How to get BBQ sauce out of clothes

We’ve all been there – you’re enjoying a delicious barbecue, happily digging into a saucy rack of ribs or plate of pulled pork, when suddenly a glob of that tangy, sticky BBQ sauce lands right on your shirt. Uh oh. Before you panic, know that there are several effective methods you can use to remove that BBQ stain and get your clothes looking fresh again.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best techniques for getting BBQ sauce out of all kinds of fabrics – from cotton and linen to silk and delicate dry clean-only materials. We’ll cover pre-treating the stain, using the right cleaning products, and the optimal washing methods to ensure that pesky barbecue sauce comes out completely. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to tackle even the toughest BBQ sauce stains with confidence.

get bbq sauce out of clothes

So let’s get started! Here’s how to get BBQ sauce out of clothes:

Act Quickly

The sooner you can treat a BBQ sauce stain, the better. The longer that sugary, tomato-based sauce sits on the fabric, the harder it will be to remove. As soon as you notice the stain, gently blot it with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb as much of the sauce as possible. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the stain further into the fibres.

Pre-Treat the Stain

Next, you’ll want to pre-treat the BBQ sauce stain before washing. This helps to break down the stain and make it easier to lift out in the wash. There are a few effective pre-treatment options:

  • Dish soap – Apply a small amount of mild, grease-cutting dish soap directly to the stain and gently massage it in with your fingers. The soap will help to break down the oils and sugars in the sauce.
  • Laundry pre-treatment – Look for a laundry pre-treatment product specifically designed to tackle tough stains, like Persil ProClean Stain Fighter or Shout Advanced Stain Remover. Apply it to the affected area according to the product instructions, allowing it to sit for 5-10 minutes before washing.
  • Baking soda and water – Make a paste with baking soda and water and gently rub it into the stain. The abrasiveness of the baking soda will help lift the sauce. Let it sit for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Enzyme cleaner – Enzyme cleaners contain special enzymes that break down complex stain compounds like those found in BBQ sauce. Try Biz Enzyme Spray or Persil ProClean Liquid Laundry Detergent. Apply the enzyme cleaner, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash.

No matter which pre-treatment method you choose, be sure to work the product into the stain thoroughly, then let it sit for the recommended time before washing. This will give the stain-fighting ingredients a chance to really penetrate and do their job.

Choose the Right Washing Method

Once the stain is pre-treated, it’s time to wash the garment. The best washing method will depend on the type of fabric.

For cotton, linens, and other robust, machine-washable fabrics:

  • Wash the item in the hottest water temperature recommended for that fabric. Hot water helps to lift and dissolve the BBQ sauce stain.
  • Use a heavy-duty laundry detergent or one specifically formulated for tough stains, like Tide Ultra Stain Release or Persil ProClean.
  • You can also add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle – the acidity in the vinegar will help break down the stain.
  • Avoid using the dryer until the stain is completely removed. The heat can set the stain.

For delicate and dry clean-only fabrics:

  • Check the garment’s care label for specific cleaning instructions. Many delicate fabrics like silk and satin should be dry cleaned to avoid damage.
  • If machine washing is recommended, use the gentle cycle with cool water.
  • For hand-washing, fill a sink or tub with cool water and a small amount of mild, bleach-free detergent. Gently swish the garment around, avoiding any scrubbing or wringing.
  • Rinse thoroughly and lay the item flat to air dry. Avoid putting delicates in the dryer.

If the stain persists after washing, you may need to repeat the pre-treatment and washing process a few times. Be patient and persistent – with the right technique, you can get that BBQ sauce out!

Dealing with Dried or Set-In Stains

Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t catch a BBQ sauce stain right away, and it has a chance to fully dry and set into the fabric. Not to worry – there are still effective ways to tackle these tougher, dried-on stains.

Begin by scraping off any dried sauce residue with a dull knife or the edge of a spoon. This will help the pre-treatment penetrate better.

Then, try one of these methods:

  • Soak the garment in a mixture of warm water and enzyme cleaner or hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes to an hour before washing. The enzymes or peroxide will help break down the stain.
  • Make a paste with baking soda and water and gently rub it into the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Use a stain remover stick or spray, like Shout Trigger Triple-Acting Stain Remover or Persil ProClean Stain Fighter, and let it sit on the stain for the recommended time before washing.
  • For delicates, take the item to a professional dry cleaner. Their specialized solvents and techniques may be needed to safely remove a stubborn, set-in BBQ sauce stain.

No matter which method you choose, you may need to repeat the pre-treatment and washing process a few times to fully lift that dried-on BBQ sauce. Stick with it, and you’ll get that stain out!

Preventing BBQ Sauce Stains

Of course, the best way to deal with BBQ sauce stains is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some tips:

  • Wear an apron or bib when eating messy barbecue foods. This creates a barrier between your clothes and the sauce.
  • Use a fork and knife instead of your hands when eating. This minimizes direct contact between your clothes and the sauce.
  • Blot any drips or spills immediately with a napkin or paper towel. The quicker you can absorb the sauce, the easier it will be to remove.
  • Consider wearing darker-colored or patterned clothing to barbecues. Stains will be less noticeable on these garments.
  • When possible, change into comfortable, loose-fitting clothes before digging into that finger-lickin’ good barbecue. Tight-fitting shirts and pants are more prone to sauce splatters.

With a little preparation and quick action, you can enjoy your favourite BBQ foods without worrying about ruining your clothes. But if an unexpected stain does happen, don’t stress – just follow the steps outlined above, and you’ll have your garments looking good as new in no time.


Barbecue sauce stains can be a real challenge, but now you have all the tools you need to tackle them head-on. By acting quickly, pre-treating the stain, choosing the right washing method, and tackling even set-in stains, you can get your clothes looking fresh and clean again.

Remember, the key is to treat BBQ sauce stains as soon as possible. The longer that sugary, tomato-based sauce sits on the fabric, the harder it will be to remove. So keep some stain remover, dish soap, and baking soda on hand for quick action.

With a little effort and the techniques we’ve covered, you’ll be able to confidently enjoy all the finger-lickin goodness of barbecue without worrying about ruining your favourite shirt or pair of pants. Happy grilling!

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.