Lipstick is notoriously difficult to remove from clothes for the same reason it looks good and stays put on lips. The same oil, pigment and chemicals that help lipstick last throughout the day also make it especially tough to remove from fabric. Give clothes a serious stain-fighting treatment by following these lipstick stain removal steps.

 

Clothes soaking in a stainless steel wash basket

Step 1: Check your clothing's care tag

Always check your clothing’s care label for any specific requirements like dry cleaning—this method is recommended for machine-washable clothes only. Before starting to treat the stain, also check the label for hot, warm or cold water temperature recommendations.

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ACT QUICKLY

Begin the removal process as soon as possible after the lipstick stain occurs. Waiting longer gives the oils in the lipstick more time to absorb into the fabric, making it harder to remove. 

Step 2: Gently scrape off excess lipstick

Use a dull knife or credit card to lift off any excess material. Gently scrape the surface of the fabric, making sure not to rub or push the lipstick deeper into the fabric.

Impeller washing machine with a glass lid

Step 3: Apply a teaspoon of dish soap directly to the stain

If both sides of the fabric are accessible, apply the dish soap to the front and back of the stain without water. Do not rub or scrub the stain. Let the dish soap sit for about 30 minutes.

 

Laundry detergent or pre-wash stain remover can be used in place of dish soap, but they may not have the same grease-fighting capabilities as dish soap to release the oils in lipstick.

Step 4: Soak in a dish soap solution

Mix this soaking solution in a glass or plastic bowl or bucket: a drop of liquid dish soap and a couple cups of the warmest water recommended on the care tag. Soak the item for at least an hour. The longer the soak, the better your chances of success. If you can, an overnight soak is ideal for lipstick stain removal.

Step 5: Remove the stain with a soft brush

When it’s done soaking, gently scrub the stain with a soft-bristle toothbrush, working from the outside in to prevent spreading. Remove as much of the stain as possible and be sure to fully remove the soap by rinsing thoroughly before putting the item in the washing machine. Dish soap in the washing machine creates excess suds and can cause an overflow.

Detergent being poured into the dispenser

Step 6: Machine wash on your regular wash cycle

Machine wash the item using the warmest water recommended on the care tag. Use any product in your stain-fighting arsenal, like oxygen bleach or laundry detergent containing stain removers. If you don’t have either of these, add ½ cup of baking soda to the load.

Step 7: Repeat as needed

Line dry the item: heat from a dryer will set any stain left behind that you can't see while the fabric is wet. Inspect the item after the wash cycle. If the lipstick stain persists after washing, repeat steps 1–7 as many times as needed until the stain is completely gone. If you can't get the stain out yourself, take it to a dry cleaner.

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