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Baffled about how to get sunscreen stains out of clothes? Well, you’ve landed in the right place.
I can tell you how to remove those unsightly stains, particularly nasty yellow sunscreen stains, on white clothes, and I can also tell you how to prevent sunscreen from staining clothes in the first place.
HOW TO GET SUNSCREEN OUT OF WHITE CLOTHES
Sunscreen is an absolute MUST, but one major downside is that it can stain our clothes, especially white clothes, especially light-coloured clothes and most annoyingly white clothes.
Beautiful, crisp, white clothes that set off our lovely summer skin.
Except they don’t look so lovely if there is a greasy-looking yellow stain around the neckline and cuffs.
But there is something that can be done to stop your clothes from getting stained by sunscreen in the first place and remove the stains if they do occur.
First, let’s take a look at how to get sunscreen out of clothes. I’ve put together a list of simple tips for the main issues that we all come up against:
- How to treat washable fabrics
- How to treat washable fabrics in hard water areas – hard water brings its own special challenge
- How to treat dry-clean fabrics
- How to remove old sunscreen stains from clothes
1. HOW TO REMOVE SUNSCREEN STAINS FROM WASHABLE FABRICS
1. MINIMISE IF YOU CAN’T TREAT STRAIGHT AWAY
If you can’t treat a sunscreen stain right away, at least try to remove any splodges of sunscreen from your clothes without rubbing it in further.
For example, if you are at the beach, you can use sand to soak up sunscreen. Let the sand sit on the stain for around 15 minutes to ensure it absorbs all the oil it can.
2. PRETREAT THE STAIN BEFORE WASHING
Pretreat the sunscreen stain with a prewash stain remover or cover it in a heavy-duty liquid washing detergent.
This is where a biological washing liquid works best over non-biological.
Why biological? Because you’re relying on the enzymes to break apart the oiliness of the stain.
Work the stain remover or liquid detergent into the sunscreen stain with either your fingers or a soft-bristled brush.
Let the stain remover/detergent work on the stain for at least 15 minutes.
Please note that avoiding stain removers that use chlorine or oxygenated bleaches is important, as these active ingredients can worsen sunscreen stains.
If you want to use a prewash stain remover, I can wholly recommend the Dr. Beckmann Pre-Wash Stain Remover.
I am a huge fan and have successfully used its Pre-Wash Stain Remover for several years. It doesn’t contain bleach of any kind and works just as well in lower temperatures as in higher ones, which means it is great for more delicate fabrics.
3. WASH IN THE HOTTEST WATER RECOMMENDED
Once you’ve allowed the stain remover to work, wash the clothing with the hottest wash recommended on the clothing’s care label.
You can use your regular washing powder or washing liquid at this point.
I will add here that my absolutely favourite washing detergent, which I am a little obsessed with, especially after we’ve just returned from holiday, is Asevi Marseille Soap laundry detergent.
4. BE CAUTIOUS BEFORE DRYING
Once the clothing has been washed, you should check for a visible stain before it dries.
Repeat the pretreat stage if there is still a stain before allowing the clothing to dry.
If the stain has faded enough or vanished, you can allow the clothing to dry.
Ideally, dry the clothing outside on a washing line in the sunshine because sunshine will help fade any discolouration.
5. AVOID PUTTING SUNSCREEN-STAINED CLOTHING IN THE TUMBLE DRYER
You mustn’t put any clothing with sunscreen stains on it into the tumble dryer.
Removing stains once they’ve been set in by tumble drying is MUCH more difficult.
So always ensure that a stain has been treated and has completely gone before you tumble dry.
2. HOW TO REMOVE SUNSCREEN STAINS FROM WASHABLE FABRICS IN HARD WATER AREAS
If the water in your area has a high mineral content – i.e. hard water – use a water softener or distilled water to wash the sunscreen-stained item.
If you use a softener for hard water, you should avoid excessively hot water.
