Removing Makeup Stains from Clothes


We’ve all been there – you’re up to date on the latest makeup trends, you’ve finally found the perfect white blouse for work, and you love it. Unfortunately, your foundation loves it too – a little too much – and now it’s all over the collar. And your boyfriend’s designer polo got a little too close for comfort with your eyeliner when you both cried through Four Weddings last night. And you know what else has been making new friends? Your best towel – the one that’s now covered in nail varnish. It’s not looking great for that lovely scarf that blew into your face and got stuck on your lipstick, either.

But don’t despair  – stain removal is possible, even for tough cosmetic stains. The good news is that cosmetics don’t need to be a death sentence for clothes and linens. Read on for tips on removing these stubborn offenders from a variety of fabrics.


Powders are the easiest products to remove, as they don’t contain as many oils as liquid foundations. Next time you drop your compact upside down in your lap, take the time to brush and pat as much powder out of the fabric as possible – a small, soft brush can help. If liquid foundation is your problem, gently wipe away much excess as you can with a damp cloth – avoiding rubbing the stain deep into the fabric. Don’t scrub!

When you’ve removed as much powder or liquid as you can, check the item to see what it’s made of. Cottons, polyesters, and other common fabrics are easy to handle – just rub a little biological washing liquid into the stain, leave it for a few minutes, then wash the item as hot as the label allows.

Remember – there are special washing and stain removal rules for things like silk. Always check the packaging of the product you’re using, as well as the care label on the garment.

Eyeliner and Mascara

Eyeliner and mascara contain greases and pigments which can lead to particularly tough stains. Don’t try to wipe away either of these products – you’ll likely rub the stain further into the fabric! Instead, fill a basin with lukewarm water, add half a cup of biological detergent, then soak the garment in it for four or five hours.

The idea is to encourage the cosmetic to lift out of the fabric. After a good soaking, wash the garment as you normally would. Don’t be tempted to make the wash unusually hot – you might “cook in” the stain!

Nail Varnish

Nail varnish is a tricky number, and its stain removal needs to be approached carefully. First, turn the garment inside out, or around – you’re looking for the back of the stain. Make sure there’s no doubled up fabric, and place a wad of tissue underneath the front of the stain. Now – soak a cloth in acetone or nail varnish remover, and apply it to the back of the stain.

The idea is to get the varnish to dissolve from behind and flake away. If you attack the stain from the front, you may run the risk of rubbing the dyes in the varnish directly into the clothing you’re trying to save!

When you’re happy that the varnish is gone, wash your garment as normal to get rid of the acetone.


Lipstick contains various waxes, making it tricky to remove from clothes. The first thing to try should always be dabbing with biological detergent – sometimes this is enough.

If not, check the garment’s label for colourfast indicators, as this next step isn’t suitable for all dyes.

If the detergent didn’t work, and the garment is colourfast, it’s time to try methylated spirits. This strong-smelling liquid is available from most DIY stores. Apply the spirits sparingly in a well-ventilated area, and always read the bottle for extra safety instructions. To neutralise the spirits, apply a few drops of eucalyptus oil, which you can purchase from your chemist. Afterwards, be sure to complete the stain removal process by washing the garment at the highest heat setting possible!

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