It’s commonly known that wine spills have always been difficult to remove, and can easily stain any type of fabric. Because this spill is so dreaded, many homespun remedies have been created. However, D.I.Yer’s beware! I only know of one method that can safely and effectively remove wine stains. Any other “remedy” should be avoided because they will cause more harm than good and in addition could further “set” the stain to the point it interferes with the chemistry necessary to remove these stains.
So what makes these stains so darn stubborn? The culprit behind this difficult spill is the tannic acid in the wine. If you take the tannic acid out of the wine (i.e. white wine) the spill is just like any other ordinary spot and can be easily cleaned away with warm water and blotting. However, if the wine does contain tannic acids (i.e. red wines) this turns this simple spot into a stain. In other words the wine dyed your carpet or fabric through an acid-dying process. This is the same process by which your carpet got its original color at the factory. Every individual fiber of your carpet has thousands of dye sites, the tannic acid from the wine allows that dye site to accept the pigment, thus staining those fibers the color of the red wine.
Remember the simple rule in chemistry, "like dissolves like". By introducing an acid, you can “clear” out those dye sites. If you want to try and remove these stains yourself, I recommend using just a weak acid such as white distilled vinegar that you can purchase at any grocery store. This acid will not cause harm to any fiber. (except Silk. Sorry, warm water is all you can use on Silks. Prevention using an acid-dye protector is highly recommended).
Warm up a few ounces of the vinegar in the microwave (Hot, but not boiling hot) and pour it directly onto the stain. Work (agitate) the vinegar into the stained fibers with your fingers for about a minute and then begin blotting away with a dry towel or rag. You’ll need to repeat these steps a couple times before the stain begins to go away. Once you’re satisfied, rinse the vinegar out of the spot by pouring an equal amount of tap water and blot away.
If the stain was not removed to your satisfaction, a stronger acid must be used. Calling in a professional cleaner at this time will be necessary. Your attempt using the home remedy I described will not interfere with their effort and it’s not guaranteed professionals can “clean” out stained fibers without removing some of the original pigment, leaving a lighter spot. Another step in this case would be to Spot Dye the light spot (adding pigment), back to its original carpet color.
However, there is a low cost preventative step you can do to eliminate the need of any professional and the costs associated. Be sure to apply an acid-dye protector to your carpets. Carpets having the StainMaster™ protection system utilize an acid-dye blocker which is introduced during the manufacturer’s dyeing process. This is like a clear dye and will keep any acid spill (coffee, red wines, juices, food colorings, etc.) from binding with the dye sites in your carpet. Dupont, the makers of StainMaster™ recommends renewal of their acid-dye blocker on every clean to restore the carpet’s performance.
Lastly, some homeowners may know carpet protectant as “ScotchGuard”. ScotchGuard™ uses a fluorochemical component to “bead” spills, but it completely fails when the spill eventually soaks into the fiber (about 1 minute). A permanent stain will result if you have an acid spill. This is largely due to the fact that it does not contain acid-dye blockers. Homeowners who choose ScotchGuard™ protected carpets can request during their next carpet cleaning to have the protectant with acid-dye blocker applied to their carpets and receive this added benefit.