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How to Get Sunscreen Stains Out of Clothing and Furniture

Summer is the time when we’re spending a lot of time outdoor, whether you’re gardening, playing outdoor sports, swimming, or having a picnic. In all of those fun summer rituals, sunscreen is a must. And while sunscreen is immensely helpful at protecting your skin from sunburns, skin cancer, and even signs of aging, it’s often tough to control.

Sunscreen Stain Removal boy with sunscreen sun on skin
Since you’re supposed to slather it all over the body, your clothes, car seats, and furniture often end up being covered in unsightly white or yellow sunscreen. These stains often have an oily residue that can persist even when the majority of the stain is gone. But even these oily and yellow stains can be easily and safely removed. We show you how in this brief but very informative guide.

Removing sunscreen from washable fabrics

One of the best ways to prevent sunscreen stains is by waiting for the sunscreen to dry completely before putting on your clothing or bathing suit. When a stain does occur, however, you must first remove the oily components of the sunscreen. Typically, sunscreens contain a lot of oils and butters, and these greasy ingredients must always be removed first.

Follow these steps to get sunscreen stains from a garment, towel, or any other washable fabric:

1. Scrape off any excess lotion with a spoon.

2. If you can treat the stain immediately, apply a small amount of heavy-duty detergent, prewash stain remover, or dish soap onto the stain, and work it into the stain with a brush. Wait for at least 15 minutes to let the oils in the lotion dissolve.
When washing the stained garment immediately isn’t an option, sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, talcum powder, or sand to absorb the oils.

Sunscreen Stain Removal woman applying sunscreen on beach
3. Launder the garment using your normal detergent. It is recommended to use the hottest water temperature this type of garment can handle - read the care label for details.

4. Avoid placing the article of clothing in the dryer until you’re sure that the stain is gone. If the stain is still there, soak the garment in an enzymatic stain remover overnight, and then proceed to wash it again as usual.

Note: if your sunscreen contains an ingredient called avobenzone, be careful if you live in an area with hard water. The sunscreen reacts to the minerals in hard water, leaving behind rust-like dark stains. It’s best to wash such sunscreen-stained garments in distilled or filtered water until the stain is completely gone.

Getting sunscreen stains out of carpets and furniture

Sunscreen Stain Removal cleaning couch

Sunscreen has the pesky tendency of getting onto patio furniture, the couch, upholstered chairs, and especially the car seat. Cleaning a sunscreen-stained carpet, couch, or car seat is a bit trickier. But this too is possible. Here’s how to do so:

1. Scrape off goops of sunscreen from the carpet or upholstery using a spoon or an old credit card. This should be done as quickly as you can, as it will prevent the lotion from penetrating deep into the upholstery or carpet fibers.

2. Blot as much of the stain as you can using either paper towels or a clean cloth.

3. Into a sprayer bottle, add 1 teaspoon dish soap and 1 cup warm water. Shake well to combine.

4. Spray the solution onto the stained area and loosen up any remaining sunscreen with a soft-bristled brush.

5. Rinse the area clean by wetting a clean cloth in water and carefully blotting the stained area. See if any of the stains remain. If so, repeat steps 4 and 5 until the area looks clean.

Sunscreen Stain Removal vacuuming car seat

6. Let the carpet or upholstered item of furniture dry overnight. The vacuum to arrange and brush the fabric fibers back into place.

What about leather furniture?

Using harsh detergents on leather living room couches or car seats can be detrimental to their finish. So keep the bleach and dish soap away. Luckily, these items are often easier to clean from sunscreen too. Instead of using harsh chemicals on leather, we recommend making a homemade cleaning solution by combining equal parts white distilled vinegar and lukewarm water in a sprayer bottle.

Then take a clean microfiber cloth, spray the stain with the solution until damp but not wet, and then blot with the cloth, moving it around so that a clean part of the cloth is used every time. Finish by wiping down the stained leather area with a damp cloth, and voila, you’re all done!

H/T: The Spruce, Today, Good Housekeeping

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