man spraying perfume

Does Perfume Stain Clothes?

I have a habit of being overly generous with my perfume, revelling in the enduring fragrance that uplifts my spirits and transforms my day. Yet, an unnoticed detail recently caught my attention: tiny droplets left behind on my clothing post-spritz.

This got me thinking if my ritual of dousing my wrists, neck and attire in scent might be a double-edged sword. Could it be that in my quest to envelope myself in aromatic bliss, I was inadvertently damaging my outfits with fragrant-filled specks?

So, does perfume mark clothes?

The answer is that perfume can potentially stain clothes. As a guide, whether or not your garments will end up tainted by perfume boils down to two factors: the ingredients in the perfume you use and what material your clothes are made from.

Some perfumes are stronger (more concentrated) than others, meaning they’re more likely to stain.

However, some materials are more susceptible to perfume stains than others. So, depending on what blend of clothes and perfume you wear on the day, you could end up with stains, or nothing will happen.

Let’s look at this in more detail.


Will Perfume Stain Your Clothes?

perfume bottle on blue suit

Perfume can sometimes stain clothes. However, whether or not it does will depend on the following variables.

1. The ingredients typically found in perfume

What’s in the perfume will significantly affect whether or not the fragrance will stain your garment.

Take note of the following common ingredients:


Many perfumes contain alcohol, which can sometimes leave little spots on clothes. However, in most cases, alcohol can be cleaned off garments with minimal effort.

You have to be careful when handling delicate materials, though; they don’t react well with most products and can occasionally end up stained.


Oils and dyes

vintage perfume bottle

In addition to alcohol, several perfumes contain traces of oil and dyes. As you might know, oil will leave greasy deposits on clothes, which can be a little troubling to remove.

It is, however, the dyes that cause the most issues. The dyes add an artificial colour to the perfume. So, when they come into contact with light-coloured garments, they can leave a blemish behind.

Funnily enough, my aunt found this out the hard way, when she recently sprayed a dye-filled luxury perfume onto her white top! As it happens, she saved the top from permanent damage.

These dyeing effects can be worse on light-coloured, delicate materials that don’t handle greasy stains and dye very well.



In order to get a longer-lasting scent, perfume oils are mixed with alcohol to create a more intense odour. Naturally, the more oil that gets added to the mix, the more concentrated the perfume becomes.

Eau de toilette typically contains less oil (approximately 10%) than eau de parfum (15-20%). So, if you want to wear something less concentrated, go for the toilette version. The scent might not last as long, but it won’t blemish your clothes as bad.

However, if you want to try a weaker option, you could choose something like eau fraiche. It contains a lot of water, has a low alcohol content, and isn’t very concentrated.


2. Fabrics and their stain susceptibility

In addition to the perfume’s ingredients, you must consider what material you’ve squirted the scent onto.

Some materials can withstand perfume better than others. Consequently, they won’t be tainted by stains. Take note of the following:

Delicate fabrics

woman spraying perfume on neck

Materials like silk, wool, and satin are particularly susceptible to perfume stains. The oils and dyes in the perfume can penetrate and get absorbed by the delicate fibres fairly quickly and can leave a blemish behind. Hence, these delicate materials don’t react well with perfume.


Synthetic fabrics

Although delicate materials tend to suffer the most with perfume stains, manufactured fibres don’t always fare well when squirted with too much oily, dye-ridden fragrance.

Synthetics might be able to withstand a perfume’s effects for longer. But the materials are not immune and can end up stained if you’re not careful. Perfume mainly affects the lighter-coloured synthetics.


White and light-coloured materials

woman in white dress spraying perfume

Clothes that are light in colour are most likely to feel the effects of the dye found in perfume. This is why they are highly likely to be stained by the squirty fragrance.


Less susceptible materials

Darker, patterned clothes can hide perfume stains better. They can, therefore, reduce the visible impact of stains. For example, I wear dark-coloured jumpers and rarely notice my Just Pink perfume on my outfit.

However, I can’t say the same for my lighter-coloured, semi-sheer garments. They have been known to be covered in specks of perfume, but I have been able to remove the marks, though. 

In addition, treated clothes, like those with a water-proof coating, are less likely to be affected by perfume stains because they’re supposed to repel liquid.


Are Perfume Stains Permanent?

spraying perfume on neck

The good news is that most perfume stains can be treated and removed from outfits with a little elbow grease and patience. The faster you react and deal with the stain, the better your chances are of eradicating the blemish, too.

Even tricky stains can be treated. Say you sprayed a highly concentrated Parfum onto a silk blouse and end up with a greasy speckled stain.

If you react quickly, you should be able to rescue your blouse. You might have to treat it more than once, but that shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Of course, if the very worst-case scenario happens, say you tip a bottle of concentrated parfum onto your delicate satin scarf, and you don’t bother treating the blemish, then you might have a damaged item on your hands. You might be able to dull the appearance of the mark by treating it a few times, but some discolouration might have set in.

Always make a conscious effort to react quickly to a perfume stain and to treat it properly.


