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How to Remove Chocolate Stains From Anything (Expert Tips)

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Chocolate is an incredibly popular treat that can be consumed anytime, anywhere, and melts close to body temperature. Its popularity and sensitivity to temperature inevitably lead to accidents— and unfortunately, we don’t always notice right away. I’m talking about chocolate stains.

Luckily with a bit of time and effort, you can even get out old chocolate stains from your favorite shirt, couch, rug, or any other fabric. As with most stains, getting out chocolate stains requires pre-treatment and other techniques to handle them effectively.

Here is an article that categorizes stains into four categories: enzymic stains, oxidizable stains, greasy stains, and particulate stains. Most stains, chocolate included, usually involve more than one type, and will require different agents for effective removal. This article covers how to get chocolate out of clothes, couches, and carpets, no matter what type of chocolate has spilled.

About Chocolate Stains

Tannins and Enzymic Stains

Tannins are a plant chemical associated with pigmentation, and rapidly develop when naturally-occurring polyphenols oxidize during the fermentation of cacao beans. It’s actually what gives cacao beans their dark purple and brown shades.

Tannins are also able to form heavier compounds with proteins, starches, and minerals found in chocolate, which enzyme-containing detergents are really good at breaking down. The main advantage of enzyme detergents is that they remain effective at lower temperatures relative to conventional detergents, which are more effective at higher temperatures.

Oils and Fat

The fats found in cacao butter and vegetable oils common in chocolate are all insoluble in water and will oxidize if left unattended. They turn rancid and can increase in saturation, possibly setting in fabrics and causing discoloration.

Therefore it’s best to deal with chocolate stains as soon as possible before they set in the fabric, making them more difficult to deal with. Various spot-cleaning techniques for lifting fats and oil include chilling the stain to solidify the cacao butter, or using powdered alkalines to clump them up so they can be brushed off.

melted cocoa butter

Removing Chocolate Stains

Initial Clean Up

The first step in chocolate stain removal is to remove as much chocolate from the fabric as possible. This involves scraping as much of the spill as possible with a dull flat object. Blot the stained area with a clean dry cloth or paper towel to soak up as much excess oil as possible. 

Then, do some spot cleaning by applying enzyme detergent directly to the stain and then sprinkling over a layer of baking soda or cornstarch. Press or rub the alkaline lightly on the fabric and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes to clump up the fats that have embedded. 

Brush off residue and dry off any moisture with a clean dry cloth or paper towel. Do take note that proteases can break down the protein in wool, so it’s best to use a ‘light’ laundry detergent or one specifically formulated for use on delicate fabrics.

The lipases in enzyme detergent split up fat into particles that can be washed away. Cornstarch and baking soda are both alkaline substances that saponify fat, grease, and oils. The application of these lifting agents can be repeated as much as deemed necessary.

Pre-Treatment

The next step is to attack the remaining stain with more enzyme detergent or mild detergent that’s safe on delicate fabrics. Apply the cleaning agents directly onto the stubborn stain and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes before flushing with cool water (30°C or 86°F). Presoaking fabrics in detergent and oxygen bleach before a wash can also help knock out more of the chocolate stain, but just be careful on colored fabrics. 

Oxygen bleach is milder than chlorine bleach. It’s also abrasive and releases oxygen that helps break up stains when mixed in water. It’s often called ‘all fabric bleach,’ and is usually color-safe and suitable for most fabrics exceptions are delicate types like silk, wool, and leather. It’s thankfully quite environmentally-friendly, and will dissolve into water and soda ash.

At this stage try not to wash or use hot water as it can cause chocolate stains to migrate, contaminating other parts of the fabric as well as causing enzymatic stains to set. Thankfully enzyme detergents are effective in both warm and cool water temperatures, whereas chemical detergents are more effective in hot temperatures.

Spot Cleaning and Washing

Once the excess chocolate and residue have been removed, we can run the garment through a wash cycle at the hottest temperature of water that’s safe for the fabric. Add detergent directly on the stain, including oxygen bleach if applicable. 

