How to remove makeup stains from clothes and carpets

The quickest ways to remove foundation, lipstick and mascara stains from clothes and carpets

8th July 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

How to remove foundation, lipstick and mascara stains from carpets, clothes and towels with expert advice from makeup artist, Hayley Walker

Makeup stains are the bane of our lives.

Foundation smudges, lipstick blots, and mascara streaks are so easy to get on carpets, clothes and surfaces yet so tough to remove. Even with your standard washing products and techniques.

Yet there are a couple of tips and tricks that can take the hassle out of the whole thing, and prevent temporary stains becoming permanent marks. Here’s how to handle makeup mishaps, with expert advice from Justmylook’s makeup artist, Hayley Walker.

Makeup stains: How to remove

We’ve explained how to remove specific types of makeup stains from certain fabrics below, but as a general rule, Walker says: “As soon as you notice a stain, avoid rubbing it.” Instead, immediately hold the item under cold running water to prevent the stain from setting deeper. This works because it helps to wash away surface makeup before it gets deeper into the fibres.

Washing up liquid’s ability to break down oil makes it effective against all types of makeup stains. The soap cuts through the oils and waxes found in many makeup products, plus it’s gentle enough to not cause further damage and most people have access to it already.

An oil-free makeup remover can also be particularly effective for makeup stains on clothes. Use with a disposable mascara spoolie wrapped in a cotton pad for targeted stain removal. Oil-free removers are best because they dissolve makeup without adding more oil to the stain, making it more resistant to water.

Finally, for a quick fix, apply an alcohol-based hairspray onto the stain. Once dried, remove any leftover residue with a wet wipe. The alcohol in hairspray helps to break down the makeup components, making them easier to wipe away.

 How to remove foundation stains

How to remove foundation from clothes quicklyiStock

Foundation is typically oil-based and designed to stay on the skin. This makes it particularly challenging to remove from fabrics, like clothes and carpets, because the oils and pigments in can bind tightly to the fibres. The pigments are meant to be long-lasting and can stain fabrics, while the oil can penetrate deeply, making it resistant to usual washing techniques.

Remove foundation from clothes

For foundation, avoid rubbing the stain. Instead:

  1. Hold the fabric under cold running water to loosen the product. This method works because it helps to flush out the oil before it sets.
  2. Pre-treat by pouring liquid detergent directly onto the stain
  3. Dab it with the detergent bottle cap to make sure it penetrates the fabric. Detergent is effective because it breaks down the oil in the foundation.
  4. Finally, wash your clothes at the highest temperature possible for that particular item, just make sure you check the care label first.

We’ve gone into more detail, and list other options, in our How to remove foundation from clothes quickly using shaving foam, alcohol and a toothbrush

Remove foundation from towels

Towels are a little more hard-wearing, and forgiving when it comes to washing and scrubbing. Walker recommends:

  1. Apply washing up liquid with warm water and pat the stain. Dish soap works well due to its oil-dissolving properties.
  2. Apply more dish soap directly and let it soak for 30 minutes, rinse, and repeat until the stain is gone.
  3. For stubborn stains, soak overnight in a mixture of baking soda, detergent, and warm water, then wash on a hot cycle with detergent and bleach. Again, check the care label.

Remove foundation from carpets

As you can’t put your carpet in the washing machine, removing foundation stains are a little more fiddly.

  1. Mix dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle. The dish soap helps break down the foundation’s oil base, making it easier to lift from carpet fibres, like it does on clothes and towels.
  2. Spray the mixture on the stain, let it soak, then dab with a dry microfibre cloth.
  3. Rinse with a fresh wet cloth and leave to dry.

How to get lipstick stains out of clothes and carpets

How to remove lipstick stainsShutterstock

Lipstick contains waxes and oils, both of which are designed to stick to lips meaning they can easily transfer to fabrics.

The oils and waxes can quickly bind to fabric fibres upon contact and the waxes’ stickiness and the oils’ ability to seep into the fabric make lipstick stains particularly stubborn.

How to get lipstick stains out of clothes

  1. “Start by scraping off any excess lipstick.” says Walker. “Then, apply a small amount, around a tablespoon, of dish soap onto the affected area, letting it sit for 30 minutes.”
  2. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to tackle the stain, removing any soapy residue.
  3. Finish with washing the garment on a regular cycle.

For a thorough removal, place your clothes in soapy water for at least an hour, letting the mixture penetrate and disperse the stain.

How to get lipstick stains out of towels

Like with foundation stains, you can be a bit more rough with towels.

  1. Dab rubbing alcohol onto the stain before applying dish soap. Rubbing alcohol helps dissolve the wax and oils.
  2. Let it soak for 20 minutes, rinse under hot water, and wash on a normal cycle with detergent and a small amount of bleach.

How to get lipstick stains out of carpets

For lipstick stains on carpets:

  1. Mix a tablespoon of white vinegar, dish soap, and warm water. Vinegar helps to break down the lipstick’s oils.
  2. Dab the mixture onto the stain with a clean microfibre cloth.
  3. Rinse with a wet cloth and let it dry.

How to get mascara stains out of carpets and clothes

How to remove mascara stainsShutterstock

Mascara is often waterproof and contains pigments, waxes, and oils, making it particularly resistant to water. Regular cleaning methods rarely work because these ingredients are formulated to last, and resist moisture. The pigments provide intense colour, while the waxes create a thick, sticky layer that helps the mascara cling to lashes. As a result, the mascara also clings to carpets and clothes. Waterproof mascaras are specifically designed to resist smudging and running.

How to get mascara stains out of clothes

“Mascara stains can be the bane of our lives sometimes, however, there is a method to removing this,” says Walker. “Similar to other makeup stains, applying dish soap on the affected area and letting it soak can loosen the makeup. Work the solution under warm water before placing the garment in a washing machine for a thorough cleaning.”

How to get mascara stains out of towels

If you get mascara on your towels:

  1. Use a few drops of washing up liquid with warm water, patting the stain gently. The dish soap’s grease-cutting properties help to dissolve the waxes in mascara.
  2. Let it soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse, and repeat if necessary.

How to get mascara stains out of carpets

  1. Apply rubbing alcohol and let it soak. Rubbing alcohol helps to dissolve the oils and pigments.
  2. Dab the area with a dry cloth, rinse with a wet cloth, and let it dry.

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