How to Avoid Watermarks on Fabric


Karin asked: How do I remove stains without leaving watermarks on a prom dress? We bought a used prom dress. This dress is aqua tulle with aqua lining. The store said the dress was dry cleaned. However, because of all the beads, they missed the bottom of the dress (lining) which is a little muddy/water stained. The lady at the second hand store said to use Woolite and water with a toothbrush to try to get the stain out. We tested an area and removed much of the stain, but now we have a watermark. How do we tackle the stain without leaving a watermark?

What Causes Watermarks?

Watermarks develop when the water is left on the fabric too long before drying. The best way to keep these from occurring is to speed up the drying time before they have time to develop. Here are some tips for cleaning fabrics so that watermarks leave with the dirt.

Cleaning Tips and Ideas

  • Use minimal amounts of water while cleaning.
  • Rinse the item thoroughly to ensure all of the soap is removed as this can leave marks as well.
  • When the cleaning is finished, speed up the drying process with a fan or hairdryer set on a cool setting.
  • If watermarks are already in place, you can remove/lessen them by moistening the area again with a soft cloth. Blot at the area and work from the center out. As you blot, the mark should begin to blend in. Once it is blended, dry quickly with a fan or hairdryer.


  1. Jmedelman says:

    This dress is probably polyester. Make mild solution of detergent. Scrub the stains till removed. Rinse the entire dress in lukewarm water with several oz. of white vinegar added. Hang dress till almost dry, then tumble dry warm, till dry. A minor touch-up should complete the job.

  2. Htre says:

    Thanks for this article! It just saved a dress! I had a ballgown-type dress I had tried to clean a stain out of, and watermarks were left afterwards. I was considering rinsing the whole thing, but terrified of ruining it. I followed your instructions, and re-dampened the water marks, followed by using a hair dryer to dry them completely. None of the other things I read in books or online were any use! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  3. Suzy Q says:

    Wonderful article! Thank you so much!
    I was altering a prom dress for a friend’s daughter, and attempted to spot clean a small area on the dress…leaving behind a hideous watermark on the bodice! Yikes! Your tips worked like magic (used the blow dryer method); the dress is perfect… thanks to you! :)

  4. Kiana says:

    I have the same blouse in four different colors made of a satin-like fabric that somehow stains rather badly if I even get a drop of water on it while washing my hands. Is there anything at all I can do to prevent this?

  5. Brown says:

    I have a very expensive dress made of acetate and wool. Is it the same idea as above to damp it down from the middle of the water stain and then dry quickly?

  6. Gail says:

    I have a brand new polyester chiffon dress. It got the smallest grease stain from food. I blotted it with cold water and, of course, it’s still there because the fabric is so sheer. Additionally, a bit of coffee was also spilled on the dress. I blotted that as well; this resulted is a large water stain. I am afraid to spot clean it further because of a possible larger water mark. I can’t take it to the dry cleaners every time I wear it. It is beaded around the neck, so I cannot submerse it in water. Also, the label says “Professionally spot clean,” NOT “professionally dry clean.” Not sure after reading this article what to do.

  7. Halima says:

    Hi, How do I clean the watermarks from my pink jeans…I gave it to a laundry also, but it didn’t work…please suggest something. These are my sister’s jeans and I need to return them to her.

  8. Melanie says:

    Follow the fourth tip in the article: pat the area with a damp cloth to re-wet it, then immediately dry the area with a hair dryer. Also, using distilled water can help. Tap water sometimes has minerals in it that can leave residue, but distilled water does not.

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