Keeping your car’s interior spotless can be tricky — especially if you have kids. Now add a few sunscreen stains from summer adventures, and you’ve got yourself a real challenge.

To remove sunscreen from your car interior, gently wash the affected area with mild soap and warm water. If the stain doesn’t come off, use a stronger cleaner like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or a degreaser. To avoid damaging your car’s interior, test all cleaners in a less visible spot first.

Cleaning up sunscreen stains from your vehicle’s interior can be a headache. The first thing you must do is find a safe and effective substance for removing the stains, whether homemade or store-bought. Read on for a detailed guide on removing sunscreen stains from your car’s interior.

1. Water and Soap

Proper use of sunscreen protects your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. But when it gets on your car’s upholstery, it can cause stains and permanent discoloration.

A simple and easy way of removing sunscreen stains is to use warm water and soap.

Soap and water are used for removing stains from most surfaces. This is because soap is an effective surfactant, which means it breaks down the barriers between two substances and allows them to mix more easily. Soap works by lifting stains from the surface and into the water so they can be rinsed away.

Before applying this process, it’s essential to know what you’re dealing with. Sunscreens come in different formulations that provide varying levels of protection from the sun.

Here’s what you need:

  • Baking soda or some other powder
  • Warm water in a bowl
  • Soap or mild detergent
  • Dry cloth or wet wipes
  • Sponge
  • Paper towels

Don’t use this method if you’re sure the stain was caused by sunscreen containing avobenzone.


  1. Pour powder over the stain. Powders like baking soda can help absorb parts of the stain, especially if it’s fresh. Place some over the stain and leave it to soak for a few minutes.
  2. Get warm water ready and pour it into a bowl. You want the water to be warm, not hot. Sunscreen is oily, and using hot water can cause oily stains to set even further.
  3. Pour soap into the bowl. I recommend using clothing detergent. Since it’s made to be used in fabrics, it won’t be too harsh on your car’s interior.
  4. Start cleaning. Use the water and soap to start cleaning over the stain. You want to use a firm hand, ensuring you’re pressing in hard enough so that the stain can come off. If you’re too gentle, the stain might not budge. However, you don’t need to be too harsh either.
  5. Check the stain and keep going if necessary. After you’ve been wiping for a while, you should take a close look at the stain to see if it’s coming off. If not, keep going. If it’s partially gone, you can keep at it for a bit longer.
  6. Wipe the area with a plain wet cloth. Finally, you want to wipe the area where the stain was. It will look wet after, but it should dry in no time, and the stain should be gone.

If the stubborn stain hasn’t gone completely, you can always use the following method.

2. Lemon

Lemon can help clean away any stubborn stains. If you have spare lemons lying around in your kitchen, you might want to consider this method!

Note: Always test on a small area prior to applying on the entire surface.

You will need the following:

  • Three or four fresh lemons
  • Sponge or clean cloth
  • Kitchen knife
  • Clean Water
  • Paper towels


  1. Gather some lemons and prepare them so that you can easily squeeze the juice out.
  2. Mix the lemon juice with some warm water or use it alone. If one method doesn’t work, you can try the other.
  3. Cover the stain with a decent amount of lemon juice or lemon juice-water mixture. You may need to use multiple lemons if the stain is large.
  4. Leave it alone for a while. Allowing the stain to soak gives the lemon juice time to break it down.
  5. Examine the stain to make sure it’s gone.
  6. Once the stain is gone, clean the area using a wet or damp cloth.

3. Vinegar and Baking Soda

Baking soda and vinegar are two household ingredients that you might already have in your kitchen. But aside from being used for cooking, the two have many uses in everyday life. And now, you can use them to remove sunscreen from your car interior.

Aside from being effective at removing sunscreen from car interiors, baking soda and vinegar are also gentle on surfaces. Plus, they’re both inexpensive and easy to find. All you need is a bowl, a sponge, and some elbow grease.

These two kitchen ingredients are effective cleaners because they lie on opposite ends of the pH scale. Chemical substances are measured by their pH to determine how acidic or basic they are.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Bowl
  • Microfiber or paper towels
  • Warm water in a bowl
  • Sponge
  • Soft brush

Do the following:

  1. The first step is to mix vinegar with baking soda. Make sure to use more baking soda than vinegar. Vinegar is a natural acid that will break down the sunscreen molecules, so it should be effective.
  2. Next, apply the mixture to the stain. You can also mix the baking soda and vinegar with water, which will dilute the mixture.
  3. Leave the mixture on the stain. You should wait a few minutes. The exact time you should wait will depend on how stubborn the stain is. Keep an eye on it so that you know when it’s improving.
  4. When the spot is clean, wipe to remove any residue and let it dry completely. You may need to use water to remove any leftovers.

4. Baking Soda or Cornstarch

This is another simple but effective method to remove sunscreen from your car’s interior.

Sunscreens usually contain chemicals that can damage your vehicle’s interior. The good news is there are several ways you can use baking soda or cornstarch to dissolve these stubborn stains on your car seats, carpets, and any other surface in your car.

