How to Remove Stains from Denim

It is possible—and cheap.

woman wearing denim shirt and denim pants


It doesn't matter how expensive your jeans are—or how careful you are when you wear them—sometimes life happens and you can easily soil your favorite pair of denim. But, before you rush to replace them, you can remove denim stains quicker than you can find another pair and *add to cart*—red wine stains included. Below, we've rounded up trusted tips for removing the worst offenders (think: blood, ink, and Mom's famous pasta sauce) from your favorite pair of jeans.

Read on to learn how to rid your jeans of any type of stain.

01 of 10


cherry tomatoes on pink background


Whether you splashed spaghetti sauce on your jeans or a piece of fell in your lap, try this handy trick for removing tomato-based stains from denim fabric.

  • Remove any excess tomato sauce from the surface of your jeans carefully, using the edge of a spoon or a dinner knife
  • Saturate the stain with undiluted white vinegar
  • Let it soak in for about five minutes
  • Launder the jeans as usual in cold water. Tomatoes don't stand a chance.
02 of 10


We won't lie: It can be difficult getting blood out of denim, but there could still be some hope for those jeans, especially if you act quickly.

For fresh stains:

  • Wipe the spot with a clean washcloth soaked in very cold water
  • Rinse the cloth and repeat as needed until the stain has been removed
  • You'll know it's been lifted when the cloth comes off clean
  • Press the affected area with dry paper towels to lift out excess moisture and any traces of residue
  • Launder jeans as usual with a mild detergent and cold water, then hang to dry

If that doesn't work, pour undiluted white vinegar on the spot:

  • Let it soak in for 10 minutes, then blot well with dry paper towels
  • Repeat as necessary until paper towels come away clean
  • Wash jeans as usual with a mild detergent and cold water, then hang to dry

Or, use a sponge soaked in cold water to fully saturate the blood stain:

  • Sprinkle the wet spot with regular table salt
  • Use an old toothbrush or a clean nail brush to scrub the salt into the fabric
  • Rinse the toothbrush in cold water periodically to clean it and repeat the brushing
  • When you feel the stain has lifted, rinse the salt off the jeans with cold water, and then launder as usual.

For set-in stains:

  • Mix a bit of mild liquid laundry detergent with some cold water
  • Use a sponge to blot the solution on the stain, rinsing the sponge and repeating as needed
  • If the stain is persistent, you can dilute some ammonia with a bit of cold water and apply to the stain using the same method
  • Rinse jeans when done treating, and wash as normal.

No matter which method you choose, be sure to never treat blood stains on denim with warm or hot water, as this can set the stain. Also, avoid using hydrogen peroxide to remove stains on denim, or you risk bleaching and damaging the fabric.

03 of 10


green grass close-up


Vinegar is a mild acid that works well to remove grass stains from most denim fabrics.

For fresh stains:

  • Soak a household sponge in undiluted white vinegar and dab lightly on the stains to lift
  • Press the area with dry paper towels to test whether any more stain is coming up, and repeat the treatment method as needed
  • Throw your jeans in the washing machine, using the washer's cold water setting
  • Turn jeans right side out and hang to drip dry.

For large stains:

  • Soak your jeans overnight in a solution of three parts white vinegar to one part cold water
  • Make sure the solution is enough to cover them
  • In the morning, wring the jeans out to remove excess moisture and then toss them in the wash

For set-in stains:

  • Make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar
  • Use an old toothbrush to brush the paste into the stained area, scrubbing to remove the stain
  • Rinse the toothbrush in cold water periodically to clean it and repeat the brushing
  • When you feel the stain has lifted, rinse the denim fabric to remove the paste, then launder jeans as usual.

If you have jeans with old grass stains that are resistant to the above methods, or the pair you picked up at the vintage store has a few grass marks, try this trick: Combine a quart of warm tap water with three tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Use a sponge or washcloth to rub the solution onto the stained areas of denim. Let sit for 10 minutes, then blot dry before washing jeans.

