When it comes to getting stubborn makeup stains out of clothing, there's one universal truth: We've been there before, and we will certainly be there many times more. If you're a daily makeup wearer you already know that just the simplest bump or slip can cause you to drop your favorite lipstick, mascara, or loose powder on your clothes, resulting in immediate panic and the realization that maybe you just can't have nice things.
While it's common to stain our clothes from time to time—and not just with makeup—the good news is that we don't have to avoid wearing our favorite pieces out of fear of ruin. We asked Lindsey Boyd, co-founder of The Laundress, for expert advice on removing stubborn makeup stains. Spoiler alert: Turns out you can have nice things.
Meet the Expert
- Lindsey Boyd is co-founder of The Laundress, a company that specializes in fabric care, home cleaning, and storage solutions.
Oil-based makeup stains are some of the most common (think foundation, concealer, or creams) and there are a few tricks to ensure you're able to remove these stains entirely. According to Boyd, the first thing you should do if you've got an oil-based product on your clothing is make sure the product is gone before you start the treatment process. "First, scrape away any large chunks or globs of foundation or concealer with a butter knife or the edge of a credit card," she says, as this eliminates any extra residue that doesn't need to be there before you start treating the stain quickly and efficiently. Boyd recommends using the Wash & Stain Bar ($7), which is formulated to lift up oily and greasy makeup smears like a magnet, as the key product.
Boyd instructs that you'll want to run the Wash & Stain Bar under warm water and, using your fingers or a soft-bristled Stain Brush ($11), work the lather from the soap into the stain using small circular motions until you see it’s lifted to your satisfaction. "Allow the formula to sink in for a few seconds, then soak with a capful of our color-safe, chlorine-free All-Purpose Bleach Alternative and warm water for up to 30 minutes. You'll then want to wash the fabric as normal with the hottest temperature water it can tolerate, and you can add another capful or two of the All-Purpose Bleach Alternative to the drum of the machine when washing for more stain-dissolving, brightening power."
If you're dealing with color-rich stains from products such as lipsticks, liquid blushes, bronzers, or mascara, Boyd recommends opting for the enzyme-based Stain Solution to remove them. "Squirt a drop or two directly onto the stain or onto the Stain Brush ($11), then work the fabric in small, circular motions to coax out the stain’s pigments. Allow the formula to sink in for a few seconds, then soak with a capful of our color-safe, chlorine-free All-Purpose Bleach Alternative ($16) and warm water for up to 30 minutes."
Similar to oil stains, you will want to wash the fabric in the hottest water that it can tolerate; you can also add more bleach if needed. Boyd recommends skipping the bleaching step altogether if you're working with delicate or “dry clean” fabrics such as silk, wool, and cashmere, emphasizing that you should always use cool and/or cold water when soaking and washing.
What about products like lipgloss or lip oil? Maybe your favorite gloss or lip oil leaked when you weren't paying attention or was left in a pocket and went through the washing machine on accident. When it comes to these types of makeup stains, Boyd recommends the combination of the Stain Solution and the Wash & Stain Bar ($7).
Oil and Grease Stains
Oil and grease stains can spread easily on fabric but are mostly still contained to specific areas. Examples of oil and grease makeup stains include certain types of foundations, liquid products, or face and body oils. The treatment for these types of stains is quite straightforward. If you're on the go and need something to rectify the situation right away, Boyd says that using the Wash & Stain Bar and Stain Brush ($11) should do the trick. When looking for a brush, It's important that the bristles you're using are gentle enough for all of your fabrics. Harsher bristles can sometimes cause pilling and rips in the fabric if you're using too much pressure or the fabric is delicate.
For Delicate Fabrics
Have a favorite cashmere sweater that's got some unfortunate makeup stains? Not a problem. The key to treating delicate fabrics is handwashing them or placing them in mesh washing bags that help protect the fabric and prevent snagging during a machine wash cycle. Using a mesh bag is also ideal if your washing machine has an agitator. While handwashing might not be something you've tried, the process is quite easy once you get the hang of it, and you might even prefer it for your favorite items.
Examples of fabrics you'll want to consider handwashing are silk, lace, and delicate synthetics. Boyd reiterates that you're going to want to use cold and/or cool water when working with more delicate fabrics and recommends the Delicate Wash or Wool and Cashmere Shampoo ($20), which is specifically formulated for your favorite cashmere and wool items. Have a stain that just won't quit? "A good tip to remember is if a stain has not lifted from the fabric completely after wash, do not dry it in the dryer—it’ll set the stain in," says Boyd. "Repeat the stain removal and wash process again until it’s gone."