charcoal on white shirt

How to Get Charcoal Out of Clothes

Barbecues, picnics, and outdoor gatherings are quintessential parts of British summers. And what better way to enjoy these gatherings than with delicious, albeit slightly burnt, food cooked over charcoal?

However, the joy of a successful barbecue can sometimes be spoilt by an accidental mishap – charcoal stains on your clothes.

Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a casual BBQ enthusiast, charcoal stains can be a common occurrence.

But fear not! In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to effectively remove charcoal stains from your clothes, ensuring that your attire remains spotless and ready for the next summer soiree.

The key to successfully removing charcoal stains is acting swiftly. The longer the stain sits, the more it can set into the fabric, making it harder to remove.

As soon as you notice a charcoal stain on your clothing, it’s essential to start the stain removal process.


Step 1: Remove Loose Charcoal Particles

brush off loose stain

Begin by gently shaking or brushing off any loose charcoal particles from the clothing. Be careful not to rub the stain, as this could cause the particles to embed deeper into the fabric.

Just shake the clothing or give it a brush with a cleaning brush. You aren’t trying to remove everything in this step, just the loose charcoal.

So, there’s no need to press hard or shake it off like Ms. Swift; just remove what you can.

If the charcoal stain is particularly large or thick, you can use a blunt knife (like a butter knife, for example) or the edge of a credit card to carefully scrape off the excess charcoal from the fabric.

If the fabric is delicate, or you’ve had a few happy drinks during the BBQ, perhaps skip this step and move on to pre-treating it.


Step 2: Pre-Treat the Stain

stain treatment

Before washing the stained garment, it’s crucial to pre-treat the charcoal stain.

While this may seem a bit over the top for a little stain, the pre-treatment ensures fantastic results. Here’s how to pre-treat your stained clothes:

Blot with a clean towel

Place a clean white cloth or piece of paper towel underneath the stained area (this will prevent the stain from spreading onto the other side of the clothing).

Using another clean cloth, blot the stain gently. Avoid rubbing, as this could push the stain deeper.


Apply washing-up liquid

Dampen the stained area with cold water. Then, apply a small amount of washing-up liquid directly onto the stain.

Gently rub the fabric together to work in the soap. Washing-up liquid is a mild degreaser and will help to break down the grease and oil present in charcoal stains.


Let it sit

Allow the washing-up liquid to sit on the stain for about 10-15 minutes. This gives the soap time to penetrate the stain and loosen its grip on the fabric fibres.


Step 3: Wash the Stained Clothing

gray pillowcase in the washing machine

Once you’ve pre-treated the charcoal stain, it’s time to wash the clothing. This step is nice and simple, but some care should be taken. Here’s what to do next.

Check care labels

Before proceeding, always check the care label on your clothing to ensure that it can be washed using the method you choose. You’ve come this far; you don’t want to ruin your clothing at the last hurdle.


Temperature matters

Wash the garment in cold water using the coldest setting your washing machine can be set to. If you use a hot setting, this can actually set the stain and make it extremely difficult to remove.


Avoid heat

Do not tumble dry the garment until you are sure the stain is completely removed. The heat from the tumble dryer can set the stain permanently.

It’s best to let the clothes dry naturally on an airer or washing line after the washing cycle. While you may not see the stain when the clothing is wet, it can still be visible.

Once you are completely sure the stain has gone, you can tumble dry your clothes as normal.


Additional Tips for Stubborn Stains

shirt stain, baking soda and vinegar

While the methods above work great for removing most charcoal stains, some can be trickier than others.

If you’ve let a charcoal stain sit for a while, or you had a night to remember and got a pesky stain as your reward, here are some additional methods you can try to remove stubborn charcoal stains.

  • Vinegar solution: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, and gently blot the stain with the solution using a clean cloth. Wash the piece of clothing as usual afterwards.
  • Bicarbonate of soda paste: Make a paste using bicarbonate of soda and water. Apply the paste to the stain, gently rub, and let it sit for 10-15 mins before washing.


Preventing Stains in the Future

apron and barbecue tools

We’re all for having a good time during the summer. And, let’s face it, is there anything more fun than a BBQ, beers and great company? We think not!

However, prevention is always better than cure. To avoid charcoal stains in the future, consider the following tips:

  • Wearing an apron while grilling can protect your clothing from stains.
  • Opt for darker clothing when you know you’ll be around charcoal or grilling.
  • If a stain does occur, attend to it immediately to prevent it from setting.


In Conclusion

charcoal powder

Charcoal stains might seem like a formidable challenge, but with the right approach and a little bit of effort, they can be effectively removed from your clothes.

Remember, swift action is the key. Pre-treat the stain, wash the garment with care, and consider the additional methods above if needed.

With these steps, you can confidently throw your next BBQ, knowing that your clothes will remain stain-free and ready for a summer filled with outdoor fun.