How to remove gravy stains

Gravy is a delicious condiment that can add a rich, savory flavor to a wide variety of dishes. From mashed potatoes to roasted meats, gravy is a staple in many households. However, its thick, oily consistency can also make it a stubborn stain to remove from clothing, upholstery, and other fabrics. Gravy stains require prompt attention and the right cleaning techniques to ensure they are successfully lifted and prevented from setting into the material.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of removing gravy stains, offering proven methods and expert tips to tackle even the toughest marks. Whether you’re dealing with a fresh spill or a dried, set-in stain, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in and learn how to keep your favorite fabrics looking their best, even after the most indulgent gravy-filled meals.

remove gravy stains

Gravy stains can be particularly challenging to remove due to their complex composition. Typically made from a combination of meat drippings, flour, and milk or cream, gravy contains a mix of fats, proteins, and starches that can easily penetrate and bind to fabric fibers.

The fat and oil components in gravy can leave behind greasy, discolored marks, while the starches can cause the stain to stiffen and set over time. Depending on the specific ingredients used in the gravy recipe, the stain may also take on different hues, ranging from light brown to dark, rich tones.

Prompt treatment is key when it comes to gravy stains, as the longer they are left untreated, the more difficult they can be to remove. The good news is that with the right techniques and a little elbow grease, even the most stubborn gravy stains can be successfully lifted from a variety of fabrics.

Preparing the Stain for Removal

Before you begin the stain removal process, it’s important to assess the type of fabric you’re dealing with and the age of the stain. This will help you determine the best approach and avoid causing further damage to the material.

If the stain is fresh, start by gently blotting the affected area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel to soak up as much of the excess gravy as possible. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can push the gravy deeper into the fabric.

For dried, set-in stains, begin by lightly scraping the surface with a dull knife or spoon to remove any dried or crusty residue. Be careful not to press too hard, as this can further embed the stain.

Once you’ve removed the surface-level gravy, it’s time to pretreat the stain. This step is crucial for effectively lifting the grease, oils, and proteins that make up the stain.

Pretreating Gravy Stains

There are several effective pretreatment options for gravy stains, depending on the fabric type and the severity of the mark.

  1. Dish Soap: For fresh gravy stains on washable fabrics, start by applying a small amount of mild dish soap directly to the affected area. Gently rub the soap into the stain using your fingers or a soft-bristled brush, taking care not to spread the stain further. Allow the soap to sit for a few minutes before proceeding with the next step.
  2. Grease-Cutting Cleaners: For tougher, set-in gravy stains, consider using a grease-cutting cleaner, such as a degreasing spray or liquid, as a pretreatment. These specialized products are formulated to break down and lift stubborn oil-based stains. Apply the cleaner to the affected area, let it sit for a few minutes, and then proceed with the cleaning process.
  3. Baking Soda Paste: Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water and apply it directly to the gravy stain. The abrasive nature of the baking soda can help lift the stain, while the water helps to loosen and dissolve the grease and proteins. Allow the paste to sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing or laundering.
  4. Vinegar Solution: For delicate fabrics or set-in stains, try creating a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently blot the stain, taking care not to rub too vigorously. The acidity in the vinegar can help break down the stain components.

Regardless of the pretreatment method you choose, be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage.

Laundering Gravy Stains

Once you’ve pretreated the stain, it’s time to launder the fabric to fully remove the gravy mark. The specific cleaning method will depend on the type of fabric and the severity of the stain.

Washable Fabrics:

For washable fabrics, such as clothing, linens, or machine-washable upholstery, start by checking the care label for any specific washing instructions. If the fabric is safe for machine washing, add an extra rinse cycle to help remove any remaining traces of the stain.

When washing, use the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabric, as heat can help break down and lift the stain components. You may also want to consider adding a bit of laundry detergent specifically formulated for grease and oil-based stains, as these can be more effective than standard detergents.

