How to Remove Make-up Stains

Removing make-up stains from fabric can be tricky business unless you are aware of a few simple tricks. Keep in mind that different types of make-up will respond to different types of cleaning solutions, and successful removal is dependent on knowing which solution works best for the type of stain you have.

What You Will Need

  • Plastic spoon
  • Cleaning Solution:
    • To Remove Lipstick: Rubbing (Isoprophyl) Alcohol or Witch Hazel
    • To Remove Mascara and Eye-liner: Dawn or Ajax dishwashing liquid (and a drop or two of water).
    • To Remove Liquid Foundation: 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
    • To Remove Blush, Eye Shadow or Powdered Foundation (non-oil based): Mild laundry detergent (liquid) WITHOUT bleach/bleach alternative
  • Small nail brush or toothbrush
  • White paper towels

Process to Remove the Stains

  1. Remove any excess or caked-on make-up with plastic spoon, being careful not to rub or grind the stain into the fabric.
  2. If the stain is fresh, blot with a paper towel, using a lifting motion, until no more of the stain comes off onto the paper towel.
  3. Pour a few drops of cleaning solution directly onto the spot (ALWAYS test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first, especially if using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, make certain there will be no damage or discoloration). If you’re using dishwashing liquid or laundry soap, add a drop to two of water as well.
  4. Using thumb and forefinger, work the solution into the stain.
  5. With the nail brush or tooth brush, rub the stain in a circular motion on both sides (top and bottom)
  6. Wash the fabric as usual, following the directions found on the tag.
  7. When washed, air dry the fabric by either laying flat or hanging from a clothes line. DO NOT place in the dryer until you are sure the stain is completely gone—if any stain remains the heat from the dryer will set the stain and it will be virtually impossible to remove.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Before attempting any of these cleaning methods, ALWAYS read the care instructions on the label to determine proper washing instructions for your particular fabric.
  • If the make-up stain is on a delicate fabric such as silk or wool, consider taking the item to a professional cleaner.
  • The laundry aisle of your local grocery store most likely has numerous products available to pre-treat stains (i.e. Tide to Go, Shout, etc.). Always read and follow all directions carefully, making certain that the product is appropriate for the fabric you are treating.
  • Removing a fresh stain is often easier than removing one that has set in. Consequently, the sooner you can treat the stain, the better.
  • In a pinch, try dabbing at a fresh make-up stain with a baby wipe. If the stain is minor and has not set in, this might just do the trick.
  • Mascara, eyeliner (and some foundations and lipsticks) are oil-based. If the stain from oil-based make-up does not respond to the above described treatment, try spraying the stain with a little WD 40, rubbing it in, and then washing the fabric as usual. NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying the WD 40 to make certain no damage or discoloration will occur.
  • As an alternative to the WD 40, you may treat a set in stain with lighter fluid (being careful not to do so around any open flames or other heat source). Simply rub a small amount of lighter fluid into the stain and wash as usual. NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying the lighter fluid to make certain no damage or discoloration will occur. CAUTION: Lighter fluid is considered a hazardous substance and can cause injury if not used correctly.
  • Some people swear by the Coca Cola method of stain removal, and will treat any type of stain with Coke Classic. Of course the soda will leave its own mark, but will come out after washing, hopefully taking the stain with it.
  • Stain removal is a repetitive process and if the stain does not come out after the first treatment, keep trying; but remember, if any stain remains after treatment, DO NOT place the item in the dryer or you will wind up setting the stain and making removal even more difficult.
  • If all else fails, try taking your item to a professional cleaner. For a list of reputable cleaners in your area, check with your local Chamber of Commerce, or your local yellow pages.


  1. Lillie says:

    Does anyone know how to remove a makeup stain from silk clothing?

  2. Glenda says:

    My husband was greeting people at our church. He hugged a few and the makeup came off on his white suit. Does anyone know how to remove makeup from white polyester?

  3. Tina says:

    I dropped my purse, and my make-up powder and lipstick broke and stained the satin lining inside of it. Does anybody know what I could do for this?

  4. Claudette says:

    Does anyone know how to remove makeup foundation from a black T-shirt? Thank you.

  5. Tess says:

    Does anyone know how to remove makeup from around the collar of a white linen jacket? I don’t want to dry clean it after every wear. Thanks.

  6. Joel says:

    Some of your tips we’ve done already. Are there other tips about waterproof foundation?

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