Diary / Beauty / Mar 24, 2023
How To Get Makeup Out of Your Clothes
Written by: Piper Gray
Photography by: Jon Paterson
No matter how much of a pro you are, makeup accidents happen. It’s easy to spill or drop your favorite product, and luckily, it’s also easy to make sure your favorite foundation, lipstick, even mascara doesn’t leave a permanent stain. Here are some helpful tips—for all types of makeup products—on how to get makeup out of your clothes.
The Science of Stains
Before jumping in to clean up any makeup stains, it’s helpful to understand what your product is made of (for example, is it oil-based?). If you’ve ever tried to remove a stain with just water, you know what we mean. Makeup is made to stay on your face throughout the day, so if you get it on your clothes, it is not always as quick as wiping it off with a washcloth.
Like makeup, there is an entire world of soaps and what they can do. Think about all the different types of stains there are—wine stains, grass stains, food stains. The list is endless. So depending on the makeup product and how big the stained area is, you may have to change your clothes since pre-treating and laundering your clothing with certain detergents and stain fighters take time to work.
When it comes to makeup, many products—including many Jones Road staples—contain hydrating oils. They are great for your skin, but sometimes oils leave marks on clothing that need more than water; they’ll need to be removed with soap.
Pre-treating stains is important, as detergents contain enzymes and surfactants that can help to break down spots before they are washed. As far as time goes, leave the soap on for at least 15 minutes.
Foundations, Concealers, and Balms
Getting foundation on your collar or dropping concealer on your skirt can throw off your morning, but fortunately, this is an easy fix. First things first, you want to deal with oily stains immediately, as fresh stains are the easiest to remove.
Don’t try to rub the product away; that can push the product deeper into the fabric's fibers. Instead, use something with an edge, like a credit card or the smooth side of a kitchen knife, to lift and scrape away as much product as possible.
Next, you can apply a pre-stain remover. Any will do, including your own household laundry detergent. Use a damp washcloth to gently rub the stain away. You can also use a drop or two of dish detergent on the stain, as it can be super effective at lifting stains containing oils.
If the stain is still fresh, use cool water to rinse. However, if the stain is set, you can use the hottest water your detergent calls for. Only throw it in the dryer when you are sure the stain is gone. (The heat from the dryer will make the stain harder to remove.)
If you need to remove foundation from your clothing, there is likely a solution already in your bathroom: shaving cream. Dampen the stained area, apply the shaving cream, and rub the area gently with your fingers and then launder as usual in warm water.
Lipstick and Eyeliner
If you've ever smudged a sweater with your favorite lipstick, rubbing alcohol can help break down the waxiness. Soak a cotton ball or the corner of a washcloth in rubbing alcohol, and soak the stained area. Apply your choice of pre-treatment, and then launder as usual.
The same strategy goes for eyeliner: simply apply alcohol to the area using a soaked cotton ball or washcloth, and then pre-treat and launder. Like with lipstick, apply alcohol to the area using a soaked cotton ball or washcloth. Pre-treat and launder.
Another tip from makeup artists is to spritz hairspray on lipstick or eyeliner stains, but make sure alcohol is one of the ingredients of your hairspray; this is a good shortcut if you don’t have rubbing alcohol on hand.
Powdered Blush, Bronzer, and Eyeshadow
Powdered makeup can easily get everywhere, but don’t worry. Blowing gently where the powder is can help to dislodge it.
If any pigment sticks around, you can use water to get rid of the rest of the powder. Apply water to the backside of the garment to dislodge any powder between the fibers. Pre-treat the stain and launder it as usual.
If you have a mascara mishap, using makeup remover as a pre-treatment is a pro tip many makeup artists use. Make sure it is the oil-free kind, or you’ll need something to also remove the mark the oil from the remover will leave.
If you don’t have an oil-free makeup remover, use a clean spoolie brush with a little detergent to help break up the stain.
For small stains, makeup remover wipes can come in handy. Just dab, don’t rub (apply the wipe more gently than you would use it on your face) as rubbing can embed the product into the fabric.
Blowing your hair dryer or using a lint roller can help with powdered products, like blushes, bronzers, or eyeshadows, or if you are on the go, a detergent pen or wipe can help with stain removal until you can get home to launder it. We recommend keeping a few in your office desk drawer, bag, and car for when these occasions arise.
This may not work with everyone's morning routine, but consider doing your makeup in clothes you aren’t planning on wearing outside of the house—like a robe or pajama top. Even if you do get a dribble of foundation or a lipstick smudge on it, you can throw it in the hamper and put on the outfit you were already planning to wear.
Any mistake with makeup is totally fixable, thankfully, and it doesn’t take a pro to take care of stains—simply the right knowledge and right products. Just like building up your makeup routine requires some time and trial-and-error, so does knowing how to address any makeup accidents. So keep your cool, and keep good detergent, rubbing alcohol, and shaving cream around.