When you put lotion on your body right before getting dressed, sometimes that lotion can transfer to your favorite white shirt or your new dress and leave a pesky stain. Lotion of all kinds, but especially sunscreen can sink into the fabric and leave behind unsightly yellow stains.
Not to worry, here’s how to get lotion stains out of clothes in a few quick and easy steps, using things you probably already have lying around.
Why Does Lotion Stain Clothes?
Lotion stains clothes primarily because lotion (whether it’s sunscreen or any other kind of lotion) has oils in it. These oils set into the fabric causing stains that can sometimes be tricky to remove.
Before You Get Started
It’s important to remember before you begin any laundry-related cleaning project to read the fabric labels and be mindful of delicate or dry-clean-only fabrics. It’s also always a good idea to test colored fabrics in an inconspicuous location before you apply pre-treatment stain removers.
How to Get Lotion Stains Out of Clothes
- Paper towel or cleaning rag
- Oil-absorbing powder (either baking soda or cornstarch)
- Dish soap
- Lemon juice
Remove as much of the lotion as you can by blotting it with a paper towel or a cleaning rag.
- Cover with Powder
After blotting, there will likely still be oil remaining on the fabric. To absorb the oil, sprinkle enough cornstarch or baking soda over the stain to fully cover the stain. Let sit for 30 – 60 minutes.
- Sweep Away the Powder
Use a clean toothbrush to scrub away the remaining powder. If it’s clumping up, that’s a good sign. That means the powder is absorbing the oil from the fabric. (Don’t worry if there is still some residue, it will wash off in the next steps.)
- Dish Soap and Rinse Thoroughly
Pour enough dish soap over the remaining powder to just cover the stain. Massage the soap into the garment, using your hands or the toothbrush.
Rinse thoroughly before proceeding to the next step. It’s never a good idea to put something covered with dish soap on it into a washing machine because the excess suds might ruin your machine.
- Wash in Washing Machine
Wash the garment in your washing machine with whatever detergent you normally use. Adding a little white vinegar (about ½ cup) can help make the detergent more effective.
Make sure you don’t use bleach as it can actually make sunscreen stains worse!
- Air Dry
Once the garment is clean, put it out to air dry. The heat from a dryer can cause the oil stain to set, so dry on a rack completely to ensure the stain is fully gone before washing and drying regularly in the future.
- If the Stain Remains on White Fabrics
If the stain remains on a white fabric, you can put a little lemon juice over the stain and set the garment out in the sun. The sunlight and lemon juice together can help remove any lingering shadow on your white clothes!
Don’t let sunscreen stains sit! The longer the sunscreen stays on your clothes, the harder it will be to get out. Even a quick cold water rinse will help here. It’s also important to make sure you never put clothes with sunscreen stains in the dryer, or the stain will set and stain your clothing permanently.
The ingredient that is responsible for most of those pesky sunscreen stains is called avobenzone. Most sunscreens have this ingredient, but not all!
Sunscreens formulated for babies and children are often made without it (and bonus – they’re also gentler on skin!). If you’re looking to avoid staining, these choices can be a great option.
Sunscreen turns white clothes yellow because of a chemical reaction between the fabric and that pesky avobenzone. Things like hard water, synthetic fabrics, and letting the stain set will make this worse.
Olivia Smith is a freelance writer from the Bay Area who loves to clean as a stress reliever. There is nothing more calming than being in a clean and well-organized space! She’s passionate about eco-friendly cleaning to find healthier cleaning alternatives for both her family and the environment.