Makeup is a fantastic tool to enhance our features and boost our confidence, but wearing it increases the chances of it finding its way onto your clothing.
Accidents happen, and makeup stains on clothes can be pretty frustrating. Whether it’s foundation, lipstick, mascara, or eyeshadow, the oil or pigment in makeup can leave a nasty stain that’s challenging to remove.
Fortunately, these stubborn stains can be removed from your clothes with the right tools and techniques.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to remove makeup from clothes using our tried-and-tested methods so that you can return your garments to their original state.
Using a Stain Remover to Remove Makeup from Clothes
When removing makeup from clothes, time is of the essence. The sooner you start treating the stain, the better your chance of completely removing it.
However, don’t go full steam ahead without determining what type of makeup has caused the marks on your clothes—different types of makeup require different stain-removal techniques.
For example, foundation comes in various forms. Some are oil-based, whereas others are oil-free liquids. Each formula requires a different stain removal approach.
Similarly, many lipstick formulas contain a combination of wax, oils, and pigments, each presenting a different challenge.
Here is a generic step-by-step guide on how to remove makeup from your clothes. Alternatively, in the sections below, you can find more specific guidelines for different makeup types that should produce more effective results.
- Step 1 – Remove excess makeup immediately: As soon as you notice your makeup has found its way onto your clothes, grab a dull knife or a spoon and gently scrape off what you can without rubbing the stain into the fabric.
- Step 2 – Pre-treat the makeup stain: Pour a stain remover directly onto the makeup stain to ensure the makeup mark is completely covered. Then, use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to spread the detergent into the fabric’s fibres.
- Step 3 – Leave to soak: Let the stain remover sit on the makeup stain for five minutes or as per the stain remover manufacturer’s instructions. This allows it to work deep into the material and lift the deeper-set makeup.
- Step 4 – Load the washing machine: Before washing, check the care label on the garment to ensure that you are washing it correctly so as not to damage the item. Then, place the makeup-stained garment in the washing machine with other items and add laundry detergent.
- Step 5 – Wash your clothes: Wash the load according to the care label. Once the wash cycle has been completed, assess the stain and repeat the previous steps if needed. Do not use the dryer until the makeup is completely removed, as this will set the stain.
How to Get Liquid Foundation Out of Clothes
The staple of any beauty regimen is the perfect liquid foundation, available in two primary forms: (1) oil-based foundation and (2) silicone or water-based foundation.
Regardless of their base, foundation stains can all be removed using a similar method:
- Using a paper towel, gently blot away any excess foundation from your clothes.
- Rinse the stained area with lukewarm water to help dilute the foundation.
- Pretreat the stain using either:
- For oil-based foundation stains: Use washing-up liquid and rub it into the stain with your fingers. This will help to break down the oil.
- For silicone- or water-based foundation stains: Pre-treat the stain with laundry detergent, gently working the detergent into the stain with your fingers.
- Let the washing-up liquid or laundry detergent sit and work on the stain for 20 minutes.
- If the stained garment is machine washable, wash the stained item in your washing machine. Hand wash the item with warm water if it can’t be machine washed.
- Unless the stain is entirely removed, do not tumble dry your clothes—this will cause the stain to set. Instead, air dry the garment or repeat the above steps until the makeup has gone.
How to Get Powder Foundation Stains Out of Clothes
Powder foundation is made from tiny particles of pigments and minerals that cling onto fabric fibres. Therefore, it needs a slightly different stain-removal method than liquid foundation.
- Shake off as much of the excess powder foundation as you can and gently brush away the rest using a soft brush, being careful not to spread it.
- Turn the garment inside out and spray the stain with warm water using a spray bottle.
- Using a soft clean brush (e.g. a makeup brush), pretreat the stain by working liquid washing detergent into the makeup mark. Let the detergent sit and work on the stain for 20 minutes.
- Without rinsing the pre-treatment off, wash the garment using the recommended washing instructions on the care label.
- Remove your clothes from the machine and hang them to air-dry naturally. Do not tumble dry your clothes unless the stain is fully removed.
How to Get Lipstick Out of Clothes
For lipstick to remain vibrant and stay in place, it includes oily ingredients and bright pigments. These characteristics make it among the hardest makeup stains to remove.