How to Remove Perfume Stains from Clothes

perfume stain on clothes

Removing perfume stains from washable fabrics

Steps to follow:

  1. Grab some cotton wool balls.
  2. Soak the wool balls in cold water.
  3. Wring the wool balls out.
  4. Repeatedly dab the perfume stain – use a new wool ball if the current ball gets dirty.
  5. If the stain is fresh, you can try laundering your garment after carrying out the dabbing steps above.
  6. Continue with this method for slightly tougher perfume stains.
  7. Pop some gloves on.
  8. Mix one teaspoon of glycerin, one teaspoon of washing-up liquid and eight teaspoons of water in a shallow bowl (adjust the mixture for more extensive stains and follow this dose – use one part glycerin, one part washing-up liquid and eight parts water).
  9. Mix thoroughly.
  10. Put a cloth behind the stain to stop the liquid from running through the material.
  11. Suck up some of the liquid into a pipette – this will give you control when pouring the liquid.
  12. Do a patch test: Pop a small amount of the liquid onto a discreet patch of clothing – continue if all is well. Stop if there’s a problem.
  13. Apply the liquid to the perfume stain using the pipette.
  14. Fold a piece of kitchen roll up and put it on the perfume stain – the paper will absorb the liquid and the stain.
  15. Wait ten minutes or so.
  16. Swap the old piece of kitchen roll for a new piece when it gets too wet.
  17. Wait ten minutes or so.
  18. Repeat Steps 16 and 17 until the piece of kitchen roll doesn’t absorb anymore liquid. 
  19. Launder your garment if the perfume stain is gone.
  20. Continue with this method if the stain is still present – rinse the garment in cold water before you proceed.
  21. Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol into a shallow dish.
  22. Dab a cotton wool ball into the alcohol.
  23. Do a patch test on a discreet piece of material. Continue with these steps if all is well. Stop if there’s a problem.
  24. Blot the perfume stain with the cotton wool ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  25. Fold a piece of kitchen roll up and put it on the perfume stain – the paper will absorb the rubbing alcohol and the stain.
  26. Wait ten minutes or so.
  27. Swap the old piece of kitchen roll for a new piece.
  28. Wait ten minutes or so.
  29. Repeat Steps 24 to 28 until no more liquid is absorbed by the piece of kitchen roll and the stain is gone.
  30. Flush cold water through the back of the garment.
  31. Optional: Soak the stained item in a bucket of cold water and bicarbonate of soda for 15 minutes before washing.
  32. Launder the garment as usual.


Removing perfume stains from delicate fabrics

Steps to follow:

  1. Flush water through the back of the perfume stain – do this for a few minutes.
  2. Do a patch test with some glycerin – pop a small amount on a discreet patch of clothing. If all is well, continue with the steps below. Stop if there’s an issue.
  3. Use a pipette to put a few drops of glycerin onto the perfume stain.
  4. Wait a minute or two.
  5. Flush water through the back of the perfume stain – do this for a few minutes.
  6. Launder the piece if the stain has gone. Continue with the steps below if the stain is still present.
  7. In a bowl, mix one part white vinegar with one part water.
  8. Do a patch test with the solution – pop a small amount on a discreet patch of clothing. If all is well, continue with the steps below. Stop if there’s an issue.
  9. Dip a neutral-coloured cloth into the solution.
  10. Repeatedly blot at the perfume stain.
  11. Rinse the garment clean with cold water.
  12. Launder the piece if the stain has gone. Continue with the steps below if the stain is still present.
  13. Pour a small amount of denatured alcohol onto a clean, neutral-coloured cloth.
  14. Do a patch test with the denatured alcohol – pop a small amount on a discreet patch of clothing. If all is well, continue with the steps below. Stop if there’s an issue.
  15. Repeatedly blot the perfume stain.
  16. Flush water through the back of the perfume stain – do this for a few minutes.
  17. Launder the garment.


Removing perfume stains from ‘dry clean only’ fabrics

dry clean only

If you’ve got an item of clothing that’s ‘dry clean only’, take it to a dry cleaner to get it professionally cleaned.

Of course, you can buy DIY kits to dry clean garments at home. But it’s usually easier and better for your outfit if you get a professional to tend to it.

You can find a dry cleaner by doing a quick online search. Just pick a reputable company with plenty of glowing reviews.


How Do You Apply Perfume Without Staining Your Clothes?

man spraying perfume on wrist

Here are some tips to keep in mind when applying perfume:

  • Pop your perfume on before getting dressed.
  • Allow your perfume to dry, and then get dressed.
  • Spray the perfume onto yourself from a distance.
  • Don’t spray your perfume directly onto your garments, especially ones made from delicate materials.
  • Use a less concentrated version of perfume.
  • Spray perfume onto your wrists and rub them together.
  • You could always do a patch test before you spray perfume onto yourself. A quick discreet test will tell you if the perfume is going to react with the material or not. Once you’ve completed the test and gathered information, you can choose how to move forward.