• We asked a French wine lover, a sommelier and a cleaning expert. (Food Network / Battle of the Vines)
Kitty litter is an option. Seriously.
Kylie Walker

6 Jun 2018 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2018 - 9:52 AM

You know how it goes. The night that a glass of red wine topples over on the table and sends a geyser of bright red all over you is the night you’re wearing a white shirt…

So what do you do, after the frenzied mopping up? One rather unexpected answer is reach for kitty litter – and that’s not as ridiculous as it might sound (more on that in a moment).

The key to avoiding a permanent stain is to soak up as much of the liquid as you can, as quickly as you can, without scrubbing the fabric and making matters worse.  Blot up the red wine with napkins or towels – don’t rub. Then try one of these, depending on where you are and what you have to hand.

1. Salt

In the opening sequences of Battle of the Vines, series host Arthur Robert, a passionate young French-born wine consultant, has wine tossed all over him. So when Food was chatting to Robert recently, we slipped in a question about wine stains. Surely a chap who grew up in Lyon, and has worked as a cellar door manager, wine tour guide and wine business consultant in France, Australia and New Zealand, would have had to deal with plenty of red wine spills?

“Well, I don’t remember if it works but my grandmother always told me that I should put some salt and some vinegar on my white shirts. But I haven’t tried it in a long time,” Robert says. “So the best advice I would have is to wear a dark shirt to drink red wine instead!”

Robert’s grandmother wasn’t wrong about the salt. Salt is a popular option partly because it’s usually something you can get hold of quickly, and the sooner you deal with a red wine spill, the better. Cover the stain with salt and leave it for a few minutes to absorb as much of the stain as possible, then brush off the salt. If the stain is still visible and you aren’t able to wash it immediately, rinse the stained area with white wine or soda water.

2. White wine

We asked Rebecca Sullivan, co-founder of native food products business Warndu, and author of The Art of the Natural Home and the newly released The Art of Natural Cleaning, how she deals with red wine spills.

“Funnily enough pouring a little white wine, if you have any, on the stain will help to neutralise it.  Then make a paste with bicarbonate soda, rub into the stain and leave it for a couple hours before washing.

“If you don’t have white wine use soda water or just dab  - don’t rub - with water prior to making the bicarbonate paste,” Sullivan says.

3. Soda water

Sommelier Liinaa Berry’s go-to options are soda water or salt.

“I usually put soda water if the stain needs to be cleaned straight away,” says Berry, who also stars in Battle of The Vines (and is one of those dousing Robert with wine in the show). The bubbles in the soda water help lift the red wine.

“Otherwise, coat the stain with a generous amount of salt and let it sit for at least five minutes. The sooner the salt is applied, the easier it will be to lift the stain.”

4. Kitty litter

Don’t laugh. We’re serious. Salt is a popular treatment because it soaks up the red wine, and as the Cleanipedia website from cleaning products maker Unilever points out, kitty litter is designed to be super absorbent. So this is one for cat owners: if you don’t have salt, white wine or soda water handy, this one might be worth trying. Cover the stain with fresh kitty litter, let it sit for at least five minutes, then brush off.

With all of these, the final step is to wash with a good detergent.

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