How to Remove Picnic Stains

Studio 5 contributor, Teresa Hunsaker, a consumer educator with Utah State University Extension Office shares tips to remove pesky picnic stains.


No matter how hard we try to eat that big juicy burger, or that mustard laden hotdog without getting it on us, it seems we just can’t get away from picnic table without a little of that meal coming home with us. Kid or no kid, it happens to all of us.


The main thing with mustard is to act as quickly as you can. If, and while, the mustard is still fresh, wipe up as much as possible with a clean wet towel. If it has dried, moisten and wipe or scrape off as much as possible. Then rinse the stain out with cold water, working the fabric a bit with your fingers. Then pour a small amount of either liquid or powder detergent over the stain and work it into the stain. Let that sit for a few minutes to let the detergent do its work. Rinse, making sure the stain is almost gone. Apply a stain remover (see Homemade Stain Remover recipe below). Let sit again for a few minutes, rinse and reapply or launder in cool water and regular detergent. Do not dry item in the dryer if stain persists…this will set the stain, and the chance of getting the stain out after it is set is extremely difficult.


Ketchup and BBQ sauce stains are not quite as difficult to remove as mustard is, but just the same, needs to be dealt with quickly. Rinse the stain with cold water as soon as possible. Apply laundry detergent, stain remover, or hand dishwashing detergent. Let sit for a few minutes. Rinse. Re-apply if stain persists. Do not launder until stain is gone.


Whether it comes from the burger, the grill, the potato salad or even the tiki torch oil, grease appears on the scene of a good picnic. It also comes home on the clothes or table cloth too. Often with a grease stain there are two monsters to deal with…the grease itself, and the “other” ingredient that holds the color. Treat for the grease first, in releasing the grease much of the color will also follow. Use a good de-greasing hand dish detergent and warm to hot water. If it is a tough grease stain apply ammonia straight onto the stain. It will not harm the fabric. Let sit for a few minutes. Rinse, and reapply either detergent or ammonia. Next, treat area for any residual staining with a stain remover pre-treatment. Launder. If stain persists, do not dry in dryer.


Kool-Aid has been around for years and years and has been staining our textiles the entire time. The worst, of course, is that beautiful cherry flavor, but strawberry, raspberry, fruit punch and anything else reddish/purple in color is also hard to clean. While some Kool-Aid stains may never come out completely, others may…with a little persistence and a whole lot of cleaning products. So before you give up and pitch the item right from the start, try these tips.

Rinse in cold water. Work a small amount of baking soda into the stain. Let sit for a few minutes. Rinse in cold water. Now work some detergent into the stain. Let sit a few minutes. Rinse. Next work some white vinegar into the stain. Let sit an hour or so. Rinse. Next pre-treat with a good stain remover, let sit a few minutes, then launder garment as usual. Can also try using a few denture cleaning tablets into the rinse cycle and let sit for 30 minutes or so. Complete the rinse cycle.

If the clothing article is worth saving it is worth repeating these steps. Do not dry until stain is gone.
Homemade Stain Remover for Laundry

½ cup ammonia

¼ cup liquid hand dishwashing detergent

2 TBS borax

½ cup white vinegar

3 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a bottle, cap and shake well to dissolve and mix all ingredients. Pour into spray bottle.

If you have any questions, call the Family and Consumer Science Education Department at the Weber County USU Extension office at (801) 399-8203 or online at

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