Ketchup: the one, the only. There is no substitute for this quintessential condiment that complements so many popular dishes. From fries to eggs to hot dogs, ketchup is beloved by many people around the world. Fun fact: In Germany, it’s curry-flavoured and in Jamaica, it’s spiced with jerk seasoning. Yep, it’s sweet and savoury – until things turn sour. Whether a result of fumbled fries, messy toddlers, a dollop that escapes a hot dog or burger, ketchup stains are notoriously tough to treat. Not impossible, but you will want to act with urgency for best results.
Why do tomatoes and ketchup create such stubborn stains?
Tomatoes, which ketchup is made of, are packed full of tannins – a naturally occurring substance derived in the roots, fruit, bark and wood of some foods. Think: coffee, tea, wine and chocolate. Historically, tannins have been used to create dye, so we can understand and appreciate that spilled ketchup or Bolognese sauce can be stubborn to remove if not treated promptly.
What you’ll need to remove ketchup stains:
- A blunt scraping tool (butter knife, credit card, etc.)
- Paper towel
- Cold, running water
- Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strips
- Optional/last resort: Colour-safe, chorine-free oxygen bleach
How to remove ketchup stains in 7 easy steps
Step 1: Identify the fabric type
Inspect the fabric care label to note the delicacy of the textile and how it should be laundered.
Note: The following stain guide is for items that can be machine laundered or hand washed. For vintage or dry clean-only clothing, complete steps two and three, then bring to a professional.
Step 2: Remove any excess ketchup from the garment
Using a blunt tool (like a butter knife or credit card), lift any excess sauce from the fabric (whether still wet or dried-on), taking special care not to spread or transfer to other parts of the item. Then, blot with a clean, absorbent paper product like a paper towel or napkin. Take exceptional care not to rub the ketchup deeper into the fibre of the textile.
Step 3: Rinse with cold water
Rinse the stain with cold water from the back side of the fabric so that any bleeding runs off the item instead of trickling down it (which could create a larger stain.) This will dilute the physical remnants of the ketchup; however, it will likely leave a pink hue or “ring” behind.
Step 4: Pre-treat the stain using a concentrated stain remover
Before laundering, pre-treat the blemish with a high-performance stain remover.
How to create a concentrated stain remover with Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strips: First, tear a strip into small pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Add one tablespoon (15ml) of tap-hot water to begin dissolving it. Stir with a spoon to form a paste, adding small volumes of water as needed. Smear the concentrate atop the stain, gently pressing the mixture into it to allow the surfactant to get to work, releasing the residues from the fabric.
Allow it to sit for 30 to 60 minutes. If needed, gently scrub with a clean, soft-bristle toothbrush, working from the stain’s outer edge toward the centre.
Step 5: Time to wash
If the garment is machine-washable, toss it in the washer alongside a Tru Earth laundry eco-strip on its typical wash setting.
For hand wash-only items, tear up the strip, place the pieces in a sink or basin and cover with cool or warm water, but not hot. Allow it to soak and then agitate the article and rinse.
Step 6: Hang dry
Only place the garment in the dryer once you are finished stain treating; the heat of the machine will “set” any remaining stains, making them permanent.
Step 7: Inspect the stain
Has it resolved? If not, repeat the stain treatment in step four and launder again.
How to treat ultra-stubborn ketchup stains
You’ve treated, laundered and treated, laundered again but the red shadow of a ketchup stain still lurks. What now?
Unfortunately, there are few “gentle” solutions for treating stubborn ketchup stains and commercially available options may contain ingredients that Tru Earth prides itself on being free of. That said, fashion waste is a major climate issue, and we encourage everyone to attempt to extend the life of their textiles.
Option 1: If your garment can tolerate it, treat the item with chlorine-free, colour-safe oxygen bleach, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Always test for colourfastness first. Tip: oxygen bleach is often sold in hard plastic tubs. Before contributing to plastic waste, why not ask a friend or neighbour if they have any you can borrow?
Option 2: Call in expert help and take the garment to the dry cleaners.