How to get chili stains out of clothes

Chili stains can be tricky to remove from clothing. The red chili powder contains a pigment called carotenoid that can really set into fabric fibers. The good news is that with the right techniques and cleaning solutions, you can get those stubborn stains out completely. In this article, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to remove chili stains from clothes using common household ingredients.

get chili stains out of clothes

What Causes Chili Stains?

Chili stains occur when the chili pepper’s pigment bonds to the fibers in your clothes. Chili peppers contain a red-orange carotenoid pigment called capsanthin. When this pigment comes into contact with clothing, it latches onto the fabric through strong hydrogen bonds. That’s why chili stains can be so difficult to remove – the capsanthin pigment binds tightly to clothing fibers. The oily resin from the peppers also contributes to the staining.

Specific types of chilies that can cause stubborn stains include:

  • Cayenne powder – Contains high amounts of capsanthin pigment
  • Paprika – Also has high capsanthin levels
  • Ancho chilies – Imparts a deep red stain
  • Jalapenos – Can leave behind green stains from chlorophyll
  • Habanero – Leaves orange stains due to high carotenoid content

Even small amounts of these chili varieties can leave lasting stains. The composition of the fabric also plays a role. Chili stains tend to set more stubbornly into natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool and silk versus synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon.

Pre-Treating Chili Stains

When you first notice a chili stain, immediate action is key for stain removal. Start by pre-treating the stain while it’s still fresh. Here are some tips:

  • Remove any excess chili residue by gently scraping with a dull knife or spatula. Don’t rub the stain, which can force the pigment further into the fabric.
  • Run the clothing under cold water to rinse away surface chili oil and pigment. Hot water can set the stain.
  • Apply a stain remover stick or spray to help lift the stain. Look for pre-treaters with enzymes like protease or amylase which break down protein and starch.
    • Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover Pen – $6.99
    • OxiClean Max Force Gel – $4.97
    • Carbona Stain Devils Chili Stain Remover – $6.49
  • Let the pre-treater sit on the stain for at least 15 minutes before washing. This gives the active ingredients time to work on dissolving the chili stain.
  • For heavy stains, apply a small amount of dish soap. Gently rub it into the stain using your fingertips. Let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing. The surfactants in dish soap help detach oil-based stains.
    • Dawn Ultra Dish Soap – $14.99 (pack of 3)
    • Palmolive Ultra Dish Liquid – $10.98 (pack of 3)
  • If the fabric is white, you can use a chlorine bleach alternative to help remove chili stains. Make sure to test for colorfastness first.
    • Clorox Bleach Alternative – $16.99 (128 oz)
    • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover – $8.19 (3 lb tub)
  • For delicate fabrics, dilute some white vinegar with water. Spray it on the stain and let sit for 5-10 minutes before washing. The mild acid in vinegar helps dissolve chili stains.
    • Heinz White Vinegar – $14.99 (128 oz)
    • Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – $14.49 (128 oz)

Washing Chili Stains Out of Clothes

After pre-treating, it’s time to launder the stained clothing. Washing helps to completely lift out the loosened chili stain so it doesn’t resettle into the fabric. Follow these laundry tips:

  • Wash soon after pre-treating – don’t let the clothing sit too long or the stain can re-set.
  • Wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. Hot water helps activate stain-fighting ingredients.
  • Use an enzymatic laundry detergent. The enzymes will break down food-based stains like chili.
    • Tide Plus Ultra StainRelease Liquid – $14.97 (75 oz)
    • Persil ProClean Liquid Laundry Detergent – $19.94 (100 oz)
  • For heavy stains, use a detergent with oxygen bleach. This is a chlorine-free whitening agent.
    • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover – $8.19 (3 lb tub)
    • Seventh Generation Oxi Stain Remover – $9.49 (32 oz)
  • Add a stain-fighting booster to the wash cycle for extra power.
    • OxiClean Oxy Power Booster – $7.94 (1.76 lbs)
    • Arm & Hammer OxiClean Dishwasher Booster – $9.97 (90 oz)
  • Skip fabric softener or dryer sheets – they can leave residue that blocks stain removers.
  • Air dry if possible – heat can set any lingering stain. Line dry outdoors or hang dry indoors.

