Christmas Red Wine ‘Inflight’ Never An Upholstery Delight!

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Red wine spill on cotton uphostery cushion

Upholstery Cleaner ‘Extraordonnaire’ doubted the red wine spill would come out of the off-white cotton upholstered cushion.

For my son’s in-laws, Christmas Eve is their traditional day of celebration, and for the Johnson’s it’s a big deal. Now their family of five has grown to a family of five, four of which have spouses, and a sprinkling of 8 grandchildren, it’s a busy household to get together. To set the tone, everyone’s excited to be together, the pollyanna awaits, the smells from the kitchen abound, the children are all a buzz with energy, excitement and anticipation, and of course the wine and beer are a’plenty!

With everyone being thankful for their health, for their blessings, and for each other, the energy in the room was real. But this year it was special, because the celebration moved to the new home of their second daughter, in Shamong.

As they got settled into their new home, we already got a call for cookie dough smashed in to a new area rug. After a few attempts, we were contacted to provide advice to remove it. As Krystn explained, the best fix was to rinse it out with one of our extractors. (But to our surprise they were determined to get it out. Not a good idea to try at home, but they did, and were lucky.) When our son grabbed one of our portables, he was informed they got it out. And when we heard what they did, we don’t recommend it- they started trying different cleaners.

Just as everyone was bouncing about and raising a glass of cheer, one such glass of red wine went ‘inflight’ landing on the pants of their son, and also on the cotton couch cushion.

Immediately the phone rang, and our son informed us of the mishap, and asked what to do. In a pinch, we told them white wine can be dabbed on, then take towels to blot off as much of the red wine as possible. After a quick conversation we were told the fabric was polyester, and were relieved at that.  Our son would bring the cushion home with him, and since we would be at his house Christmas morning, we could take it back with us to clean it.

Beware when reading the tags on the cushions, often they describe both what the foam is made of and what the fabric is made of. In this case the polyester referred to the cushion content, not the fabric.

First off, it is better to keep the fabric on the cushion, not remove it simply because the cushion has zippers. After Christmas morning hugs with our grandchildren, Devon presents us with the cushion cover only. Ok. If it had been us we would have placed towels or rags underneath the cushion, between the foam and the fabric. Not a big deal, but fabric reacts to cleaning and some fibers depending on what you do can distort.

Chris inspects the fabric, and informs our son it is cotton, not polyester.

At first glance we knew the fabric was not polyester, and with that came increased concern whether it would clean up, if at all. As Chris explained the reality to Devon, Devon challenged him. Chris handed the cover to him, and asked him to read it carefully. At closer glance, Devon realized his mistake, and joined us in concern about the probability of success in removing red wine from a raw, off white fabric.

The plainer the fabric, the bigger the ‘canvas’ it becomes, and easier to fall prey to foreign dyes.

Some fabrics, with lack of color, dyes and patterns, become a stunningly plain and simple element in a decor’ and style mood. In this case it was a simple, calming and relaxed fabric, very raw and very natural.

However, it also is a plain and simple ‘canvas’ ripe to receive dyes from foreign substances, and especially red wine.

In our home, and in our travels, we practice what we preach—red wine drinkers are placed strategically away from fabrics in danger of being stained from haphazard spills.

Fast forward to our son’s home, and even our home. As nice as we can put it, my mom, who likes red wine, is asked to sit in either my son’s leather chair, at our son’s home, or on our navy velvet chair in our living room. Our daughter in law has a soft blue gray tweed fabric ripe for staining from red wine. And at our home, if we gather in the living room, we have a soft teal-blue with hint of green, again a fabric that is ripe for receiving stain from foreign dyes.

Did you know that red dye No 5 is used to dye fabrics?

The same dye that is used to make Hawaiian Punch is also used to dye fabrics and carpet! Why- because it is really effective! Natural dyes and synthetic dyes are used because they are effective. And yes, the natural dye in red grapes works really really well. Lesson learned, don’t risk the possibility of damage.

Circling back to this upholstery mishap, our role now is damage control.

Returning home with our opened packages, we carefully tendered to the fabric cushion material. With Chris shaking his head on this one, he and I both doubted we could pull a rabbit out of the hat, and reverse the stain. Thankfully it only shot across the cushion edge, and was but about 2-3 inches.

Warning—Do not try this at home, leave it to professionals!

So at first treatment, Chris chose to try hydrogen peroxide, a safe and often highly effective remedy. But, no luck today for this cushion. His second attempt, to soak it in a professional oxidized solution he keeps in our van. Again, Christmas morning, and back at home, we set about to open our stockings, the three of us and our two very excited yorkies.

As we had sniffs, and wags and treats, the oxidized solution was working it’s own Christmas miracle!

Our puppies waited patiently, and yes they loved their stocking treats. But as we worked so did the oxidized solution. It dissolved the dyes of the red grapes and did not affect the fabric one bit!

Even for the experienced carpet and upholstery cleaner, this work is not for the faint at heart!

Having good news we showed our son when he came over for Christmas dinner. A cleaning miracle did happen. A word about this—as a trained and certified upholstery cleaner, we absorb a much bigger risk when working with upholstered fabrics. We inherently know that their is increased risk of causing damage because upholstered furniture is made from fabrics sourced from all over the world. They are dyed in a variety of ways. They are handled sometimes by over 40-50 different entities, with little or no known consistency, and absolutely no standards. For instance, even a black sharpie pen can be written on the foam to identify it’s location, whereby it lays prey to migrate from the foam, up and thru the fabric, to stain it, once an upholstery cleaner touches it.

We cringe when we are contacted about an accidental spill, daring to ask part of our ‘prequel’ if you will, what folks have done once the stain has been made.

Knowing enough not to do anything, our son called us immediately. And yes we advised him not to touch it with anything. More often than not, in a panic people go right for cleaners under the kitchen sink, or in the laundry room. Not having a clue, they don’t realize they change the chemistry with every attempt, and usually ‘set’ the stain permanently. Some products can even eat or dissolve fabrics, so clearly it is best not to touch it, and call for help.


If you have an accidental spill on upholstery or carpet. especially upholstery, you should resist the urge to try something yourself, and just call a professional. You will increase your chances of causing even more damage, or prohibiting professional attempts from being successful.

For emergency care call us at 609.953.0472 or CONTACT US online.