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What is the Best Way to Remove Lipstick from Clothing?

Deborah Ng
Deborah Ng

It is usually somewhat difficult to remove lipstick from clothing, but people facing stains and smears usually have the best luck acting fast, paying attention to the clothing label, and being willing to try a number of different remedies. Most lipsticks are made from a combination of oil, wax, and pigment, which often means that there are actually three different kinds of stain at work. People who notice the problem right away can often prevent serious damage with as little as soap and water, though prompt laundering is almost always required to make sure that nothing is left behind. Older stains may need more aggressive treatment, but in all cases it is very important to read the clothing label before scrubbing away. Attempting home stain removal on delicate or specially treated clothes can ruin them.

Determining the Type of Fabric

A woman applies lipstick.
A woman applies lipstick.

The very first thing a person who notices a lipstick stain should do is to figure out what sort of fabric is affected, since different removal techniques are better suited for different fibers. Cotton and synthetic materials like nylon and spandex can typically be handled more aggressively than can linens, for instance. Fur, leather, and suede often require extra care, as do materials like silk and organza.

Blotting with makeup remover may help get lipstick off clothing.
Blotting with makeup remover may help get lipstick off clothing.

As a general rule, clothes that can go in the washing machine without a problem are usually fine with a range of stain treatments. Those that require washes on the “delicate” cycle or that must be dry cleaned should usually be left alone, since even treatments as simple as soapy water can harm delicate fabrics. People who stain these sorts of garments should usually try to scrape off as much of the lipstick as they can, but should then seek professional help.

Assessing the Damage

Hair spray can help remove lipstick stains.
Hair spray can help remove lipstick stains.

In general, fresh stains are easier to remove than those that have dried on or that have been set, as when a tube of lipstick is accidentally run through the washing machine with a load of laundry. Most stain experts recommend beginning by isolating the affected area, and trying to remove as much of the wax and oil as possible. Blotting with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel often works well for this step. People should be careful not to rub the stain in, though, which means that a gentle hand is usually best.

Cotton balls are helpful when cleaning.
Cotton balls are helpful when cleaning.

Very fresh stains may lift with a light application of soap and water. Dabbing at the stain with a small circular motion is usually better than vigorously scrubbing it. A person who rubs too hard risks making the stain even deeper. If soap doesn’t do the trick right away, further measures are usually required.

At-Home Remedies

A number of household items can make removing stubborn lipstick stains a lot easier. Basic makeup remover is often a good place to start, though again light blotting, with a cotton ball or clean white cloth, is usually best. Sometimes letting the remover soak into the stain for a few minutes can help, too.

If lipstick gets onto clothing, clean it quickly to avoid more difficult-to-remove stains.
If lipstick gets onto clothing, clean it quickly to avoid more difficult-to-remove stains.

Rubbing alcohol and petroleum jelly often work the same way. Like makeup remover, these products typically bind to the lipstick’s pigmentation and oils, which can loosen them from the fabric and make them easier to wash away. Another option is hairspray. Most aerosol hair sprays will actually help lift stains out of cotton and synthetic fabrics if sprayed on at close range and then blotted with cold water. This “trick” works best for very fresh marks, though, and should not typically be used on fabric that is brightly colored because of the risk of fading.

Be sure the stain is completely gone before putting the clothing in the dryer.
Be sure the stain is completely gone before putting the clothing in the dryer.

It is important for people to wash their clothing shortly after any of these treatments, as all can leave unsightly residues if left too long. Most stain experts say to launder a treated stain within a few hours for best results, following the garment’s regular washing instructions.

Commercial Products

There are a number of commercial stain-removing products that can also work well on lipstick. Sprays, rubs, and soaking solutions are available from most supermarkets and home improvement stores. There are usually a lot of options, which can make choosing the right product much more difficult than finding something that may work. Reading the manufacturer’s instructions on the label is a very important part of this process. Not all stain removers are designed for the same thing, and many are optimized for different fabrics. It is uncommon to find a specific lipstick stain remover, but most products designed to remove waxy residue or that promise to combat oil or grease stains are good places to start.

