Can Salt Actually Help Remove Red Wine Stains?

It seems inevitable that if you serve red wine at a gathering, someone is bound to spill a few precious drops on their shirt or even an entire glass on your rug. To remove this stubborn stain before it sets, you may have heard on a morning show or simply by Googling that salt can clean red wine stains. However, before you reach for that shaker of salt, you may want to think again, because there is a lot of conflicting information about what this seasoning can and can't do, and the science says that it cannot lift a red wine stain.

Those who are team sodium say that salt will act as a sponge and soak up that deep, red vino from your carpet if you allow it to set for as little as five minutes. However, as reported by The Guardian, Emma Burton (the senior consumer researcher for the Good Housekeeping Institute) says that this is simply not the case. Burton strongly discourages you from turning to salt and explains, "I can see where the idea comes from, because it acts like a sponge, but if you think about it, when you dye clothes you use salt to set the colour. Everyone always thinks salt, but in fact you will make the stain permanent instead."

What to try instead

How does salt set a stain? When you add salt to cotton that is being dyed, the salt helps the fabric's fibers soak up the color. This is similar to what happens when you pour salt on a red wine stain and why you will end up with fabric or carpet that resembles your favorite bottle of pinot noir.  So, how should you actually treat a red wine stain?

In order to avoid any permanent damage to your carpet or tablecloth, skip the salt but act sooner rather than later. If you are going to try a DIY method for your white tablecloth, Martha Stewart's trick for getting rid of a red wine stain gets high marks. It involves six different cleaners including Pure + Clear Palmolive, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, an enzyme detergent, and possibly sodium percarbonate powder.

If you can't get to the stain immediately, pour some carbonated water onto the stain. That fizzy water will help push some of the stain up. Remember to blot instead of scrub. Scrubbing will definitely make matters worse and can make the area of the stain larger. Leave it until you can gather all of the cleaning agents needed for Stewart's trick or consider calling in a professional.