If any sign of the stain remains, re-treat and re-wash before drying. Heat can permanently set the stain.

Chili Stain Removal Remedies

Some common household ingredients can also help remove stubborn chili stains without harsh chemicals. Here are a few handy options:

Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and allow to sit for a few hours before rinsing. The alkaline baking soda helps lift staining. For extra power, make a thick paste with water.

  • Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda – $5.84 (3 lb box)

Hydrogen Peroxide

Apply hydrogen peroxide and let bubble for 10 minutes before rinsing. The peroxide bleach helps lift chili discoloration without chlorine.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide Topical Solution – $4.97 (32 oz)

Lemon Juice

Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the stain and place the garment in direct sunlight for up to an hour before rinsing. The natural acid in lemon juice breaks down the chili stain.

  • Santa Cruz Organic Lemon Juice – $8.29 (16 oz)

White Vinegar

Make a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water. Spray it onto the stain and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before washing. Vinegar’s acetic acid cuts through chili oil.

  • Heinz White Vinegar – $14.99 (128 oz)

Dish Soap

Rub a few drops of dish soap into wet stains and let sit briefly before rinsing. Detergents in dish soap help detach oily stains.

  • Dawn Platinum Dish Soap – $16.29 (pack of 3)


Sprinkle salt liberally on a fresh chili stain to absorb oils. Let sit for an hour before rinsing and washing. The salt pulls out chili grease.

  • Morton Table Salt – $7.62 (26 oz)

Club Soda

Pour club soda over the stain. Let fizz for a few minutes, then rinse. The carbonation in the soda helps lift staining.

  • Canada Dry Club Soda – $22.98 (12 pack)

With some tried-and-true stain fighting ingredients on hand, you can tackle even set-in chili stains.

Tips for Avoiding Chili Stains

The best defense is preventing chili stains in the first place. Here are some useful strategies:

  • Wear an apron when cooking chili dishes to protect clothing from splatters. Look for aprons with stain resistant finishes.
    • Hudson Durable Goods Wax Canvas Apron – $26.97
    • Hedley & Bennett Stain Resistant Apron – $45.00
  • Use care when seasoning foods with chili powder or handling chopped peppers. Consider wearing gloves to avoid skin burns too.
    • Playtex Living Rubber Gloves – $13.49
    • MUVEIL Cut Resistant Gloves – $16.99
  • Rinse dishes, countertops and hands right after prepping or eating chili dishes to prevent grease stains.
  • Chop chilies on a plastic cutting board instead of wood. Chili can permanently stain and seep into wood.
    • Joseph Joseph Chop2Pot Foldable Cutting Board – $16.99
    • OXO Good Grips Cutting Board – $16.99
  • Add acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar when cooking chili. Acidity helps block staining.
  • Blot up spills quickly with a rag or paper towel. Avoid smearing.
    • Bounty DuraTowel Paper Towels – $22.88 (24 mega rolls)
    • Scotch-Brite Grease Wiping Cloths – $7.88 (35 sheets)
  • Keep Tide-to-Go pens or Shout wipes handy to instantly treat spills and stains.

With some diligence in food prep and cleanup, it’s possible to avoid pesky chili stains. But if they still happen, use these removal techniques to banish them for good.


Chili stains can be extremely stubborn to remove due to the oily chili pigments that bind to fabric. However, armed with the right stain fighting techniques, you can successfully tackle even set-in chili stains on clothes and upholstery. Just remember these chili stain removal tips:

  • Act fast when the stain is fresh for easiest removal.
  • Pre-treat stains with enzymatic cleaners, vinegar or dish soap.
  • Wash in hot water with oxygen bleach detergents.
  • Avoid drying until the stain is completely gone.
  • Use natural stain fighters like hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and baking soda.
  • Take preventative measures when cooking and eating chili dishes.

With some understanding of chili stain causes and removal methods, you can keep your clothes looking fresh even after spicy mishaps. Break out your favorite chili recipe without fear of staining!

Sharing Is Caring:

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.

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