How To Remove Makeup Stains


Have you ever smudged foundation on your collar, dropped a mascara wand on your pants, or spilled hair dye on your shirt? Regardless of the surface you’re working on (garment, flooring, or furniture), you must identify what kind of stain you’re dealing with in order to treat it. Oil or wax-based lipstick is the most common clothing offender, while nail polish and foundation fall closely after. We’ve all had our makeup mishaps, but it’s possible to clean up the mess with these stain-fighting solutions.


Many different cleaning solutions remove lipstick stains. Liquid detergent, isopropyl alcohol, and ammonia cut the grease and oil in most formulations. For all solutions, blot as much lipstick off as you can with a clean damp cloth first, then apply your treatment. Rinse and wash based on label instructions. Remember, never use ammonia on silk or wool! If you’re in a pinch, hairspray also removes lipstick stains—simply spray on the stain, wait a few minutes, then wipe off with a clean cloth. 


Mascara is a bit trickier to remove, so treat this oil-based product with a professional oil solvent, usually available from a reputable dry cleaning business. The oil solvents in pro products break down protein glues in mascara (the stuff that connects the stain to the fabric). Let the solvent dry on the stain, brush off the excess, and wash the garment accordingly.

Nail Polish

Nail polish is easier to remove than you think. According to Rescue Beauty Lounge founder Ji Baek, acetone is too strong on clothes. If you accidentally spill, let the polish dry on your fabric first, then stick clear packing tape over the stain. Rip off the tape like a wax strip and the polish comes off easily! Want more nail cleaning tips? Read more about Ji Baek’s nail polish secrets here!

Liquid Face Makeup

Liquid makeup is oil-based, and it easily gets on most shirt collars. Cut the grease with liquid soaps and detergents that easily dissolve the stain. Blot off excess pigment with a clean cloth, then dab and gently massage your cleaner into the stain, lifting the pigment as you go.

Hair Dye

Since hair dye is so potent, it’s one of the hardest stains to treat. Rubbing alcohol typically does a good job at removing tough dye. You can also use a solvent like turpentine or lighter fluid on certain fabrics, but do your research to make sure it’s fabric-safe first. 


Fresh stains come out of fabric easier than already dried stains, so act quickly as soon as you see the spot.


Never rub a stain—it only drives it in deeper into the fabric. Instead, blot and dab with a cloth.


Apply your stain-fighting solutions from the back of the fabric so the stain won’t spread deeper into the fibers.