My white polyester tablecloth got stained with red wine. Stains were about the size of a quarter.I proceeded to launder it several hours later. I used Chlorx2 ColorSafe Bleach and as per manufacturer's directions, poured some of the product directly on stains to pre-treat. The stains immediately turned a dark blackish purple and spread over the tablecloth. Without allowing any time to elapse, I washed the tablecloth separately in cool water with a dye and perfume free liquid detergent. The stains remained. Further washing in cool water and detergent only did not budge the stains. Why did this happen? I would have expected that either the stains were released or that they would have remained the original color and size. How can I avoid having this happen again when I use the new tablecloth I had to replace the ruined one with? Thanks.


3 Answers 3


Bleaches are often alkaline. The coloring material of wine, a pH-sensitive anthocyanin, like those in red cabbage, blueberries and hydrangeas, is an indicator of pH (acidity or alkalinity), and in this case it changed from reddish to bluish. some of these anthocyanins are quite stable to oxygen, so oxygen (or even chlorine) bleaches might not affect them.

To revert to red wine stain, soak in vinegar or lemon juice. Interesting demonstration, but not what you want.

There are two things holding that stain to the cloth:

  • The original anthocyanins were dissolved in ethyl alcohol (part of wine), a relatively nonpolar solvent, unlike more-polar water.
  • To some extent, the anthocyanins may adhere to the fibers of the fabric.

To remove the stain, one might try a few things:

  • First, wash the spot with alcohol, rather than water. One could use white wine or vodka, but ordinary "rubbing alcohol", 70% or stronger, ethyl or isopropyl, should work even better. Put an absorbent pad (e.g., an old terry-cloth towel) under the stain, and pour the alcohol and blot repeatedly over the stain with another absorbent pad.

  • Second, to help break the anthocyanin bond to the fabric, launder after applying a stain-removal product, such as these in CNN, or in Better Homes & Gardens, to the spot, rather than a bleach.


Oxygen bleaches for laundry rarely work in cold water. The color change of the stain was simply due to pH change since they are usually sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate salts. Simply wash the table cloth at the highest allowed temperature.

Alternatively, Clorox website has a detailed guide about bleaching polyester fabrics.

Clorox guidelines for polyester


HGTV.com gives tips for various materials, which have some differences. In general, they favor using organic materials; bleach is generally not favored. For your case eith polyester they recommebt rreatment with detergent plus white vinegar, followed if necessary by rubbing alcohol:

Stains can cling to synthetic materials. Presoaking the stain can help minimize the damage.

Blot as much of the wet wine off the garment with a dry towel or cloth.

Fill a bowl with 4 cups of warm water, a few drops of liquid detergent and a tablespoon of white vinegar.

Soak the stain for 15 minutes and then rinse it in clean water to remove detergent.

Lay the garment flat. If there is still a stain, blot it with a clean sponge dampened with rubbing alcohol.


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