Removing Peanut Butter from Nubby Upholstery/Fabric

Dear Home-Ec101,

My husband dripped peanut butter on our nubby weave couch and rubbed it in when he tried to clean it off. Can you tell me and your readers how to get messes like this out without further ruining the upholstery?

Excuse the Mess, We Just Live Here

I dream of the day when stain resistant materials actually are, don’t you? Do you hear that fabric manufacturers? We don’t need paparazzi defeating jackets, we need comfortable, attractive fabrics that laugh in the face of peanut butter.

Until then, peanut butter can be a tricky mess to deal with as not only do you have the solids to contend with, but also the oily residue left behind. 

As with any stain, we will work from the mildest solution to the harshest. Sure strong chemicals may work really well, but if it reduces the lifespan of the couch, they may not be the best choice.

Step One: Cornstarch

From your letter, it sounds like the bulk of the solids have been removed and now you’re dealing with the remaining oil. The first thing to try is cornstarch or if you have it, dry shampoo. Both substances soak up oil and grease. Get an old toothbrush and gently work the cornstarch into the stain. Please note that I’m not suggested you scrub the area. Gently tap the cornstarch into the fabric so that it can work between the fibers, drawing out the oil. This isn’t a fast process and it might take a few attempts before giving up and moving on to the next step. Vacuum up all of the cornstarch before proceeding. Don’t use a rotating brush, just the end of the hose, if you lack the right attachments. 

Step two: Dish soap

If there is still an oily stain, pick up some of the plain blue Dawn dish soap. Make sure it is not the kind with bleach, but the one they advertise as used to rescue wildlife that has run afoul of an oil spill. Even if it is safe for waterfowl, you’ll want to test it on an inconspicuous area of your couch. Not many couches have been rescued from Deep Horizon, so we don’t have much documentation.

Once you’re sure it won’t harm the fabric, dab a few drops of the soap onto the stain and remove by blotting with a wet cloth. (Wet, not dripping, but not nearly wrung dry, either). Dab gently until all of the soap has been removed. The goal here is to remove the soap without tearing up the fibers.

Important: Dry thoroughly

Do you have access to a wet/dry shop-vac? You can use that to extract the remaining water. You don’t want to leave the area wet or you’ll just invite mildew to the party.  No shop-vac? No problem. Just get a dry towel and continue blotting. If the stain is on a horizontal surface, you can fold the towel over several times and place your husband some heavy books to wick the water from the couch to the towel. If it’s on the side of the couch, set up a box fan to blow on the area until it is fully dry.

Step 3: Ammonia

If the stain is STILL there, you have my sympathy, but there is one more thing to try. Dilute ammonia. Mix two tablespoons of ammonia with one liter of water. Put on gloves. Dampen a clean rag with the solution and test in an inconspicuous location. No color damage? Great. Proceed to dab the spot with the damp rag until the stain is gone. Then remove the ammonia solution with a rag dampened with only water and follow the above procedure to remove the water.

Step 4: Acceptance

If that doesn’t work, invest in some throw pillows and try to let it go. 

Send your questions to

How to remove spilled peanut butter from nubby fabric

1 Comment

  1. Michael on April 4, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I can honestly say that you have hit upon a subject I never expected to see in my in-box! Peanut butter on nubby fabrics … I always thought you just let the dog lick it off. 🙂

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