You should also avoid chlorine bleach products because they can react with hard water to worsen the problem.
If you find the stain still prevails, use a commercial rust remover.
However, this can only be used on white or colourfast fabrics.
I’ve found that the most popular product for removing rust from clothing is the HG Stain Away 7 Rusty Mark Remover.
3. HOW TO REMOVE SUNSCREEN STAINS FROM DRY-CLEAN-ONLY FABRICS
If you get a sunscreen stain on dry clean clothing, it is best to take it to the dry cleaners.
I’m sorry, that’s probably not the miracle tip you were hoping for, and I will add that you should take the stained clothing as soon as possible.
This is because the longer the stain is on the fabric, the less likely it is to be completely removed.
Always make sure to point out to the cleaner where the stain is and how it was caused.
4. HOW TO REMOVE OLD SUNSCREEN STAINS FROM WHITE CLOTHES
What about if you want to remove old yellow sunscreen stains from your clothes? The best way to remove old stains is to use a prewash stain remover and a soft brush to work the product into the stain. Leave to soak in for no more than 15 minutes, then wash. Ensure the stain has gone before allowing the clothing to dry.
As mentioned above, I rely on Dr Beckmann Pre Wash Stain Remover. It comes with a soft brush attached to the applicator, making it easy to work the remover into stains.
I really hope you find these tips useful.
So, that’s my simple tips on how to remove sunscreen stains from clothing.
HOW TO PREVENT SUNSCREEN FROM STAINING CLOTHES AND FABRIC
Now, I’ve got some useful information on how to stop stains from happening on clothes and fabric in the first place.
This is particularly useful to remember if you want to keep your white clothing free from stains.
So, first up, here’s a little insight into WHY sunscreen stains fabrics in the first place…
WHY DOES SUNSCREEN STAIN FABRIC?
The main reason sunscreen stains clothes is because of the reaction of certain chemical ingredients found in many sunscreens reacting with the minerals in the water the clothes are then washed in.
This is a particular issue if you live in a hard water area because ‘hard’ water is water with high mineral content.
The reaction of the minerals with the chemicals causes any oil sunscreen residue on clothing to darken and become much harder to get rid of.
The main culprit chemical ingredient in sunscreen is called avobenzone.
When avobenzone mixes with minerals found in hard water, it can lead to brown, rust-like stains.
The depth of the problem depends on the type of fabric it ends up on.
For example, a synthetic fabric will stain more easily than cotton or other natural fabrics.
HOW TO AVOID AVOBENZONE STAINING YOUR CLOTHES
There are a couple of great ways to avoid avobenzone staining your clothing.
First, ensure that the sunscreen you’ve applied to your skin is completely dry before putting your clothes on.
Now, this isn’t always easy to do if you are applying sunscreen to young children or if you are reapplying sunscreen to yourself or your kids whilst you are out and about.
So, the second thing you can do to avoid staining from avobenzone is to check the sunscreen ingredients before you buy it and buy one that doesn’t contain it.
The best way to avoid avobenzone is to look for a sunscreen product that contains a mineral sunscreen product rather than a chemical one.
The added benefit is that mineral sunscreen is much better for us and the planet.
Also useful: What to pack for a family holiday
OTHER WAYS TO REMOVE SUNSCREEN STAINS FROM CLOTHING
If you aren’t a fan of buying stain removers, there are several items you have in your household that you could try. Here is a list of ideas:
- Vinegar –
- Baking soda
- Lemon juice
- Dishwashing liquid
- Talcum powder
WANT MORE LAUNDRY TIPS?
I hope these tips on removing yellow sunscreen stains from white clothes and how to prevent the stains in the first place will help you keep your clothes stain-free for longer.
If you fancy more laundry tips – who doesn’t love a laundry tip or two!! – I have a post on creating an easy laundry routine that works for you and a super popular post on how to get paint out of kids’ clothes.
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Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.