned with Furniture Clinic, tomato ketchup on wool

Preparation and usage: For best results, it says to treat stains promptly and blot or scrape up any excess. Test in an unseen area first and never rub. Instead, always blot the stain. 

Spray the cleaner onto the stained area and gently agitate it using a clean cloth. Leave for 15 minutes before cleaning up. 

Key features: Spray bottle, on/off nozzle

Guardsman Fabric & Carpet Stain Remover Spray

Guardsman Fabric & Carpet Stain Remover Spray

Only available at Amazon: £13.99.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Good stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up, lovely scent

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products, expensive 

Our Verdict: An effective cleaner, but you can get just as good or better for a lot less.

Like all the stain removers we tested, this fabric and carpet stain remover spray from Guardsman worked on all the stains we tested it against. 

On some of the stains, notably red wine on wool and cotton, it was more effective. It struggled to deal with curry and blood on cotton, like the rest of our selection. 

This item was one of the five which only just missed out on getting our recommendation. While it did manage to clean all the stains, the top two did it in less attempts. 

Preparation and usage: Before using this product, test on a hidden area to ensure you are happy with the results. 

Shake well and spray directly onto the stained area. Blot, do not rub, with a dampened cloth and then allow to dry. 

Repeat the steps if necessary until the stain is removed.

Key features: Spray bottle, on/off nozzle

HG Stain Spray Extra Strong

HG Stain Spray Extra Strong

Cheapest price: £5.70 available at Amazon, also available at Robert Dyas, Tesco.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Good stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up, lovely scent

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products

Our Verdict: One of the five stain removers to come in third place.

Like the majority of the products we tested, HG only struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton. 

For the rest of the types of stains and fabric combinations we tested it on, it proved effective by cleaning them up often within the first or second attempt. 

Before and after cleaned with HG, curry on wool

Preparation and usage: Completely spray the surface and leave it to penetrate for a few minutes. 

Wipe off the stain with a clean, absorbent cloth. 

Key features: Spray bottle, on/off nozzle

Stardrops Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray

Stardrops Pink Stuff Stain Remover Spray

Cheapest price: £1.50 available at Ocado, Wilko, also available at Amazon.

Size: 500ml

Pros: Good stain remover for most types of stains we tested, easy to apply, easy to clean up, lovely scent

Cons: Struggled with blood and curry stains on cotton - same as all tested products

Our Verdict: The cheapest stain remover we tested and also one of the best. 

This Stardrops stain remover is one of the five we tested that was only just beaten by our two Editor's Choice stain removers. It cleaned up all the stains but our two top picks needed fewer attempts to do so. 

Apart from struggling with blood and curry stains on cotton, like the rest of the selection, this stain remover was quick and effective with the rest of the stains and fabric combinations we tested it on. 

Before and after cleaned with Stardrops, ketchup on wool

Preparation and usage: Spray on both sides of the stain and leave for no longer than five minutes. Then hand or machine wash as normal, following the fabric care instructions. 

Key features: Spray bottle, on/off nozzle

stain remover home remedies

Need more help maintaining your furniture? Take a look at our guide to how to clean your sofa 


Best stain remover home remedies 

As well as testing commercial products, we also tried out some of the most commonly suggested home remedies we found on the internet as you can see in our video.

Of course, not all home remedies work on every type of stain. Here is a breakdown of the home remedies we tested and what we tested them on. 

Home remedy
What we tested it on
Baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda)
All stains - red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood
Lemon juiceAll stains - red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood
Washing-up liquid
All stains - red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood
White vinegar
Blood and curry stains
SaltRed wine, blood and curry stains
Meat tenderiser powder
Blood stains only

We found all these home remedies worked, although some worked better than others. Find out how each home remedy fared below.


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Washing-up liquid

Editor's Choice: Washing-up liquid

Easily the best home remedy we found. This method quickly and easily cleaned up everything. The only downside was the amount of elbow grease you needed. 

Stain types: Red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood

Preparation and usage: Squirt a small amount of washing-up liquid onto the stain and leave for about 20 seconds. 

Then with a cloth, hot water and plenty of muscle, work the liquid into the fabric. 

You may need to wash the fabric in the washing machine as well, but you should find it's as good as new afterwards.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda

Stain types: Red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood

Preparation and usage: Make a thick paste with baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda) and a little water and apply to the stain. 

Leave to work for a bit and then use plenty of elbow grease. 

On tougher stains, you may need to do this more than once, but you should see a stark difference even after the first application.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice

Stain types: Red wine, curry, chocolate, tomato ketchup and blood

Preparation and usage: For this home remedy, you want to coat the stain with lemon juice and leave it for 30 minutes, before popping it into the washing machine. 

Lemon juice can bleach, so it's best to only use this method on white fabric you can wash in the washing machine. 

White vinegar

White vinegar

Stain types: Curry and blood

Preparation and usage: Mix some vinegar with warm water and then apply to the stained fabric with a cloth. 

Once you've seen the stain fade away, you will need to put the fabric in the washing machine to get rid of the strong vinegar smell. 

Salt

Salt

Stain types: Red wine, curry and blood

Preparation and usage: Pour enough salt to completely cover the stain, and then leave it for 15 minutes. Wipe away with a damp cloth. 

Avoid using salt on delicate fabrics as the granules can pull on them and cause damage. 

Meat tenderiser powder

Meat tenderiser powder

Stain types: Blood

Preparation and usage: First, using a cloth or sponge, dampen the stain with water. 

Apply the powder and leave for 30 minutes. Then wipe away with a damp cloth. 

Before and after cleaned with meat tenderiser powder, blood on wool

How to remove bloodstains from fabric

blood stain

Meat tenderiser powder works by breaking down the proteins in meat, which helps to give you a more tender steak. 

This same process can be used to break down protein-based stains such as blood or vomit. 

In our fabric stain remover tests we found meat tenderiser powder to be the most effective product for removing bloodstains. 

If you aren't sure where to find meat tenderiser powder, it can often be picked up in the world food aisle of most major supermarkets.

How we tested fabric and clothes stain removers

Fabric stain remover tests

Each product from our selection was tested against each type of stain on cotton blend and wool blend fabric. 

According to our research, these are two of the most common sofa and cushion covers in the UK.

We used red wine, curry, tomato ketchup, melted chocolate and beef blood to create the stains, which were left to dry on the fabric for 10 hours. 

Cleaning

Each product had up to five chances to remove the stain. The more chances it needed the worse it was considered to have done. 

The best products from our test were able to remove the stains in one attempt, while the worst needed all five. 

Odour, bleaching and texture of the fabric 

Once the stain had been removed our researchers considered the condition of the fabric. 

The best products left the fabric in as good a condition as they were before they were stained. 

We found no evidence of bleaching from any of the commercial products.

How we picked these fabric stain removers

When choosing the fabric stain removers for this test each product had to meet the following selection criteria:

  • One product per brand
  • Must be sold by at least one of Britain's leading retailers
  • Must be designed to remove stains from fabrics or upholstery

We bought all the products we tested.