What to Use to Remove Chocolate Stains

Another popular agent used for spot-cleaning is hydrogen peroxide, a type of oxygen bleach. It’s highly reactive and can bleach jeans and bleed dark colors if not diluted or left for too long. It’s generally better to use a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, between 3% to 10% at most (3% to be safe). Even then it’s better to dilute it further in water and detergent, and carry out a test on a small inconspicuous spot on the garment before full application.

A natural alternative is distilled white vinegar. The standardized 5% acetic acid it contains is mild enough to not harm fabrics and can both brighten and clear stains. Vinegar is also best used on light alkaline stains. If used on acidic stains, it may actually help them set. 

To use this method, dilute one part distilled white vinegar with one part water before applying over the stain or soaking the garment. Let sit for 10 minutes and rinse off with water and detergent. Take note NEVER to mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide. It creates a corrosive mixture that is harmful to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

WD-40 is also a popular tool for dealing with chocolate stains, and you may even already have some in your cabinet. WD-40 is a lubricant and water displacer that can loosen oil and stains from the fibers of many different fabrics. However, WD-40 can sometimes leave an oily residue, itself, that needs to be removed afterwards. Therefore, it’s better to use it only on clothing that can be flushed through with warm soapy water rather than rugs or upholstery.

How To Remove Chocolate Stains From Clothes

For popular garments made of cotton, poly blends, polyester, spandex, and nylon we can do the same procedure of initial cleanup and spot-removing stains. First, get rid of any excess chocolate with a dull, flat object like a spoon, and remove as much oil and fat as you can by blotting the stain with a clean dry cloth or paper towel. If you can’t find a dull, blunt object, you can just use the paper towel.

Apply a bit of enzyme cleaner directly on the stain and sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch over it. Lightly press the powder against the fabric’s surface and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Brush off any clumps and apply more enzyme cleaner directly on the stain. Figuring out how to get chocolate stains out of clothes can involve some trial and error, so also prepare some patience.

Prepare a cool wash mixed with an enzyme cleaner and soak the garment for 10 to 20 minutes. Flush the stain with cool water from behind the fabric and run it through another wash at the hottest temperature safe for the fabric, mixed with an enzyme cleaner and oxygen bleach.

For delicate fabrics like wool, silk, linen, rayon, and acrylic, most of the steps will be the same. However, the detergent used must be labeled ‘mild’ or specifically formulated for delicate fabrics. This is because enzyme detergent can destroy the proteins in these materials, ruining them. We also leave out oxygen bleach and wash the garments only at cool and warm temperatures, which are safer for them.

How To Remove Chocolate Stains From Carpet

There’s a danger of introducing mildew growth and fading colors when cleaning carpets. That’s why it’s better to leave the washing to professionals. However, if that’s not an option then we have some recommendations for spot-cleaning techniques that keep the use of water to a minimum.

The variety of weaves and type of rug in question can reveal the material they are made of. This general guide will give an idea of the rug’s material and the ideal cleaning approach. For example, flatweaves are usually made of cotton, polyester, or wool/cotton. On the other hand, low-pile weaves are usually made of polyester, polypropylene, or wool, and high-pile weaves are likely made of polypropylene or wool.

Start by removing as much chocolate from the fibers as possible and blot off as much of the oil and fats with a clean cloth or paper towel. Just like before, apply and press either baking soda or cornstarch to the fibers (but do not rub them in) to clump up fats, oils, and grease, and let it all sit for at least 15 minutes. The longer the alkaline can be left, the better the effect.

Brush off clumped residue and do a test application of your chosen detergent for any color runs. Avoid using enzyme cleaners on protein-based fabrics as it will degrade them, as detailed in the section above. Do not apply detergent directly on the rug, but apply it onto a clean damp cloth, paper towel, or sponge and blot against the stain on the rug. Excess moisture should be wiped off with a clean dry cloth or paper towel.

If the stain persists, blot it with a clean damp cloth or paper towel with an application of a small amount of dish soap or light detergent that is safe for the material. Don’t apply any pressure or you might push the chocolate further into the fibers. Clean the area off by wiping the area across with a clean warm damp towel.

