How to Remove Stains from Denim

Easy, Cheap Ways to Remove Stains from Jeans

Three women eating pizza on couch
Don't let a pizza stain spoil a night with your girlfriends. Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

It doesn't matter how expensive your jeans are — or how careful you are when you wear them — sometimes life happens to jeans. When your favorite pair of jeans encounters an annoying stain, don't panic or think you need to toss them in the trash. We've rounded up expert tips for removing the most common types of stains from denim clothing. Read on to learn how to save your jeans from even the worst offenders, including how to get blood out of jeans, tricks for lifting red wine stains, removing ink stains from denim, and more.

Tomato-Based Stains

Three women eating pizza on couch
Don't let a pizza stain spoil a night with your girlfriends. Betsie Van Der Meer/Getty Images

Whether you splashed spaghetti sauce on your jeans, or a piece of yummy pizza fell in your lap, try this handy trick for removing tomato-based stains from denim fabric.

First, remove any excess tomato sauce from the surface of your jeans carefully, using the edge of a spoon, or a dinner knife. Next, saturate the stain with undiluted white vinegar. Let it soak in for about five minutes, then launder jeans as usual in cold water.

Blood Stains

Woman in overalls with drill
Accidents happen -- but your jeans don't have to pay for it. Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Whether you slipped when hanging a picture, or your monthly cycle arrived unexpectedly, you may think that blood stains are the end of your jeans. While it can be difficult to remove blood from denim, there could still be some hope for those jeans, especially if you act quickly. You should have fairly good results from the following methods for how to get blood out of jeans, if you treat the stain immediately.

The moment a blood stain occurs on denim, you can sometimes remove it simply by wiping with a clean washcloth soaked in very cold water. Rinse the cloth and repeat as needed until the stain has been removed — you will know it has lifted when the cloth comes off clean. Then, press the affected area with dry paper towels to lift out excess moisture and any traces of residue. Launder jeans as usual with a mild detergent in the Cold water cycle of your machine, and hang to dry.

You can treat a fresh blood stain on jeans by pouring undiluted white vinegar on the spot. Let it soak in for 10 minutes, then blot well with dry paper towels. Repeat as necessary until paper towels come away clean. Launder as usual in the Cold water cycle of your washing machine, and hang jeans to dry.

Another method is to use a sponge soaked in cold water to fully saturate the blood stain on jeans. Then, sprinkle the wet spot with regular table salt. Use an old toothbrush or a clean nail brush to scrub the salt into the fabric. Rinse the toothbrush in cold water periodically to clean it and repeat the brushing. When you feel the stain has lifted, rinse the salt off the jeans with cold water, and then launder as usual.

If Blood Stains Are Set-In:

Dried blood stains are pretty darned tough to get out of denim, especially if they're more than a day old. If you want to give it a try, mix a little bit of mild liquid laundry detergent with some cold water. Use a sponge to dab the solution on the stain and blot it, rinsing the sponge and repeating as needed. If the stain is persistent, you can dilute some ammonia with a bit of cold water and apply to the stain using the same method. Rinse jeans when done treating, and launder as usual.

What Not to Do:

Never treat blood stains on denim with warm or hot water, as this can set the stain.

Avoid using hydrogen peroxide to remove stains on denim, or you risk bleaching and damaging the fabric.

Grass Stains

children with grass stained jeans
Rosemarie Gearhart/E+/Getty Images

Whether you stained your jeans setting up a picnic blanket, or your kids did it sliding into first base, we've got tricks you can use to remove grass stains from denim.

Vinegar is a mild acid that works well to remove grass stains from most denim fabrics. To treat fresh grass stains on jeans, soak a household sponge in undiluted white vinegar and dab lightly on the stains to lift. Press the area with dry paper towels to test whether any more stain is coming up, and repeat the treatment method as needed. Then throw your jeans in the washing machine and launder as usual, using the washer's Cold water setting. Turn jeans right side out and hang to drip-dry.

If the stains are large, you can also soak your jeans overnight in a solution of three parts white vinegar to one part cold water. You can use a small laundry bucket or soak jeans in the sink, in enough solution to cover them. In the morning, wring jeans to remove excess moisture and then launder as above.

If Grass Stains Are Set-In:

If the method above doesn't remove the stain -- or for older, set-in grass stains -- you can try these tricks.

Make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. Use an old toothbrush to brush the paste into the stained area, scrubbing to remove the stain. Rinse the toothbrush in cold water periodically to clean it and repeat the brushing. When you feel the stain has lifted, rinse the denim fabric to remove the paste, then launder jeans as usual.