Most commercial products are designed to be “pre-wash” treatments, which means that the stained garment will usually need to be laundered relatively soon after the application. Carefully reading the instructions is really important here since different products have different specifications when it comes to soak time and water temperature. Some “on-the-go” stain removers can help lessen the appearance of lipstick stains on clothes when the wearer is unable to take them off and wash them, but the faster the better when it comes to laundering in most cases. The longer the stain has to seep into the clothing, the harder it will be to get out.

It is often possible to repeat a stain treatment, or to try something new altogether, if the stained garment comes out of the wash still blemished. Once it has been run through the dryer, though, things tend to get more difficult. The heat of the dryer can “set” stains on some fabrics and make them permanent to the point that even a professional may not be able to help with removal.

Professional Solutions

Clothes that are delicate, fragile, or hard to clean should usually be taken to the dry cleaner’s as soon as a stain is noticed. Professional cleaners often have specialized ways to remove lipstick from even the most delicate fabrics, though they usually have the most success when the stain is relatively fresh and when it hasn’t already been treated with anything else. People who have lipstick on their clothes should usually point out the blemishes, too, to be sure that they are noticed and properly addressed. A dry cleaner who doesn’t realize a garment has been stained can make that stain much harder to remove if he or she goes about the cleaning process without first treating the affected area.

Preventing Stains in the First Place

People who find that they frequently encounter lipstick stains might be wise to take a few extra precautions. Putting on makeup after getting dressed is one easy solution; if this isn’t possible, draping a handkerchief or light cloth over the face before putting the head through a shirt or dress might also help prevent staining. Checking all pockets before laundering clothes can also help catch lipstick tubes that may have been inadvertently forgotten, which can prevent disaster in the washing machine.

Discussion Comments


WD-40. I tried everything here and WD-40 was the only thing that worked. There's nothing WD-40 can't fix.


I spent hours thinking how to put on my over-the-head wedding gown and save my make-up, hairstyle while dressing. I had just one chance to put on my dress thoroughly. I thought about a towel or silk scarf but it was not safe.

My dear friend recommended to me the Beauty Cap. They have different styles of Beauty Caps with torso protectors if you have body make up and the original Beauty Cap without torso.

My friend bought the complete style Beauty Cap with a torso protector for her wedding day. It absolutely protects the dress while dressing and of course protects the make-up and hair too! Girls, I do not know how to clean your damaged dresses but I know the best way how to keep it clean.


I had tinted lip balm get into an entire load of laundry. It went through the wash and the dryer so I thought it was all lost. The petroleum jelly worked OK, but what really did the trick was Resolve Max and a lot of scrubbing with a toothbrush. My white shirts are now spotless!


i got red lipstick on a white shirt, very lightly smeared. i used a neutrogena makeup remover face wipe and it worked.


if you wash it in hot water, it sets the stain. always wash in cold water.


I'm pretty sure it's lipstick, and i got it on my joggers. i really want the stain gone, but i didn't know you weren't suppose to dry it. So whats another way to get rid of it? i tried the stain remover spray, it didn't work, i washed it in hot water too. And i put detergent on it as well. Anyone have any suggestions?


First I would like to appreciate you for the valuable information you are sharing with us. But I use natural products mostly, even my lipstick.


As mentioned above, it is best not to touch the clothing if it goes to the dry cleaner. I found this out at the dry cleaners.

I used Shout-It-Out on the stains first, then off to the dry cleaner. She told me I should have left it, and now, following the dry cleaner, I have a number of lipstick stains still firmly in place. Of course, I wore it once and can no longer wear it, unless some of the posts are successful. I will try, try again.

Hopefully, I will be able to save the day with some of your suggestions. Fingers crossed.


Put a bit of clear dish soap on the stain, flip it over onto a dry white cloth and then dab the back with a wet clean cloth. This worked and got a pink stain off of a light beige crepe silk dress.


My brother was trying to wipe lipstick all over my face and i warned him to watch my clothes but it was too late. I've now got a big lipstick stain in several places. I've tried some of the things that people have, but it hasn't seemed to work. Maybe its the type of fabric? it's a very thin, see- through polyester top. Anyone got any suggestions?


try white vinegar, as this works on most stains. -Morgan


for #11- Same thing happened to me today, i.e., pink streaks all over the dryer drum. To make a long story short, since Clorox does not say it is inflammable, I called the company and the service rep suggested a little Clorox in warm water which I applied with a scrub sponge and it worked. Then I rinsed with a towel in clean water.