Apply more baking soda and let sit overnight. These steps should be carried out while the stains are fresh for the best results. Do not attempt to put rugs through a dryer, as rugs made of synthetic materials could melt. Also, do not use vinegar as leftover acetic acid could cause colors to fade.

For getting out stubborn chocolate stains, hydrogen peroxide can also be useful in breaking up and lifting chocolate. Even though it’s considered a mild form of bleach, it’s best to test it on a small inconspicuous area to make sure colors do not fade. A popular method is to mix 3% hydrogen peroxide in a light detergent and baking soda mix. This mixture can penetrate deep into fabrics and speeds up the oxidization that breaks up difficult stains.

How to Get Chocolate Off Upholstery

The fabrics used in upholstery will vary and determine your choice of detergents. For protein-based fabrics, avoid using enzyme detergents. With upholstery, it’s better to carry out spot-cleaning techniques because the furniture backings act as barriers that make water-reliant techniques difficult. Like rugs, there is a danger of mildew growing if the leftover moisture is not addressed.

So first, remove as much excess chocolate as possible with a flat dull object, then blot with a clean dry cloth or paper towel to remove oil. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch and lightly press against the chocolate-stained surface. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and allow the fats, oil, and grease to clump up; longer is better.

Brush off clumped residue, and just like with rugs, do not apply detergent directly. Do a spot clean and apply detergent to cool damp cloths, paper towel, or sponges, and gently press against the chocolate stain. Avoid pressing too hard, and then dry the wet spots of the fabric with a clean dry cloth or paper towel. Repeat the blotting and drying until the stain is gone, and avoid adding heat (i.e. do not use a blow dryer on chocolate stains).

Alternatively, create a mix of 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and detergent, spray directly on fabric, and blot to dry excess moisture. Despite being considered fabric-safe, test the spray mixture on an inconspicuous area to ensure no color runs.

How to Get Chocolate Out of Clothes (Without Washing)

Cleaning chocolate stains off without washing involves careful spot-cleaning. Namely, direct application of detergents and baking soda to stains can break down enzymic and oil stains. Application and drying can be done through blotting with a clean cloth or even a cotton Q-tip.

Instead of flushing the stains with water, you can attempt to soften them by blotting them with a clean damp cloth or sponge. Filling a spray bottle with a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and detergent also creates a powerful tough stain remover that can be easily applied with accuracy. Cleaning agents can be applied directly to the stains and left to sit, but it’s important to first spot-check to determine that they’re safe for the material.

How to Get Out Old Chocolate Stains

Chocolate stains that have sat for some time can spread as the chocolate melts and sets into the fibers of the fabrics. Extended exposure to the air will cause the fats and oils to oxidize, making them saturate the fibers and possibly lead to discoloration.

To remove old chocolate stains, first you’ll need to soften any chocolate with a warm damp towel or sponge, and scrape off as much chocolate as possible. Blot with a clean dry cloth and sprinkle with baking soda. Let sit for 10-30 minutes or longer, and scrape everything off. Blot any remaining cocoa stain with enzyme cleaner or light detergent to break down remaining proteins and tannins. Let this sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and dry off with a paper towel, repeating as needed.

Finally, if the cacao stain persists, try spot-cleaning with oxygen bleach and 3% hydrogen peroxide to penetrate and agitate the fibers to lift stains and cut through the fats. For clothing you can pre-soak the garments with a diluted mixture of detergent and oxygen bleach for 8 hours before doing a wash cycle at the hottest temperatures safe for the fabric.

How to Get Out Dark Chocolate Stains

Dark chocolate stains contain more tannins due to the high cacao content. Avoid hot water that could set such protein-based stains, especially into white clothes. Enzyme detergent is effective in warmer and cooler water temperatures, and contains proteases that will break down the proteins that have attached themselves to the staining tannins.

Surfactants in detergent help loosen and isolate the tannic compounds from the fibers so that they’re easier to flush out. Soaking in oxygen bleach can help accelerate the breakdown of chocolate compounds, making it easier for detergents to do their job. The same principles apply to a hot chocolate stain, assuming it’s dairy-free.

