Written by Grove Collaborative

3 quick steps to get ketchup & tomato sauce stains out.

Last Updated: September 9, 2021


Ketchup is meant to go on french fries, not on your clothes or carpet. Learn how to get ketchup out of clothes (and everything else) from the pros at Grove.

You’re reaching for that just-off-the-grill, juicy hot dog or hamburger, waiting in anticipation for how great it’s going to taste. Suddenly, your moment of glory is interrupted by a big blob of ketchup that’s oozing down your brand-new, white shirt.


Before you start to panic, know that you’re not the first person who’s ever dealt with a massive ketchup or mustard stain issue. Keep reading to learn how to get ketchup stains out of clothes, upholstery, and furniture — naturally.

So, what exactly is ketchup, anyway?

Hundreds of years ago, ketchup was made with pickled mushrooms and walnuts (gag!) But in the 1600s, those meddling Colonial Americans began to tinker with the recipe, and it’s evolved over time into today’s ketchup, which is a combo of tomatoes, salt, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, and cayenne.

Why do tomato sauce and ketchup stain?

When a saucy substance shoots onto your shirt or into your lap, it’s probably either ketchup or mustard. Thanks to the tomato’s bright red hue and high concentration of tannins, tomato-based sauces and condiments easily stain fabrics and clothing.


The good news is that removing tomato stains is easier than removing mustard stain.

What you’ll need to get ketchup and tomato stains out

Here’s what you’ll need to remove ketchup or tomato sauce from your clothes, upholstery, or carpet:


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How to remove ketchup and tomato sauce stains naturally

If you’re facing a ketchup conundrum, try to act fast and clean up the stained area.


Yes, it’s possible to get old ketchup stains out of many fabrics, but the sooner you attend to the spill, the better the chances of the stain disappearing completely.

3 steps to get ketchup out of clothes

1. Remove excess ketchup

Use a clean, damp towel or napkin to remove the excess ketchup.


If the ketchup is dried, scrape it off with a dull knife.

2. Pre-treat the stain

Turn the garment inside out, and rinse the spot with cold water.


Pour a drop of mild laundry detergent directly onto the stain, and work it into the cloth with an old toothbrush.


Let it sit for 5–15 minutes, and rinse again with cold water.

3. Wash the garment

Machine-wash the item in hot water with your usual laundry detergent — add a non-chlorine bleach whitener or laundry booster for best results.


If the stain remains, repeat the above steps before you dry the item.

If all things stain removal make your head spin, we can help you sort it all out with more helpful stain hacks for everything from lipstick to dog poop.

Grove Tip

What’s a good stain remover for clothes?

Laundry product expert and Lead Grove Guide Angela Bell says, “I like to keep a good, enzyme-based stain remover on hand to spot clean clothing. This allows me to embrace my mess-prone life yet still look fresh without washing the entire garment. Just spray onto the stain, allow to sit for a few, and blot clean with a wet cloth.”


For more stain remover guidance, read Grove Writer, Carly Reynolds, experience with Grove Co.’s Stain Remover Spray and how it held up to her family of 5.

How to get ketchup stains out of upholstery

A big splotch of ketchup landing on the couch — especially if it’s upholstered in white — can put a serious damper on dinner.


To erase ketchup stains from your upholstery:


  1. Remove excess ketchup with a dry cloth or napkin. Don’t rub or dab.
  2. Mix a half-tablespoon of mild dish detergent with 1 cup of cold water. Dip a sponge into the solution, and gently dab at the stain with it.
  3. Rinse with a clean sponge and cold water.
  4. Repeat until the stain is gone.

Curious about how to tackle other stains on your couch? Check out our article on removing couch stains too.

How to remove ketchup stains from carpet

If you smacked the bottom of the bottle so hard you sent the ketchup flying across the room and onto the carpet — it’s all good. Just use the same steps for removing ketchup from your couch to get rid of it on your carpet.


If evidence of the stain remains, try one of these 6 best natural stain removers, according to our Grove members.

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