If you have jeans with old grass stains that are resistant to the above methods, or the pair you picked up at the vintage store has a few grass marks, try this trick. Combine a quart of warm tap water with three tablespoons white vinegar and two tablespoons liquid laundry detergent. Use a sponge or washcloth to rub the solution onto the stained areas of denim. Let sit for 10 minutes, then blot dry before laundering jeans as usual.

Hair Dye Stains

Women dying hair at home
Dye your hair, not your jeans. Elena Eliachevitch/Getty Images

Did you splash your jeans with dye while you were coloring your hair at home? Hair dye can be permanently staining to fabric — but it's possible that you can save those jeans if you act within 24 hours.

Pour undiluted white vinegar (the plain household kind) directly onto the stained area of jeans. Let sit for one minute (no longer), then toss jeans into the washing machine and launder as usual, using the Cold water setting on your machine. For major stains, you can also add one or two cups of vinegar right into the wash cycle.

Red Wine Stains

Couple toasting with red wine
Got carried away toasting?. Art Vandalay/Getty Images

Sometimes, having a good time means a little wine gets spilled. Here are some handy solutions for what to do when you get a red wine stain on your jeans.

The moment you notice the wine stain on your jeans, remove them and soak the area with very warm tap water. Pour table salt (the plain old household kind) directly onto the stained area and let stand for five minutes or so. Brush salt away and rinse the area with cool water. Lay the stained spot face-down on paper towels and press gently to transfer any remaining wine stain. Rinse again and launder immediately in Cold water.

If the red wine stain is fresh, apply baking soda liberally to the spot. This will help to absorb the staining liquid. Let stand for one to two minutes maximum. Then heat up a kettle with boiling water. Stretch the stained fabric over a large bowl, secure the fabric and pour boiling water through the stain. Rinse afterward with cool water, then launder jeans as usual on your washer's Cold setting.

You can also treat a red wine stain on denim by saturating it with undiluted white vinegar. Stand for about five minutes, then rinse with cool water. Repeat as needed until stain seems to be lifted -- you can check by lightly pressing a clean paper towel against the area. Then launder jeans as usual right afterward.

Note: Avoid using bar or powdered soap on wine stains, as they may  cause these stains to set.

Milk Stains

Spilled milk
Don't cry over spilled milk, launder it with these tips. iStock Photo

Don't cry over spilled milk on your jeans — remove it with this handy laundry trick.

If the stain is fresh, fill a sink or bucket with cold water and soak the stained area for about 10 minutes. Wring out excess moisture from jeans and launder as usual.

If the stain has already dried by the time you get to it, use the side of a spoon to scrape off any crusty bits from the fabric. Apply a mild liquid laundry detergent, such as Ivory Snow, directly to the stain and rub in with fingers. Then fill a sink or bucket with cool water and soak jeans for about 30 minutes. Wring out excess moisture, and launder as usual.

Learn the best way to launder jeans in our ultimate guide to how to wash denim.

Coffee Stains

Woman drinking coffee
Don't panic if you spill coffee on your jeans - do this instead. Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm/Getty Images

Spilled your coffee on your favorite skinny jeans? We have a helpful trick for you to remove coffee stains from denim.

As soon as you notice the stain, soak the area with lukewarm water. Use a sponge to dab the stained area with full-strength detergent, then launder in Hot water. Hang to drip-dry.

Note: Avoid using bar or powdered soap on coffee stains, as these can cause stains to set.

Ink Stains

Ink stain
Tackle ink stains on denim with these tips. Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

Did a leaky pen leave ink stains on your jeans? Here are some useful methods you can try to remove ink from denim.

Soak a clean, white washcloth in rubbing alcohol and dab it lightly on the stained area of fabric, blotting repeatedly. When you feel the stain has lifted, mix a small amount of mild liquid laundry detergent with a bit of water and dab it on the spot. Rinse with cool water, and launder jeans as usual.

Wet a clean sponge or washcloth with milk and use this to gently wipe the ink-stained denim. Repeat until the stain lifts, then toss jeans in the washer, and launder as usual.

Try treating an ink stain first by soaking with some undiluted white vinegar. Let this sit for a minute, then gently rub in a paste made of two parts vinegar to three parts cornstarch. Let this dry completely on jeans, then rinse paste off with warm water, and launder as usual.

Nail Polish Stains

Spilled nail polish
Tackle nail polish splashes on jeans. ntstudio/Getty Images

Were you painting your nails and dripped nail polish on your jeans? We hate to tell you that certain nail polishes are impossible to remove — but with luck, the method below may be effective in removing some nail enamels from cotton-denim fabric, if you can act quickly.

Turn your jeans inside-out and place a thick layer of cotton towels between jeans and your work surface. Use a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover to saturate the back of the stain. Replace paper towels as needed when they become stained with the polish lifting from the denim. Repeat until (hopefully) the stain disappears. Rinse the area well with cold water, then launder jeans as usual.