Baking soda absorbs oil and fat, making it perfect for removing sunscreen oils and other impurities. Cornstarch works similarly by binding oil and dirt particles together so they cannot be absorbed further into the fabric. However, cornstarch may be less effective than baking soda at removing stubborn sunscreen marks.

I recommend this method for fresh stains, especially in carpets.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Soak up the stain with a cloth. Blotting a stain minimizes the amount absorbed into the fabric. This process helps remove any excess moisture that might cause damage and increase the likelihood of a stain forming.
  2. Directly sprinkle baking powder or cornstarch on the stained area. Baking powder is composed of sodium bicarbonate, which helps break down molecules in the stain. Cornstarch also has properties that help absorb stains and remove them from surfaces.
  3. Using a soft brush, gently rub the baking soda into the stain. Try using a soft brush to rub the baking soda into the stain. Baking soda is a natural degreaser and will help remove any excess oil. Scrub the area gently to avoid damaging the surface.
  4. Wait 25 minutes. To ensure that the absorbent effectively cleans the stain, wait for at least 25 minutes after you’re done with the application.
  5. Gently scrape away the baking soda or cornstarch. You can also use a vacuum.

Repeat the process if the spot still doesn’t look clean enough at the end.

If the stain has set in, you can combine baking soda or cornstarch with vinegar to form a thick paste that you can scrub into the fabric or surface.

5. Rubbing Alcohol

In most cases, rubbing alcohol will work well for stained surfaces on car seats. If you’re looking for an alcohol-based cleaner that can be used on minor stains, consider using an alcohol wipe. These wipes are pre-moistened with rubbing alcohol, making them ideal for cleaning up spills and removing stains from various surfaces.

Here’s what you need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Microfiber towel
  • Wet wipes
  • Sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Clean water in a bowl

Here’s how to clean a sunscreen stain with alcohol:

  1. Use the microfiber towel to gently clean the affected area making a circular motion. This will remove any sunscreen that hasn’t fully dried yet.
  2. Go over the stain with your alcohol wipes. It’s good to be a little vigorous to remove as much sunscreen as possible. Pay attention to how the stain is reacting, and once it’s gone, you can move on to the next step.
  3. Wet the area to clean everything. It’s best to use a cloth for this step.
  4. After wiping the surface, allow it to dry completely.

 Apply the following process when using rubbing alcohol:

  1. Clean the stain with a microfiber cloth. Alternatively, you could use baking soda to remove any excess oils.
  2. Mix some alcohol and water in a bowl and apply it to the sunscreen patch. Alternatively, you can use pure rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle.
  3. Use a cloth after applying the rubbing alcohol to the stain. Scrub vigorously. Remember that big, old stains might take a little longer to remove.
  4. Use a wet cloth or apply water directly to the stain to finish the process. Alcohol can damage the surface over time, so cleaning the area well is advisable.

Note: The less alcohol you use, the less harsh you’ll be on the interior. You should start by mixing it with water in a ratio of approximately 1 part alcohol and 8 parts water. If that’s not enough, you can mix more water until you get the right strength. Alternatively, use a small amount of pure rubbing alcohol — preferably a spray.

6. Commercial Cleaners and Degreasers

Sunscreen stains on your car’s interior can be very frustrating, but several commercial cleaners and degreasers can get the job done quickly and easily.

Use these products to remove sunscreen stains from any surface, including your car’s seat, dashboard, and door handles. Just be sure to test a small area first to avoid potential damage.

Although using degreasers or commercial cleaners could be the most effective method of dealing with sunscreen stains, it’s also the most expensive option. The methods I explained earlier mainly comprise household products that are probably already in your kitchen.

Before you apply or use these commercial cleaning agents, read the instructions carefully/ These are highly concentrated solutions that might damage your car’s interior.

When removing sunscreen stains using this method, the process is similar to using rubbing alcohol.

In summary, you apply the degreaser onto the stained spot and let it soak up the stain for a while, then wipe away the residue.

Here’s what you should have at hand before you start:

  • Commercial cleaner or degreaser of your choice
  • Microfiber towel
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Clean water in a bowl


  1. Follow the instructions on the bottle first. Generally, you can apply the product directly to the sunscreen.
  2. Rub the stain with a sponge or clean cloth.
  3. If any residue remains, wipe it away with a paper towel.
  4. Wash the area using water.
  5. Dry the area using a dry cloth. You can also leave it to air dry by keeping the door or windows open for a while.

If you need the ultimate detailer for removing oily stains, I recommend Chemical Guys InnerClean Interior Detailer And Protectant. Deep, penetrating stains are no match for this product, which contains advanced cleaning agents. It removes dust, dirt, and sunscreen stains from interior surfaces while coating them with UV protection.

You can use this product on all interior surfaces, whether they’re made of leather, fabric, vinyl, or plastic, from your car’s dashboard to its seats.

Final Thoughts

You can use plenty of products to get rid of sunscreen stains in your car’s interior. Using household products already in your pantry is the easiest and most straightforward way.

If this fails to get the job done, you can try commercial cleaners, but be careful not to worsen the situation by ruining your vehicle’s interior. Carefully read the instructions that come with these products.

See also: How to Get Sunscreen Out of Clothes

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