I flipped out literally when i approach my dryer to find all my whites were stained with lipstick. I tried spray and wash with clorox on another load wash but nothing helped, so I called my girlfriend and had a melt down.

I came home and tried dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide and soaked it, but it was not helping either.

Please help. The clothes are currently wet. Please help. I am so disappointed! All my lovely spring whites are doomed!


does anyone know how to get lipstick out of a silk wedding dress? it's been there for a while and i obviously don't want to smother the dress in hairspray or vaseline!


Someone suggest Fels-Naptha soap for lipstick/lipgloss. I used it for a lipgloss stain on my daughters bedspread and it worked like a dream! Not sure if I spelled the name of the soap correctly, but found it at the hardware store. It is made by the Dial Corp.


threw a cotton jacket into the dryer on low heat with a bounce - just to freshen it up - discovered a lipstick was in the pocket - yuck. soaked it overnight with a little detergent and a "color catcher" sheet - came out great. now i need help. i already cleaned the dryer twice and still have pink streaks on the inside. what can i do about this?


Thanks for the ideas. I had a tube of lipstick that was left in pocket of a pair of pants (not so uncommon it seems) and when I found the tube, it was empty - I wondered where it went, hoping it just disintegrated, but luckily(?) it only affected one shirt in my work clothes wash, but when I found it, it had the 1/2 the tube smashed in my shirt in basically one corner. I went to the internet and found your suggestions, and though it's drying yet, it looks like it mostly came out with a little grease cutting dish detergent and a nail brush - and there was a lot there to scrub out! Thanks!


i tried make up remover on my white dress. true the lipstick stain faded considerably but now i am left with a darker cirle in the area that i used the make up remover on! Help please!


Simple Green HD Heavy Duty Cleaner and Dawn Detergent, a bristle scrubber, lots of "elbow grease" and patience removed 99% of the lipstick from an entire load of laundry. I almost flipped when I opened the dryer to find lipstick on 9 t-shirts, and 3 pairs of capris! All is well now :)


I just removed lipstick from jeans and sweatpants taken out of the dryer after the lipstick had survived the washing cycle and then attacked all of my clothes in the dryer. The dryer cycle was completed. I used Dawn dish washing liquid and scrubbed and it came out awesome. Also, on other pants I used Bio-Ox, The Cleaner System. Both worked awesome. I put the pants back in the washer and they came out lipstick free with both applications. Good Luck!

I just wanted to add what did not work. Hairspray, WD40, and Goo Gone. P.S. We also used Oxy Clean in the washer cycle after treating the pants.


I used WD40, sprayed on the lipstick stain and it removed it.


Does anyone know of a way to get lipstick out after it has been through the dryer? Lipstick was left in the pocket through washing and drying.


scrub, scrub, scrub. I used a clorox pen and oxi clean. I soaked and scrubbed. It is still a very faint stain, but not noticeable. Good luck


I just experienced the same problem. Help!!!!


Does anyone know of a way to get lipstick out after it has been through the dryer? Lipstick was left in the pocket through washing and drying.

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    • A woman applies lipstick.
      By: bst2012
      A woman applies lipstick.
    • Blotting with makeup remover may help get lipstick off clothing.
      By: Emilia Stasiak
      Blotting with makeup remover may help get lipstick off clothing.
    • Hair spray can help remove lipstick stains.
      By: Alexandr Makarov
      Hair spray can help remove lipstick stains.
    • Cotton balls are helpful when cleaning.
      By: Vibe Images
      Cotton balls are helpful when cleaning.
    • If lipstick gets onto clothing, clean it quickly to avoid more difficult-to-remove stains.
      By: Nicola_Del_Mutolo
      If lipstick gets onto clothing, clean it quickly to avoid more difficult-to-remove stains.
    • Be sure the stain is completely gone before putting the clothing in the dryer.
      By: itestro
      Be sure the stain is completely gone before putting the clothing in the dryer.