How to Get Makeup Out of Clothes

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Wondering if it’s possible to remove foundation, lipstick, and mascara from your clothing? You’re in the right place! Follow these simple steps to banish makeup stains forever.

All types of things that don’t belong on your clothes sometimes get on your clothes, and that’s why it’s such a good idea to know how to remove stains—whether it’s a coffee stain or a permanent marker stain. But there’s something particularly frustrating about makeup stains. After all, makeup is supposed to make you look good, not like a mess. But you might accidentally brush your face against your shirt when pulling it over your head, get foundation on your collar over the course of the day, or drop your mascara when you’re applying it. You might also accidentally get makeup on someone else’s clothes when you go in for a hug or a kiss. (Oops!) It looks dire in the moment, but if you know how to get makeup out of clothes, those stains will be gone before you know it.

“In general, most makeup stains can be removed by acting as fast as possible and using a high-quality detergent,” says Jennifer Ahoni, senior scientist at Tide. “That being said, different compositions and ingredients of different makeup may add in unique challenges.” For example, waterproof mascara might require a different type of stain remover than a liquid foundation, which also might be treated differently than a powder blush. And let’s not forget about lipstick, which just may be your toughest challenge in this arena.

Here’s what you need to know about getting removing different types of makeup from your clothes. Once you’re up to speed, find out how to get nail polish out of nearly everything.

How to get foundation out of clothes

Liquid foundation

Though there are different kinds of foundation, most are formulated with a base that binds lots of colored pigments, explains Ahoni. “The key difference in treating liquid versus powder foundation,” she says, “is in the initial removal of any excess on the surface.”

What you’ll need

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towel or clean cloth
  • Water

Step-by-step directions

  1. Remove excess off the surface of the fabric using a paper towel or a clean cloth, being careful not to push the liquid deeper into the fibers. Blot, don’t rub.
  2. Next, rinse the garment in warm water to dilute the stain.
  3. Once the excess foundation has been removed, pre-treat the stain with liquid laundry detergent (any will do), which has surfactants and enzymes to break up the stain. Pour enough detergent on the garment to cover the stain, gently work the detergent into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and let it remain on the fabric for 20 minutes.
  4. Some liquid foundation stains can actually be similar to grease stains because of the makeup’s oily base. Therefore, you can also use dish soap to try to remove the stain. Apply a small amount of dish soap, like Dawn, to the stain, rub it in with your fingers, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
  5. Without rinsing off the detergent or dish soap, place the garment into the washer with other items. “Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash an extra boost of cleaning water,” says Ahoni. Wash on the warmest temperature recommended on the care label, as warm water helps break up the stain.
  6. If the stain remains, repeat steps 3–5 before drying.

The above techniques work best on cotton and poly-blend fabrics. If your stain is on a fabric like silk or wool, it’s best to take the garment to the dry cleaner. You can end up doing more harm than good if you try to remove the stain on your own.

Powder foundation

Since powder foundation contains loose particles, take extra care when removing any excess from the fabric’s surface, says Ahoni. You want to make sure you don’t accidentally further embed the stain or spread the powder.

What you’ll need

  • Clean cloth or paper towel
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Water

Step-by-step directions

  1. First shake off as much of the powder foundation as possible. “Gently brush off any that remains, being careful not to push the foundation into the fabric fibers,” advises Ahoni.
  2. Run warm water through the back of the stain. The higher the water pressure, the easier it will be to remove. Once the excess has been removed, you’ll use the same general wash guidelines as you would for liquid foundation.
  3. Pre-treat the stain with liquid laundry detergent, using enough to cover the stain. Gently work the detergent into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and let it dwell on the fabric for 20 minutes.
  4. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items, washing on the warmest temperature recommended on the care label.
  5. If the stain remains, repeat steps 3 and 4 before drying.

FYI, you won’t want to use warm water on other types of stains, like blood stains and mustard stains, since this can cause the stain to set and become impossible to get out. Make sure you know what to do, depending on the stain you’re dealing with, before diving in.

lipstick stain on clothesAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

How to get lipstick out of clothes

Lipstick is one of the toughest types of makeup to get out of clothes. Why? Because these beauty products are usually oil-based. “Lipstick is similar to a solid grease that acts like a glue to bind lots of colored pigments together,” explains Ahoni. “These pigments are especially attracted to synthetic fibers.” (Incidentally, this is something you’ll also want to keep in mind when trying to get actual oil stains out of your clothes.) The key to treating lipstick stains is to act fast, but even if your stain has had some time to set, you’re not out of luck. Follow these steps, which can also be used to get ChapStick or other lip balm out of clothes.