For the best chances of success, try removing lipstick from clothes using the method below:
- Use a butter knife to remove excess lipstick from your clothes, being careful not to spread the stain or embed it deeper into the material.
- Gently massage washing-up liquid into the stain. If the lipstick has smeared or appears to be deep into the fabric, use a soft-bristle nylon brush to work the washing-up liquid in.
- Let the washing-up liquid sit for 15 minutes to break down the oil and wax in the lipstick. Rinse the soapy residue off after the time is up.
- If coloured dye remains, saturate the stain using an oxygen-based bleach. Alternatively, try applying lemon juice or rubbing alcohol to the lipstick mark.
- Wash the garment either in the washing machine or by hand, depending on the care label instructions, and leave it to air dry.
- If the stain is still visible after it has dried, pre-treat the stained area and rewash it.
How to Get Mascara and Eyeliner Out of Clothes
Mascara and eyeliner stains typically consist of carbon black or iron oxide pigments, polymers, and a mix of dense waxes or oils that are hard to remove from fabrics.
Here is how you can effectively remove these substances from your clothes:
- Use a toothpick to carefully remove any excess mascara or eyeliner, preventing further smudging into the fabric.
- Lay a paper towel over the stain and place a makeup wipe on the opposite side.
- Gently massage the back of the stain with the makeup wipe, allowing the mascara/eyeliner to transfer to the paper towel.
- Change the paper towels as necessary until no more black pigment transfers, then rinse the stain from the back using hot water.
- Apply liquid laundry detergent to both sides of the stain, rubbing it in gently with a dishcloth. Rinse the stain from the back once more using hot water, and allow the garment to air dry.
- If the stain persists, switch to a grease-cutting dish soap and repeat the process.
General Tips for Removing Makeup from Clothes
As mentioned, it is crucial to understand the type of makeup you have spilt on your clothes and choose a stain-removal method accordingly for optimal results.
However, here are some additional stain removal rules that apply, regardless of the type of stain you’re dealing with:
- Dab and blot: Never scrub the stain using heavy pressure. Rubbing on a stain will only push the makeup further into the fabric fibres and spread it outwards. When removing excess makeup, gently dab and blot at the stain in order to remove it.
- Pre-treat and wash: Always pre-treat the stain before washing the entire garment. Work quickly to tackle the marks and wash stained clothing as soon as possible after pre-treating them to prevent discolouration.
- Avoid using the dryer: Unless confident the stain is no longer visible, never dry stained garments in a clothes dryer. Depending on the type of makeup, heat from the dryer can cause any remaining pigment to set permanently into the material.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals: Rather than using harsh commercial stain removers, opt for household cleaning products where possible that are as effective on your makeup stain. These are gentler on your clothes and better for the environment.
- Spot-test your stain remover: Before applying any stain remover or detergent to your clothes, test it on an inconspicuous area of the fabric. This allows you to ensure it won’t cause discolouration or damage to the material.
- Patience is key: Makeup is among the hardest stains to remove. Stubborn stains like this may require multiple attempts to completely remove from your clothes. Be patient and persistent in your stain removal efforts.
- Consider professional cleaning: If you’re struggling to remove a stubborn makeup stain, consider seeking professional dry cleaning services. Alternatively, throw your garment out and purchase a new one, being sure to follow our makeup stain prevention tips below.
Makeup Stains: Prevention and Maintenance
With the proper cleaning techniques and an in-depth understanding of the different types of makeup, removing foundation, mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick from clothes is fully possible. But wouldn’t it be easier if these stains never made their way to our wardrobe in the first place?
Indeed, preventing makeup stains is arguably the best way to deal with them. Here are some preventive measures you can start implementing today to reduce the risk of unsightly makeup marks:
- Be cautious when applying makeup: Avoid wearing your favourite clothes while applying makeup to reduce the risk of accidental stains. If wearing a turtleneck or tight-fitting garments, put them on before applying your makeup, but use a protective covering (see below).
- Use protective coverings: Consider using a towel or a protective covering over your clothes to shield them from makeup during application. This is an excellent option for tight-fitting garments that you might stain if you put them on after applying your full face.
- Regular laundry checks: Check your laundry for makeup stains before tossing them into the washing machine to prevent setting the stains during the wash cycle. All stains should be pre-treated before being washed in the machine.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.