How to Get Out Milk Chocolate Stains

Milk chocolate stains involve higher levels of sugars, starches, fats, and proteins, with fewer tannins to stain. Apply enzyme detergent directly over the milk chocolate stain to break it down. Then sprinkle and lightly press baking soda or cornstarch against the fabric to clump up more fat and oils, and let sit for 15-30 minutes.

Scrape off clumped residues and flush the fabric with cool water (from behind if possible). Apply more enzyme detergent to the stain and soak it in warm water and oxygen bleach. The same principles would apply to a chocolate milk stain or a chocolate ice cream stain.

How to Get Out White Chocolate Stains

White chocolate contains sugar, starch, protein from milk, and a lot of cacao butter. Purely made up of fat, cacao butter melts at body temperature and is insoluble in water. You can rub ice against the fabric where the white chocolate stain is located to solidify any remaining cacao butter to be scraped off. 

If the white chocolate stain is still warm, blot with a clean dry cloth or paper towel to remove excess fat. Apply an enzyme detergent directly on the stain, as the lipases will break down the fats. Sprinkle on baking soda or cornstarch and lightly press against the stain to clump up any remaining oils. Scrape off the residue, apply more enzyme detergent, and soak in warm water and oxygen bleach. The same principles apply to ruby chocolate stains.

Craft chocolate bar Pump Street Bakery White Chocolate 44% Madagascar Front of Bar Closeup

3 Natural Cleaning Solutions to Remove Chocolate Stains

  1. Rubbing an alkaline powder like baking soda or cornstarch against chocolate stains can help draw out fats that can otherwise saturate fabric fibers. White chalk also works well.
  2. Distilled white vinegar is another effective stain remover. The acetic acid that gives it its tang will also break down fatty compounds, but is mild enough to use on dyed fabrics.
  3. Salt can be used as a natural abrasive that assists in loosening chocolate stains from fabric. Use it alongside detergent to enhance both’s efficacy.

5 General Tips For Chocolate Stain Removal

  1. Chocolate melts at body temperature. Keep it from spreading by keeping it solid and scraping off as much as possible before resorting to washing machines and detergents. I recommend using ice to solidify the cacao butter.
  2. Chocolate stains contain proteins that could permanently set if washed or dried right away at hot temperatures. It’s best to keep water temperatures to 86°F (30°C) at most before the final wash.
  3. Lift as much chocolate as possible off the fabric and repeat spot-cleaning pretreatment techniques before resorting to a wash.
  4. Creating a hydrogen peroxide spray is effective, but keep concentrations at or below 3%, and do test applications to make sure the mixture does not bleach or fade colors.
  5. Knowing the fabric’s material is important. Many effective chocolate stain removers attack proteins that are also present in delicate fabrics like silk and wool, which can lead to damaged fibers.

Chocolate Stain Removal FAQ

Do you wash chocolate stains in hot or cold water?

Assuming much of the chocolate has been scraped off, you should first wash the chocolate in cold water at 86°F (30°C) at most to prevent it from spreading onto other areas. After the enzyme detergents have done their job and discoloration has been avoided, the garment can be washed in hotter water to improve the efficacy of detergents.

Does OxiClean remove chocolate stains?

Cacao nibs are a less processed but markedly less sweet version of dark chocolate. Because they contain no sugar, which both sweetens and softens the impact of cacao’s flavor, cocoa nibs will taste sharper and probably less appetizing than their enticing aroma might suggest.

Does vinegar remove chocolate stains?

Yes! Specifically distilled white vinegar is the best choice for a natural cleaner. It’s colorless and contains acetic acid that can help break down stains, but is mild enough for use on colorfast fabrics.

Does hydrogen peroxide remove chocolate stains?

Yes! Hydrogen peroxide is more commonly known as an antiseptic. However it’s also a milder, more environmentally-friendly substitute for chlorine bleach, as it only breaks down into water and oxygen. It can break down chocolate stains, and is activated by light, heat, salts, minerals, enzymes, and more. However, it does tend to bleach jeans and fade dark colors.

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