how to remove makeup from clothes

There’s a reason models put on their makeup before they get dressed. It’s an industry hack to prevent makeup stains on those expensive clothes they’ll be parading on the runway. But just like the rest of us, even professional models have accidents and should know how to remove makeup from clothes. Whether it’s foundation, mascara, or lipstick, finding a makeup stain on your favorite outfit can be catastrophic—unless you know the best way to remove the stain.

When you’re learning how to get makeup out of clothes, it’s important to understand the kinds of stains you may encounter. Foundation, for example, can be an oil-based or oil-free liquid or a powder, and each formula requires a different stain removal approach. Then there’s lipstick. Many lipstick formulas contain a combination of oils, pigments, and wax products that present some unique cleaning challenges.

No matter what kind of stains you’re up against, there are four things you need to know before you begin:

  • Dab and blot
    Because rubbing a stain will only push makeup and other culprits deeper into the fabric fibers, dab or blot the stain to remove excess makeup.
  • Pre-treat and wash
    Wash stained clothing as soon as possible after pre-treating to prevent discoloration and spotting.
  • Wait to dry
    Never dry stained garments in a clothes dryer until you’re sure the stain is no longer visible.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals
    Skip expensive and potentially harsh commercial stain removers and use household cleaning products that are just as effective. Your wallet, and the environment, will thank you.

How to Get Foundation Out of Clothes

No beauty routine would be complete without the right foundation, but when it ends up on your clothes, it can be anything but beautiful. If you get foundation on your clothes, act fast and use the methods below to remove liquid and powder foundation stains before they get worse.

Liquid Foundation Stains

From pigments to oils, liquid foundation typically includes a variety of ingredients that can stain fabrics. Liquid foundations are either silicone-, water-, or oil-based, so we’ll cover how to get foundation out of clothes with a method that works for all three. All you need is liquid laundry detergent, dish soap, microfiber cloths, paper towels, and water.

  • Gently blot away excess foundation with a paper towel, being careful to not spread the stain or push it deeper into the fabric.
    Rinse the stained area with warm water to dilute the foundation.
  • For silicone- or water-based liquid foundation, pre-treat the stain with laundry detergent by gently working the liquid into the stain using your fingers.
  • If the stain is oily, use dish soap and rub it into the stain with your fingers to break down the oils.
  • Let the detergent or dish soap work on the stain for 20 minutes.
  • If the stained garment is machine washable, wash it in your washing machine on the warmest setting allowed per the label.
  • If the garment can’t go in the washer, hand wash it with warm water.
  • Because the heat from your dryer can cause the stain to set, air dry the clothing.
  • If the stain is still there, dampen the stained area with warm water and pre-treat it again.

This method works well on cotton and many synthetic materials, but for silk and other delicate fabrics, a dry cleaning service may be the best option. If you choose to work on the stain yourself, proceed with caution and follow these steps:

  • Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and gently work it in with a soft cloth.
  • Let the baking soda absorb the foundation for five minutes and then shake off the excess.
  • Flip the garment over and repeat the process for the other side of the stain.
  • If the stain is still visible, rinse the area with cold water and gently dab the stain with dish soap. Let the dish soap sit on the stain for five minutes, then rinse with cold water and let the clothing air dry.

Powder Foundation Stains

Powder foundation is made with pigments and minerals in the form of tiny particles that can cling to fabric fibers. The key to treating a powder foundation stain is to remove as much excess as possible before you dampen the stain. All you need is liquid laundry detergent, microfiber cloths, paper towels, and water.

  • Shake off as much of the powder foundation as you can.
  • Gently brush away the rest with a clean makeup brush, being careful to not spread the powder or imbed it deeper into the fabric.
  • Flip the garment inside out and use your sink sprayer to rinse the stain with warm water.
  • Pre-treat the stain by gently working liquid detergent into it with a clean makeup brush.
  • Let the detergent work on the stain for 20 minutes.
  • Skip the rinsing and follow the recommended washing instructions on the clothing label.
  • Allow the clothing to air dry and if the stain is still visible, repeat the pre-treatment and washing.

How to Get Lipstick Out of Clothes

The pigments and oily ingredients in lipstick make this beauty essential appear vibrant and stay put. But when lipstick gets on your new blouse, it can look horrific—but don’t fret, it’s not permanent. Here’s how to get lipstick out of clothes using oxygen bleach and liquid laundry detergent.

  • Remove excess lipstick with a butter knife, but be careful to not spread the stain or embed it deeper.
  • Pre-treat the lipstick stain with liquid dish detergent by gently massaging the liquid into the stain with your fingers.
  • If the lipstick has smeared or it’s deep in the fabric fibers, use a soft-bristled nylon brush to work the detergent into the fabric.
  • Let the laundry detergent sit on the stain for 15 minutes to break down the oil and wax.
  • To remove the colored dye, use an oxygen-based bleach to saturate the stain.
  • If the garment is machine washable, throw it in the washer and use the hottest water setting allowed per the label.
  • For fabric that requires hand washing, put on some dish gloves and use the hottest water you can to wash the stain out.
  • Skip the dryer and let the clothing air dry, then check the stain.
  • You may have to repeat the pre-treat and wash process again if the stain is still visible.

If you get a lipstick stain on clothes that require dry cleaning, scrape off the excess lipstick and blot the stain with a paper towel. Put the garment in a bag and get it to the dry cleaner as soon as possible.

How to Get Mascara Out of Clothes

Like lipstick, mascara can leave stains that are highly visible and require a careful approach for damage control. Mascara is usually formulated with carbon black or iron oxide pigments, polymers, and a variety of thickening waxes or oils. These ingredients are hard to get out of clothing using a washing machine, so even if the label allows, wash out the stain by hand. You’ll need paper towels, makeup wipes, toothpicks, liquid laundry detergent, and dish soap to tackle the mascara stain.

  • Mascara will smear and get deeper into the fabric if you try to scrape away the excess, so use a toothpick to pick it out.
  • Place a paper towel on top of the mascara stain and a makeup wipe on the other side.
  • Gently massage the back of the stain with the makeup wipe to transfer the mascara to the paper towel. Use fresh paper towels as needed until the mascara no longer transfers.
  • Rinse the stain from the back with hot water.
  • Rub liquid laundry detergent into both sides of the stain using a dishcloth.
  • Rinse the stain from the back with hot water and let the garment air dry.
  • If the stain is still visible, switch to a grease-cutting dish soap and repeat the process.

The next time you have a makeup accident, you’ll know how to get makeup out of clothes with these proven stain removal techniques and save the day. Want to learn how to get rid of other tricky stains? Check out these quick tips to get the job done right.

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