What you’ll need

  • Clean cloth
  • Dish soap
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Stain remover
  • Water

Step-by-step directions

  1. Blot off any excess from the garment before placing a clean, dry cloth on top of the lipstick stain.
  2. For heavy lipstick stains, first, place the garment in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then, gently scrape off any excess frozen stain with a spoon or butter knife before putting the cloth on top of the stain.
  3. Next, apply dish soap to a damp cloth, and dab the back of the stain with it. Make sure to use a clean part of the cloth each time you dab so you don’t accidentally transfer lipstick back onto the garment.
  4. Rinse the area in warm water to dilute the stain.
  5. Pre-treat with liquid laundry detergent. Pour enough detergent on the garment to cover the stain, gently work the detergent into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and let it remain on the fabric for 20 minutes.
  6. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer with other items, using the warmest temperature recommended for the item on the care label.
  7. If the stain remains, repeat steps 3–6 before drying. If the stain is really stubborn, try using a store-bought stain remover as a pre-treatment, or using it when you repeat the above steps before drying the garment.

mascara stain on sweater, treated with laundry detergentAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

How to get mascara and eyeliner out of clothes

Since mascaras are formulated from oils, waxes, and dyes, you’ll need to start by pre-treating the stain with a bit of detergent. Because most mascaras are dark, it’s extremely important to treat them right away and to be sure you don’t spread the stain. For waterproof makeup stains, you can even try using an oil-free makeup remover as a pre-treatment. Otherwise, use these directions from Ahoni to get mascara and eyeliner out of clothes.

What you’ll need

  • Clean cloth
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Makeup remover
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Stain remover
  • Water

Step-by-step directions

  1. Pre-treat the stain with liquid laundry detergent, which contains surfactants and enzymes to break it up. Pour enough detergent on the garment to cover the stain, gently work the detergent into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and let it remain on the fabric for 20 minutes.
  2. Rinse the stained area in hot water.
  3. Machine-wash on the warmest temperature recommended on the care label.
  4. If the stain remains, repeat steps 1–3 before drying.

General tips for removing makeup stains from clothes

No matter what kind of makeup you’re trying to get out or what type of fabric you’re trying to remove it from, acting fast is key. Of course, you can’t very well remove your clothes and get to work on the stain when you’re at the office, out to dinner, or in any number of other out-of-the-house scenarios. In those instances, you’ll want these DIY methods to tide you over until you get home.

  • “Using a hair spray with a high alcohol content, spray the stained area and allow the hair spray to harden into the fabric,” advises Ahoni. “Now, grab a clean paper towel and dip it into cold water, careful not to completely soak it. Next, blot the stained area with the damp paper towel to remove the makeup along with the hair spray, and repeat the steps as necessary.”
  • Here’s another option: Quickly scrape away the top layer of the product from your fabric with a spoon or, preferably, a plastic knife. “Then, take an ice cube, press it onto the stain, and rub it in a circular motion. Keep going until the makeup has been completely lifted from the fabric,” says Ahoni. “Finally, blot and dry the wet area with a paper towel, removing most of the makeup.” Repeat the process until the stain is no longer visible.
  • Keep an on-the-go spot treatment option like a Tide To Go Pen or a Shout Wipe & Go Instant Stain Remover on hand for any accidents that happen away from home. Trust us—you’ll end up using it more than you think, on all sorts of stains!

Speaking of other stains that are particularly stubborn, we’ve got some tips for those, too! Take a look at our guides on how to remove ink stains and superglue, and make sure to bookmark that information because you’ll definitely need it at some point.

Sources:

  • Jennifer Ahoni, senior scientist at Tide, a Proctor & Gamble company
  • Dawn: “How to Remove Grease Stains from Clothes”

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Amy Schlinger
Amy Schlinger is a skilled reporter, writer, and editor who regularly interviews world-renowned doctors and medical professionals, elite trainers, nutrition experts, professional athletes, and celebrities. She has 11 years of experience covering health, fitness, wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. She has held staff positions at Shape Magazine, DailyBurn, Self Magazine, and PopSugar. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Men’s Health, The New York Post, Women’s Health, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Health Magazine, Outside Magazine, Livestrong, Map My Fitness, MSN, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, and more. She has been featured in DailyBurn’s Live to Fail workout video series (five total), is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), and is certified in Kettlebell Training. Amy is extremely passionate about healthy living, and can often be found researching and testing out new wellness trends and fitness programs or strength training at the gym. She has run six half marathons, completed one triathlon, biked two century rides, finished two Tough Mudder races, and four Spartan races, including a beast at the Spartan World Championships at Squaw Mountain in North Lake Tahoe.