10 Quick Ways to Remove Makeup Stains


You could say makeup is the stuff of life. It makes us feel happy. It lets us change our image with a few brushstrokes. It perks us up when we’re feeling tired and gives us a confidence boost when we’re not feeling attractive. No wonder the global cosmetic industry is forecast to hit $265 billion by 2017!

But do you know when makeup isn’t so great? When it gets on your clothes. Or, on your boyfriend’s clothes. That lipstick that made you feel like a million bucks doesn’t seem so hot when smeared all over your brand-new sweater. Do you know what to do when makeup shows up where it doesn’t belong? Here are 10 quick ways to remove makeup stains.

1. Lipstick

Lipstick wound up on your boyfriend’s collar again? Or maybe you decided to change shirts after you put your lipstick on? Not to worry; most lipstick stains can be banished. If you catch it right when it happens, try a baby wipe. Dab, don’t rub. If you don’t have a baby wipe, dampen a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol or ammonia, and dab the stain (be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area garment). If the stain is still visible, try a liquid dish detergent. They’re designed to break down oils, so they often do a great job with oil-based stains. That’s why they’re used to clean animals rescued from oil spills. Once you’ve removed most of the stain, spritz on a stain remover and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, wash it according to the instructions on the tag.

2. Non-oil-based makeup (powder blush, foundation, or eye shadow)

Makeup stains that aren’t oil-based can often be removed with just laundry detergent. Dab on some liquid detergent, let it sit for a few minutes, and gently rub with a toothbrush. After that, spritz with stain remover. Let the garment sit for 10 minutes; then wash as usual.

3. Liquid or cream foundation

Like lipstick, liquid foundation is usually oil-based. That means the same products you use on lipstick should work on liquid foundation, too: baby wipes, rubbing alcohol, ammonia, and stain remover. The sooner you treat the stain, the better chance you have of getting it all out. And never dry a garment with a makeup stain! If you can still see the stain after you wash the item, go back and start the process over again.

4. Powder foundation

It’s tempting to just brush powder off of your clothing, but you could make things worse by grinding it in. Instead, get rid of excess powder by blowing on it. Once you’ve done that, treat any remaining stain with a combination of water and white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes; then wash as usual.

5. Mascara

If you have a mascara stain on your clothing, get out the eye makeup remover. It sounds obvious, but a lot of people never think to try it on their clothes. If any stain remains, try one of the methods described above for oil-based stains: rubbing alcohol, ammonia, dish detergent, or a commercial stain remover.

6. Eye shadow/liner

First, blow off any excess powder; don’t rub, or you’ll set in the stain. After you’ve removed any loose makeup, try using a toothbrush to gently rub in a mixture of water and white vinegar. Then spray with stain remover and wash as usual.

More: 10 Tips for Choosing the Right Eye Shadow

7. Self-tanner

If your skin looks great, but your clothes are spotting orange streaks, treat the stain as soon as possible. That means drop what you’re doing and go to work saving your favorite shirt. Try dish detergent first; squirt some on and let it sit. If you can still see the stain, try applying some hydrogen peroxide with a toothbrush. After that, add stain remover and wash as usual. Just remember to inspect the garment before you put it in the dryer; drying a stain can make it next to impossible to remove. If you can still see the stain, go back to the beginning (dish detergent) and run through all of the steps again.

More: 10 Ways to Simplify Your Makeup Routine

8. Nail polish

Nail polish stains are tough. The first step is to find out whether you can use nail polish remover. If the garment is made of acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic, the answer is “no”. An acetate-based polish remover will dissolve the fabric along with the polish, so you’ll need to take it to a dry cleaner. For other washable fabrics, lay a clean towel under the stained area and, with a clean cloth soaked in polish remover, dab the stain. The stain will transfer to the cloth, so be sure to keep switching to a clean spot as you work. If you can still see the stain, try the same technique with rubbing alcohol.

9. Hair color

Hair color is one of the hardest things to remove. Speed is key. First, soak the stain in a mixture of water and vinegar for about 15 minutes. Then, apply a stain remover, and wash the garment as usual. If the stain is still there after washing, don’t dry it. Add a teaspoon of ammonia to one cup of water, dampen a clean cloth, and dab the stain. Any remaining stain should transfer to the cloth. Rinse thoroughly, and then wash as usual.

More: 10 Tips to Make Hot Oil Hair Treatment

10. Hair spray

If you accidentally spritz your shirt, soak the area in warm water with a little vinegar. Then treat with stain remover, and wash as usual.

Makeup is a lot of fun, but mishaps are inevitable. If you have the right items on hand (hint: go buy them now so you’ll have them if you need them) and try these techniques, you should be able to banish almost any makeup stain.