With one swipe, the right color can completely transform your look. Lipstick has the power to brighten your smile and pull an outfit together. But an accidental smudge can wreak havoc on your polished ensemble, as lipstick stains are notoriously hard to remove. The combination of wax, oil, and dye makes lipstick marks a veritable laundry nightmare, and some DIY tips can actually worsen the stain. If you get lipstick on carpet, upholstery, or even freshly dry-cleaned clothes, it's vital to treat the stain with a two-pronged approach: first, dissolve the wax, then attack the pigment. Handling with care will preserve the integrity of the fabric.
Ahead a laundry expert and celebrity makeup artists offer a step-by-step guide to lifting lipstick stains without ruining your clothes.
Meet the Expert
- Lindsey Boyd is the co-founder of The Laundress, which offers a conscious collection of laundry and fabric care products for at-home use.
- Troi Ollivierre is the co-creator of LoveSeen lashes and founder of Troi Ollivierre Beauty.
- Danessa Myricks is a makeup artist and the founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty.
- Sébastien Tardif is a celebrity makeup artist and co-founder of Veil Cosmetics.
How to Remove Lipstick Stains from Washable Clothing
The Laundress philosophy maintains that 90% of clothing labeled "dry clean only" can be washed at home, with the proper cleaning method and solvents, that is. However, this section's tips are meant for washable clothing that is typically washed in a machine or cleaned at home (tips for removing lipstick stains from dry-clean-only clothes follow).
If the stain happens when you're out, Boyd says, "It’s better to wait and treat it at home, where you can use the proper products and tools and have time to treat the affected area."
Never use club soda and salt to remove a lipstick stain on any type of fabric. This DIY method will make the stain worse, according to Boyd.
And forget using a cocktail napkin or tissue to rub out the stain as well. "Any frantic attempts can end up making more messes, leaving you with traces of paper lint on the item and an even larger stain," says Boyd. "We always recommended holding off on the DIY remedies and treating the stain with the proper products at home. You run the risk of worsening the stain if you reach for whatever’s around instead of just waiting and using the right products later. We can almost always remove old, set-in stains."
If you can't resist the temptation to treat immediately, spot treat the lipstick stain with a stain removal stick like the Wash & Stain Bar, ideal for on-the-go use. Boyd recommends wetting the bar "under warm water (cool water for delicate synthetics, silk, and woolens), then work it directly into the stain with a finger."
Once you see the stain breaking up, Boyd suggests applying a drop of stain, removing detergent on top, and massaging it in with a lint-free cleaning cloth or stain brush. "We always recommend soaking the item for 30 minutes afterward to allow for the stain solutions to really penetrate into the fabric."
Adjust the temperature of water depending on the fabric. Boyd recommends cool water for delicates, silks, and woolens and warm to hot water for everyday fabrics. "A good trick is to place the item in a basin, sink, or tub, then pour almost-boiling water from a height directly onto the stain. This will really work the treatment into the item," she says. You could also add a capful of bleach alternative to the soak water, which is "a color-safe, oxygen-powered formula that brightens, whitens, and de-stains." (Only do these things for everyday fabrics like cotton and durable synthetics.)
After you've spot treated your item, Boyd suggests a machine wash to clean fully. Place the treated items in a mesh washing bag to keep them from snagging in the machine
Then, wash the item, using a normal setting for cottons and delicate cycle for silk and knits.
How to Lift Lipstick Stains from Dry Clean Only Fabrics
A matte lipstick stain is easier to treat than a stain from lipstick with a glossy finish, as matte lipstick has more wax and pigment than oil. However, Boyd still recommends following professional stain removal tips for the best results.
When it comes to removing lipstick from dry clean only fabrics, those special items that you would never machine wash employ the aforementioned spot-treat technique. Boyd suggests the following tip to prevent water stains. "Once the stain has lifted, dampen a clean part of the cloth (or a new one) to remove any remaining soap, then remove all excess moisture with a dry end."
When you take the item to be dry cleaned, be sure to point out the stain to your attendant.
How to Treat Carpets and Upholstery
To avoid bringing in a professional to clean carpets and upholstery, you can spot-treat these items as well. Use a lint-free cloth or brush to work out the stain and work with warm water. It's essential not to rub but rather blot at the stain with the correct tool.
Makeup artists love dish soap to dissolve the greasy component of lipstick and a cap full of stain-fighting detergent to lift the stain. This duo will tidy up any smudge.
Tips for Removing Lipstick from Makeup Artists
Ahead, three celebrity makeup artists offer trade tricks for removing the longest-lasting, pigment-rich lipstick from fabrics.
Troi Ollivierre, co-creator of LoveSeen lashes and founder of Troi Ollivierre Beauty, says, “My best tip is really so simple but so effective. Use diluted dishwashing liquid. Let it sit for a few minutes and use a toothbrush or nail brush to scrub out. Repeat as necessary. It never fails.”
Danessa Myricks, makeup artist and founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty, says, “There’s a reason why makeup artists wear black. Wearing anything but black makes your clothes virtually disposable. When working with highly pigmented products like lipstick, I use brush cleaner solution to remove stubborn stains from clothes. My favorite, Rebels and Outlaws brush soap, is gentle but gets out the toughest stains. It’s my magic wand.”
Sébastien Tardif, celebrity makeup artist and co-founder of Veil Cosmetics, says, “My go-to technique to remove a lipstick stain is to first remove the bulk of the pigment with eye makeup remover with a cotton bud. Then I use a dab of Dawn liquid soap on the area, let it soak for at least 5 to 10 minutes, throw the item in the washer. It comes out clean every time.”