Delicate Fabrics:

For delicate fabrics, such as silk, satin, or wool, hand-washing may be the best approach to avoid further damage. Fill a clean sink or basin with cool water and add a small amount of mild, pH-neutral detergent. Gently submerge the fabric and allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Avoid wringing or twisting the fabric, as this can stretch or distort the fibers. Instead, gently press down on the fabric to absorb excess water, and then lay it flat to air dry.

Upholstery and Carpets:

For gravy stains on upholstery, carpets, or other non-washable fabrics, you’ll need to use a specialized cleaning method. Start by blotting the stain with a clean, absorbent cloth to remove as much of the excess gravy as possible.

Next, mix a solution of warm water and a mild, non-toxic detergent or upholstery cleaner. Dip a sponge or soft-bristled brush into the solution and gently scrub the affected area, taking care not to over-saturate the fabric.

Once you’ve lifted the stain, use a clean, damp cloth to blot the area and remove any remaining cleaning solution. Finally, place an absorbent paper towel or clean cloth over the stain and weigh it down with a heavy object, such as a book, to draw out any remaining moisture.

Preventing Future Gravy Stains

In addition to knowing how to effectively remove gravy stains, it’s also important to take preventative measures to avoid them in the first place. Here are some tips to help keep your fabrics gravy-free:

  1. Use Protective Coverings: When enjoying a gravy-laden meal, consider using a bib, apron, or placemat to catch any errant drips or splashes. This can help shield your clothing and linens from stains.
  2. Blot Quickly: If a gravy spill does occur, act quickly to blot the affected area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. The faster you can soak up the excess, the easier the stain will be to remove.
  3. Pretreat Immediately: As soon as possible after a spill, pretreat the stain using one of the methods outlined earlier. This can help prevent the gravy from setting and becoming more difficult to remove.
  4. Use Washable Fabrics: When hosting meals where gravy is likely to be served, opt for washable fabrics, such as cotton or polyester, rather than delicate materials that may be more challenging to clean.
  5. Maintain a Tidy Dining Area: Keep your dining table and surrounding areas clean and free of crumbs or spills. This can help minimize the risk of accidental gravy stains on your linens and upholstery.

By following these preventative tips and employing the proper stain removal techniques, you can help ensure that gravy remains a flavorful addition to your meals, rather than a stubborn stain on your favorite fabrics.

Commercial Products for Removing Gravy Stains

In addition to the homemade solutions mentioned earlier, there are also several commercial products available that can be highly effective in removing gravy stains:

  1. Shout Stain Remover: This popular stain remover is specifically formulated to tackle tough, oily stains, including gravy. Simply apply it directly to the affected area, let it sit for a few minutes, and then launder as usual.
  2. OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover: The active oxygen in OxiClean can help break down the components of a gravy stain, making it easier to lift from fabrics. Soak the stained item in an OxiClean solution before washing.
  3. Persil ProClean Stain Fighter: Persil’s stain-fighting formula is designed to penetrate and lift even the toughest grease and oil-based stains, including those caused by gravy.
  4. Carbona Stain Devil for Grease and Oil: Specifically formulated to tackle grease and oil-based stains, this Carbona product can be particularly effective on set-in gravy marks.
  5. Clorox Cleanup Cleaner + Bleach: While not intended for direct fabric application, this all-purpose cleaner can be used to spot-clean gravy stains on upholstery, carpets, and other non-washable surfaces.

Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and test any commercial product on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying it to the entire stain.


Gravy stains can be a frustrating challenge, but with the right approach, you can successfully remove even the toughest marks from a variety of fabrics. By understanding the composition of gravy stains, using effective pretreatment methods, and employing proper laundering techniques, you can keep your clothing, linens, and upholstery looking their best, even after the most indulgent gravy-filled meals.

Remember, prompt action and a little elbow grease are key to tackling gravy stains. With this comprehensive guide in hand, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to tackle any gravy-related stain that comes your way. Enjoy your meals with peace of mind, knowing that you have the tools to keep your fabrics looking their absolute best.

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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.