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Ask Dr. Laundry

Sloppy Joe Stains on an Already-Washed Shirt

By Dr. Laundry January 25, 2017

Q: How do I get a Sloppy Joe stain out of my shirt that’s already been washed? —Lindsay

A: Hi Lindsay,

This is a great question, and very timely given how many Sloppy Joes get eaten while people watch as the football season comes to an end with the Big Game.

It sounds like you’ve tried once to wash the shirt and the stain didn’t come all the way off. That’s because you’ve got a combination stain, with an oily component (from the meat as well as any oil used to cook up onions) and a colored component (from the tomatoes and spices).

Combination stains are harder to get out because you need to treat both the oily and colored component, usually separately for the best results.

I think you’ll still be able to get the stain all the way out, especially if the shirt air dried after you washed it before.

Here’s what you can try:

  1. Break up the cooking oil part of the stain with dish soap
    • Starting with dry fabric, apply a little liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) to the stain and gently massage it in.
    • Wait 5 minutes, then rinse with a little warm water. This breaks up the cooking oil part of the stain.
  2. Pretreat and machine wash
    • What you use depends on the item. This time the product will remove the colored component of the stain:
      • For white bleachable items (always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather and spandex) pretreat with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel
        • Apply a little gel directly to the stain and gently rub it in using the soft scrubber tip.
        • Wash immediately in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1
        • Air dry and check for success.
      • For items with color (or white items with spandex), pretreat with liquid Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster
        • Apply a little Clorox 2® product directly to the stain and gently rubbing it in. Wait 5–10 minutes, and then wash the item in the warmest water recommended on the care label using detergent and more Clorox 2®.
        • Air dry and check for success.

Since you may have put the shirt in the dryer already, then you may need to repeat the treatment for complete success.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!

—Dr. Laundry