How to remove common Thanksgiving Day stains quickly and easily

Tablecloth with food and wine stains
Tablecloth with food and wine stains (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving Day gatherings are all about the tasty feasts we enjoy with family and friends. But, once the Turkey has been gobbled up, treats consumed, and drinks served, you’re often left with a huge mess to contend with. In most cases, there will be stains dotted around and you'll need to know how to remove these quickly so they don't set in. 

Be it a grease-laden tablecloth or red wine over a white shirt, accidental stains are inevitable during Thanksgiving. The good news is that common Thanksgiving Day stains are easy to remove without ruining your favorite tableware or clothing. All you’ll need are a few household items to make these unsightly stains disappear for good. Follow these easy steps for a stain-free Thanksgiving Day celebration!

How to remove Thanksgiving Day stains

1. Gravy

Gravy boat on dinner table

Gravy boat on dinner table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

What’s Thanksgiving turkey without lashings of gravy over it? Trouble is, it can splash everywhere. To tackle this stain, the first thing to do is gently scrape off any excess gravy residue with a blunt knife. Next up, mix together a couple of teaspoons of dish soap and ½ cup warm water

Dip a clean microfiber cloth into the mixture and blot the gravy stain to remove as much as possible before leaving to dry. If that doesn’t work, try using a dedicated stain remover, like OxiClean Max Force Foam Laundry Pre-Treater ($8.08, Amazon) before washing the item on the highest temperature the care label allows. 

If you want to impress your guests this Thanksgiving, you’ll need to know how to season a Turkey for your festive feast. 

2. Butter or turkey grease 

Butter on serving knife

Butter on serving knife (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Any form of grease is probably the most common stain from our Thanksgiving leftovers, and luckily oils can be removed with a baking soda and vinegar solution. Simply sprinkle a layer of baking soda onto the grease stain until completely covered, and let it sit for 24 hours. Baking soda is highly absorbent so will quickly get to work on removing grease stains. 

Next, mix up one part white vinegar to one part of water in a spray bottle, and spray directly onto the stain. Once this starts to foam and sink into the fabric, scrub the area with soap and water using an old toothbrush or sponge. Thoroughly rinse with cold water, and repeat until the stain is removed. 

If you're interested in what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning, it's the chemical reaction that the two have when combined. 

3. Cranberry sauce 

Cranberry sauce on dinner table

Cranberry sauce on dinner table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cranberries produce plant tannins, so are prone to stain quickly. First, after scraping off the excess, blot the stain with cold water. Be careful not to spread the stain further whilst doing so. Next, mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with ½ teaspoon of dish soap and one quart cold water. Carefully apply to the stain with a clean microfiber cloth, and let the solution soak into the fabric for 15 minutes. Finally, thoroughly rinse with cool water until the stain is gone. Repeat if necessary.  

4. Sweet potato or pumpkin 

Sweet potato mash in bowl

Sweet potato mash in bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Pumpkin or sweet potato stains can be stubborn at the best of times. First, wipe away any residue with a microfiber cloth and flush with cold water. Next, mix equal parts of dish soap to warm water to make a solution. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and gently blot the stain to lift it. Rinse and repeat if necessary and then blot the area with a dry clean cloth.

5. Red wine

Spilled glass of red wine

Spilled glass of red wine (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Red wine stains on a white tablecloth can be the stuff of nightmares, but once you know how to remove red wine stains, it's not that hard. One of the quickest ways to remove red wine stains is to soak the stain in club soda for 10 minutes. The carbonated fizz from the soda helps to lift the red pigments from the fabric. 

If this doesn't shift the stain, you should then cover it entirely with salt and wait for 2-3 minutes. You can press the material against the salt, but don’t scrub — this will absorb the stain.  

Next up, brush the salt away, blot the stain with clean towels and check your progress. If the stain is still there, rinse it again and repeat the process with blotting and fresh salt until the stain disappears. 

For stubborn stains set on machine-washable clothing, you can also try using Wine Away ($20.24, Amazon) before washing the item on the highest temperature the care label allows. If possible, use a biological powder detergent as this has the best stain removal capabilities.

6. Chocolate ice cream

Bowl of chocolate ice cream on table

Bowl of chocolate ice cream on table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Chocolate ice cream or melted chocolate are common Thanksgiving stains, especially with playful children running around. The best way to tackle a fresh stain is to make a dish soap and warm water solution.  Dip a clean cloth into the solution and work from the outside of the stain inwards to avoid spreading. 

Next, let the solution sit for up to 30 minutes before blotting with a clean damp cloth. Repeat  until the stain has disappeared. If it’s an old ice cream stain, pre-treat with a stain remover. Then, machine wash as normal to the highest temperature the care label allows.

7.  Lipstick 

Lipstick stain on napkin

Lipstick stain on napkin (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When you’re hosting a party, you’re bound to find lipstick-stained napkins scattered around the table. But don’t panic, as there is an easy way to remove lipstick stains. Simply mix a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of baking soda to create a paste. Next, apply the paste onto the stain and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, wipe away with a clean cloth. You can also use this treatment before putting the item in the washing machine on the highest temperature the care label allows.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!