Napkin and Tablecloth Stain Removal Tips

Updated on: May 20 2013

Restaurant tablecloths and napkins see some of the worst wear and tear of any hotel linen. While the stains commonly found on bed and bathroom linen are made up of mostly the same chemicals, the ingredients in table linen stains can vary massively and require a variety of different methods to help get them out. Leave them too long or tackle them incorrectly and there’s every chance your beautiful table linen will be instantly ruined or will dwindle in quality over time. Below we’ll go through some of our best napkin and tablecloth stain removal tips so your table linen will always look as good as new!

Click here for a list of our main linen types and stain removal tips to help you keep them looking fresh and new.


Any hotel, bed and breakfast or restaurant that sees women pass through their doors are bound to find at least one piece of table linen with a lipstick stain on it. Our favourite stain removal tip for lipstick from napkins is:

  • Place the napkin face down on top of paper towels or paper napkins.
  • Use rubbing alcohol (70 or 90%) and dampen another towel with it. Blot the area of the stain repeatedly.
  • Keep going until all the stain is removed and has been transferred to the paper towel underneath.

Long-lasting lipsticks may require a bit more attention. Try repeating each step again and then rinsing. Then simply launder as usual.

Tea and coffee

There aren’t many stains that are more unsightly than those of tea and coffee. The good news, however, is they’re two of the easiest to remove! Since they’re water based, weak tea and coffee stains can actually come out during washing or by pouring boiling water through the stain to drain it out. More stubborn stains do require a bit more attention:

  • Gently dab the area clean with water to lessen the stain, but be careful not to rub the fabric as this will push the stain further into the weave.
  • Fill a spray bottle with equal parts of white vinegar and water and spray the affected area whilst rubbing into the stain.
  • Rinse gently with cold water then launder as usual.

Red wine

The key to removing a red wine stain is to tackle it whilst wet, although we understand this is not always an option. The best to remove red wine from your linen is to stretch the stained area over a bowl and pour boiling water directly over the stain. Other methods include baking soda, white wine, and vinegar washes.

Oily stains

Oil based food stuffs like salad dressing, gravy and butter are tricky to remove. They may at first appear to have come out following a normal wash, but over time, the linen can become stained and yellow. To tackle an oily stain:

  • Sprinkle salt onto the stain as soon as possible to soak up some of the excess grease.
  • Pre-treat with a pre-wash stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent.
  • Place heavy stains face down onto clean paper towels and apply a cleaning agent to the back of the stain. Just remember to replace the paper towels frequently.
  • Let the stain dry, rinse it and launder using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.

Candle wax

Candles are a great way of adding a relaxed and romantic atmosphere to a room, but they’re also a pain for dripping onto table linen!

But there’s no need to panic, simply follow the steps below:

  • When it’s dry, gently scrape off as much of the candlewax as possible with a dull knife –  if it’s particularly stubborn, put the affected table linen in the freezer until the wax hardens up.
  • Place a towel onto your ironing board with your tablecloth on top, then take a paper bag or sheet of brown paper and lay it over the wax stain.
  • Run a hot iron over the area to transfer the wax from the tablecloth onto the paper. Repeat the process until the wax is completely removed.
  • If the stain persists, pre-treat it and wash your linen according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Have you got any napkin and tablecloth stain removal tips that we didn’t mention here? Comment below and share your knowledge!

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Hilden Team
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Hilden Team

Hilden Team

Michelle Pegg is the Assurance and Compliance Manager at Hilden Linens.