04 of 10

Hair Dye

Splash your jeans with dye while dyeing your hair at home? While hair dye can be permanently staining to fabric, you can save it if you act within 24 hours.

  • Pour undiluted white vinegar (the plain household kind) directly onto the stained area of jeans
  • Let sit for one minute (no longer), then toss jeans into the washing machine, using the cold water setting on your machine
  • For major stains, you can also add one or two cups of vinegar right into the wash cycle
05 of 10

Red Wine

glasses of wine on white background


The moment you notice the wine stain on your jeans, remove them and soak the area with very warm tap water.

  • Pour table salt directly onto the stained area and let stand for five minutes
  • Brush the salt away and rinse the area with cool water
  • Lay the stained spot face down on paper towels and press gently to transfer any remaining wine stain
  • Rinse again and launder immediately in cold water.

For fresh stains:

  • Apply baking soda liberally to the spot—this will help to absorb the staining liquid
  • Let stand for one to two minutes maximum
  • Heat up a kettle with boiling water, stretch the stained fabric over a large bowl, and pour boiling water through the stain
  • Rinse afterward with cool water, then wash with cold water

If that doesn't work:

  • Saturate it with undiluted white vinegar
  • Let stand for about five minutes, then rinse with cool water
  • Repeat as needed until the stain seems to be lifted—you can check by lightly pressing a clean paper towel against the area
  • Launder wash the jeans immediately

Whatever you do, avoid using bar or powdered soap on wine stains, as they may cause these stains to set.

06 of 10


Don't cry over spilled milk on your jeans, just remove it with this handy laundry trick.

For fresh stains:

  • Fill a sink or bucket with cold water and soak the stained area for about 10 minutes
  • Wring out any excess moisture from the jeans and launder as usual.

For set-in stains:

  • Use the side of a spoon to scrape off any crusty bits from the fabric
  • Apply a mild liquid laundry detergent directly on to the stain and rub it in with your fingers
  • Fill a sink or bucket with cool water and soak the jeans for about 30 minutes
  • Wring out any excess moisture, and launder as usual
07 of 10


coffee cups on red background


Spilled your coffee on your favorite denim? As soon as you notice the stain, soak the area with lukewarm water.

For fresh stains:

  • Use a sponge to dab the stained area with full-strength detergent
  • Launder in hot water
  • Hang to drip dry

Like red wine stains, avoid using bar or powdered soap to avoid setting the stain.

08 of 10


To get rid of ink stains, soak a clean, white washcloth in rubbing alcohol and dab it lightly on the stained area of fabric, blotting repeatedly. When the stain has lifted, mix a small amount of mild liquid laundry detergent with a bit of water and dab it on the spot. Rinse with cool water, and launder the jeans as usual.

Or, try wetting a clean sponge or washcloth with milk and use this to gently wipe the ink-stained denim. Repeat until the stain lifts, then toss the jeans in the wash.

09 of 10

Nail Polish

nail polish liquid on pink background


Certain nail polishes are impossible to remove, but with luck, this method may be effective in removing some nail enamels from cotton-denim fabric, if you can act quickly.

For fresh stains:

  • Turn your jeans inside out and place a thick layer of cotton towels between the jeans and your work surface
  • Use a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover to saturate the back of the stain
  • Replace paper towels as needed when they become stained with the polish lifting from the denim
  • Repeat until (hopefully) the stain disappears
  • Rinse the area well with cold water and launder as usual
10 of 10


Nothing wrecks a new pair of denim more than grease from your favorite French fry joint. Not to worry, the fix is actually quite simple. The key is to treat the stain before it has a chance to set into the fabric.

For fresh stains:

  • Throw some baking soda onto it and use a toothbrush to scrub the denim—you'll notice that the spot will begin to fade
  • If the stain is being stubborn, put dish detergent onto it, scrub it in with a toothbrush, let it sit for 10 minutes
  • Wash on a normal cycle

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