Despite sunscreen’s protective properties, the stains it leaves on your clothes can be a nuisance. The stains look oily and rusty, and they can be stubborn to remove. However, getting the sunscreen out of your clothes doesn’t have to be a painful ordeal if you have a healthy dose of patience and the right products.

You can get sunscreen out of clothes by removing the excess sunscreen and then pretreating it with a DIY or chemical stain remover. The stain will break down as you scrub it with a brush or soft cloth. You should then wash the clothes with warm water and heavy-duty detergent.

The rest of this article will discuss why sunscreen stains clothes and expand on the steps above.

1. Remove Excess Sunscreen From Clothing

Before you pretreat and wash your stained clothing, it’s essential to remove the excess sunscreen first. If you begin the pretreatment process without wiping off the excess product, the chemicals you use later may not break down the stain completely. Let’s go through what you should do below:

  1. Scrub off any leftover product with a spoon, knife, soft brush, or cloth.
  2. Ensure that you scrub towards the center of the stain rather than outward, as you may spread the product more and make the stain bigger.

I recommend using The Laundress Stain Brush from Amazon, as it’s specifically made for fabrics. It’s a gentle brush that will protect the quality of your clothes and is ideal for the entire pretreatment process. You can use a spoon or cloth to scrape off the excess — however, they may make a bigger mess of the stain.

2. Pretreat the Stain With a Natural or Chemical Stain Remover

Pretreating the stained area before you put it in the washing machine increases the chances of the stain being completely removed, as the pretreatment spot treats the stain and will break down the oils.

While it’s often suggested to only use a chemical stain remover, using a natural or DIY one can work just as well. There are several natural stain removers that you’ll probably find in your home, so let’s explore a few of them below.

  • Baking soda: Baking soda has gained popularity as one of the best and most affordable cleaning solutions. Use it as a pretreatment by sprinkling some on the stained area. Make sure to coat the surface of the stain with it.
  • Cornflour: Cornflour is a good substitute for baking soda and will absorb the oil from the sunscreen stain. You can add it dry to the stain or make a paste with water and leave it on the stain overnight.
  • White vinegar: Homemakers have lauded white vinegar for decades for its cleaning power and ability to penetrate through oil stains. It’s incredibly safe to use on fabrics and will make your clothes smell fresh.
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice is a bleaching agent because it contains acetic acid. However, be careful when using it on colored clothing as it may discolor the clothes if left for too long. It’s recommended to only use lemon juice on white clothing.
  • Eucalyptus oil: This oil isn’t just known for its incredible aroma but also for its ability to remove oil stains from clothing. Apply a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the stained area for a few minutes before washing.

When using one of the above natural stain removers, ensure that you let them sit on the stained area for 10-15 minutes.

If you’d rather use a chemical stain remover, make sure you use one you trust to retain the quality of your clothing. Some trusted brands include OxiClean, Tide, and Persil. Also, make sure that you don’t use too much stain remover. It might make it harder to rinse out and can damage your clothes.

It’s also possible to use both a natural and a chemical stain remover. Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to do this:

3. Rub the Natural or Chemical Stain Remover Into the Clothing

Once you’ve added your chosen stain remover, let it sit on the stained area for 10-15 minutes before gently rubbing the stain remover into the stain with a spoon, soft brush, or cloth. This spreads the stain remover into the clothing fibers and loosens the stain before you’ve even thrown your clothes into the washing machine.

And if you use a brush like the one we recommended above, you might even find that the stain has already faded a little.

4. Use Bleach for White Clothes

Sunscreen stains on white clothes will undoubtedly be more noticeable. You can use chemical bleach on the stained area. However, make sure that you use a small amount of bleach and dilute it with water, as bleach can be harsh and damage your clothing.

After washing, if you find that the bleach hasn’t worked to eradicate the stain, you can add lemon juice to the stain before drying the clothes in the sun.

5. Wash Your Clothing in Warm Water and Heavy-Duty Detergent

Once you’ve let the stain remover sit for 10-15 minutes and gently rub it into the stain, you can now wash your clothes on the normal cycle. It’s okay to chuck it into the washer with other clothes.

A heavy-duty detergent will do a better job at removing sunscreen. Wash the clothes in warm water — using too hot water may set the oily stain further into the clothes, and you also risk damaging the fabric.

Additionally, you can check the fabric’s care label to be more precise with the temperature at which you should wash your clothes.

6. Dry Your Clothes in the Sun

If you notice the stain is still present after washing, try to tackle it immediately by adding a little more stain remover and throwing it into the washer again. Don’t make the mistake of drying the clothing first, as heat can permanently set the stain.

Similarly, it’s better to avoid tumble drying as the high heat will cause any trace of the stain to become permanent. Your safest option would be to sun dry your clothing.

The sun naturally bleaches clothing without causing damage and kills bacteria too.

Why Sunscreen Stain Clothes

Sunscreen stains clothes because it contains oil-based ingredients and avobenzone. Oil stains are harder to break down, and when avobenzone mixes with hard water, a rusty, yellow-like stain will appear on your clothing. The type of clothing fibers determines the severity of the stain.

Natural and cotton fibers are more absorbent than synthetic fibers, and the more absorbent a fabric is, the easier it is to remove stains. Keep this in mind the next time you wear sunscreen under synthetic clothing.

The combination of oil ingredients and avobenzone makes sunscreen stains a pain to remove. However, with the steps described above, you should be able to do it without much effort.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post gave you some valuable tips for getting sunscreen out of your clothes.

As annoying as sunscreen stains are, don’t compromise your skincare just to avoid stains on your clothes. With these above steps, you’ll be able to remove the sunscreen stains without breaking too much of a sweat.

Here are a few reminders:

  • Always pretreat the stain before washing the clothes
  • Try using a combination of natural and chemical stain remover, but don’t overdo it
  • Avoid using a tumble dryer and sun dry your clothes

Related: How to Remove Sunscreen From Car Interior

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