How to get ketchup out of clothes

Ketchup is one of those staple condiments that always seems to find its way onto our clothes. Whether it’s a drip from a hamburger or an accidental squirt during meal prep, ketchup stains can be a real pain to remove. However, with the right techniques and products, you can get those pesky red stains out and restore your clothes to their former glory.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to remove ketchup from various types of fabrics, as well as share some tips and tricks to prevent ketchup stains in the first place. By the end, you’ll be a ketchup-stain-removing pro, able to tackle even the toughest of tomato-based messes.

get ketchup out of clothes

The Science Behind Ketchup Stains

Before we dive into the removal process, it’s helpful to understand what makes ketchup stains so stubborn in the first place. Ketchup is primarily composed of tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices. The combination of these ingredients creates a challenge when it comes to stain removal.

Tomatoes contain a pigment called lycopene, which is responsible for their vibrant red colour. This pigment is highly concentrated and can easily become embedded in fabrics, particularly lighter-coloured materials. The acidic nature of the vinegar in ketchup can also set the stain, making it even harder to remove.

Additionally, the sugars in ketchup can cause the stain to dry and harden, further complicating the cleaning process. Finally, the various spices and seasonings in ketchup can leave behind discolouration and residue, adding to the overall difficulty of removing the stain.

Identifying the Fabric Type

The first step in effectively removing a ketchup stain is to identify the type of fabric the stain is on. Different fabrics require different treatment methods, so it’s important to tailor your approach accordingly.

Cotton and Linen

These natural fibres are relatively straightforward to work with when it comes to ketchup stains. They can typically withstand harsher cleaning methods, such as using hot water, bleach, or even scrubbing.

Silk and Wool

Delicate fabrics like silk and wool require a gentler touch. Avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the fibres and cause the stain to set further.

Polyester and Synthetic Blends

Synthetic fabrics can benefit from the use of enzyme-based cleaners or solvents, which can help break down the ketchup stain without damaging the material.


The thick, durable nature of denim makes it a bit more resilient to ketchup stains. However, it’s still important to treat the stain quickly and use appropriate cleaning methods to prevent it from setting.

Once you’ve identified the fabric type, you can proceed with the appropriate stain-removal technique.

Treating the Ketchup Stain

1. Act Quickly

The sooner you can treat a ketchup stain, the better. The longer the stain sits, the more time the pigments and other components have to penetrate and set into the fabric. As soon as you notice the stain, start the cleaning process.

2. Blot and Rinse

Begin by blotting the stain with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. This will help to soak up as much of the excess ketchup as possible. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can push the ketchup deeper into the fabric.

Once you’ve blotted the area, rinse the stain with cold water. This will help to dilute the ketchup and prevent the stain from setting further.

3. Choose the Right Cleaning Agent

  • For Cotton and Linen: Use a mix of dish soap and warm water. The dish soap will help to break down the grease and pigments in the ketchup. You can also try using a stain remover or laundry detergent.
  • For Silk and Wool: Opt for a mild, pH-neutral detergent or a specialized wool and silk cleaner. Avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals.
  • For Polyester and Synthetic Blends: Look for an enzyme-based stain remover or a solvent-based cleaner. These can help to break down the ketchup without damaging the fabric.
  • For Denim: Use a denim-specific stain remover or a mixture of white vinegar and water.

4. Gently Scrub

Once you’ve applied the cleaning agent, use a soft-bristled brush or your fingers to gently scrub the stain. Be careful not to rub too hard, as this can spread the stain or damage the fabric.

5. Rinse and Repeat

After scrubbing, rinse the area thoroughly with cold water to remove any residual cleaning agent or ketchup. Inspect the stain and, if necessary, repeat the cleaning process until the stain is fully removed.

6. Launder as Usual

Once the stain is gone, wash the item of clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help to remove any remaining traces of the ketchup and ensure that the fabric is fully clean.

Tips for Preventing Ketchup Stains

While removing ketchup stains can be a hassle, there are some steps you can take to prevent them in the first place:

  1. Use a Bib or Napkin: When eating ketchup-heavy foods, always use a bib or napkin to catch any drips or splatters. This can help to contain the mess and make it easier to clean up.
  2. Be Mindful When Serving: When pouring or squeezing ketchup, be careful to aim the bottle or packet directly at your food. Avoid any unnecessary movement that could lead to accidental splatters.
  3. Treat Stains Immediately: As soon as you notice a ketchup stain, begin the cleaning process right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to remove.
  4. Invest in Stain-Resistant Clothing: Some fabrics and garments are more stain-resistant than others. Look for clothing made from synthetic materials or with built-in stain-repellent coatings.
  5. Carry a Stain Remover Pen: Keep a small, portable stain remover pen in your bag or car. This way, you can quickly treat any ketchup spills on the go, before they have a chance to set.

By following these tips and techniques, you can effectively remove ketchup stains and keep your clothes looking their best. With a little patience and the right cleaning methods, even the toughest ketchup stains can be a thing of the past.

Recommended Ketchup Stain Removal Products

To make the stain removal process even easier, here are some top-performing products that can help tackle those pesky ketchup stains:

Persil ProClean Liquid Laundry Detergent

This powerful detergent contains enzymes that are specifically formulated to break down ketchup and other tough food stains. It’s gentle on fabrics and safe for use on both regular and high-efficiency washing machines.


  • Enzymatic formula targets and removes ketchup stains
  • Works well in both hot and cold water
  • Safe for use on a wide range of fabrics
  • Available in scented and unscented varieties

Shout Advanced Gel Brush

The Shout Advanced Gel Brush allows you to directly apply the stain-fighting formula to the affected area, making it ideal for treating ketchup stains. The built-in brush helps to gently scrub the stain, lifting it from the fabric.


  • Gel formula penetrates deep into fabrics
  • The brush applicator makes it easy to target specific stains
  • Safe for use on washable colourfast fabrics
  • Works in both hot and cold water

Clorox Bleach Pen Gel

For stubborn ketchup stains, the Clorox Bleach Pen Gel can be a game-changer. The targeted application and bleach-based formula help to lift even the most set-in stains.


  • The bleach-based formula effectively removes ketchup stains
  • Precision applicator allows for targeted treatment
  • Safe for use on white and colourfast fabrics
  • Can be used on both washable and non-washable materials

Zout Stain Remover Spray

The Zout Stain Remover Spray is a versatile option for removing ketchup stains from a variety of fabrics. Its advanced formula penetrates deep into the fibres to lift and eliminate tough stains.


  • Powerful formula effectively tackles ketchup and other food stains
  • Safe for use on washable fabrics, including delicates
  • The spray bottle makes it easy to apply directly to the stain
  • Leaves no residue or odour behind

By having these stain removal products on hand, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any ketchup-related mishaps that come your way. With the right tools and techniques, you can keep your clothes looking their best, no matter what culinary adventures you embark on.


Ketchup stains may be stubborn, but with the right approach, you can easily remove them from your clothes. Remember to act quickly, identify the fabric type, and use the appropriate cleaning methods and products. By following the steps outlined in this guide and implementing the prevention tips, you’ll be able to keep your wardrobe ketchup-free and looking its best.

If you have any further questions or need additional guidance, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help you conquer those pesky ketchup stains and keep your clothes looking fresh and clean.

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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.