We tried it: 3 ways to remove lipstick stains — naturally.
Last Updated: June 30, 2022
A little lipstick on your clothes probably won’t ruin them — if you remove it properly. We tried a few natural ways to remove lipstick to see what works best.
What type of stain is lipstick?
How can one inch of Temptation Red cause so much potential tragedy? From an off-kilter kiss that smears across a shirt collar to a clumsy drop of the tube, lipstick stains look fierce, but there’s a good chance they’ll come out in the wash — if you pretreat the stain properly.
Almost all lipstick stains are solvent-based, made with waxes, oils, and dyes, which are all challenging substances when it comes to getting them out of fabric without using harsh chemicals like bleach.
An Internet search will net you plenty of different methods for getting lipstick stains out of clothes — in fact, we found so many that we decided to try out the three we saw most frequently (aside from stain removal sprays): dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and vinegar.
So, what works? Read on, and find out.
First, a couple of considerations for removing lipstick stains
No matter what method or products you use to remove lipstick from your clothes, the first step is to carefully scrape off excess lipstick with a butter knife. Chances are, you’ll only have to perform this step if you sat on an open tube of lipstick or your kid got ahold of your ‘stick and smeared it with a heavy hand, as kids are wont to do.
Before you start the stain-removal process, check the garment’s care label, and wash it in the hottest water recommended — which will usually be a cold water wash, on account of new technologies in laundry detergents and washing machines that make hot water unnecessary most of the time.
(The exceptions are towels, items that have been in contact with someone who’s sick, and bedding that’s rife with dust mites or bed bugs.)
What’s the best way to remove lipstick stains? We tried it!
First, we picked out some clothing items made with different common fabrics. Clockwise, from the top left:
Blue shirt: 74% polyester / 22% nylon / 4% spandex
White button-up: 97% cotton / 3% elastane
Periwinkle scarf: 100% cashmere
White knit shirt: 100% cotton
Spotted pillow case: 100% polyester
We used three different types of lipstick ( L to R: matte cream, gloss, and long-wear) and gave each garment a big ol’ kiss wearing each one. Mwah!
Then, we tried three different pretreatments to see how they removed the three different lipstick stains.
How to remove lipstick with dish soap
Step 1: Fold up a paper towel (ideally a tree-free or reusable paper towel) and lay the stained side on top of it. Squeeze a sploosh of dish soap on the back side of the stain (we used Mrs. Meyers in their delightful peony scent — yum!).
Step 2: Rub the soap into the fabric with your finger for around 30 seconds.
Step 3: Wet a clean cloth, and rub again for around the same amount of time.
Step 4: Let it sit for 15 minutes.
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How to remove lipstick with rubbing alcohol
Step 1: First, do a tiny patch test in an inconspicuous place on the fabric to ensure the rubbing alcohol won’t damage or discolor it.
Step 2: Soak a cotton ball or cotton pad with rubbing alcohol (we used alcohol swabs.)
Step 3: Blot the stain — don't rub! — with the alcohol-soaked cotton ball.
Step 4: Dampen a clean cloth with cool water, and blot at the stain again — don’t rub!
Step 5: Let it sit for 15 minutes.
Can vinegar remove lipstick stains?AUTHOR PHOTO: VINEGAR
Step 1: Do a patch test in an inconspicuous spot to ensure the vinegar won’t damage or discolor the fabric.
Step 2: Soak a cotton ball or cotton pad with plain ol’ white vinegar or cleaning vinegar, which is a smidge stronger than plain ol’.
Step 3: Blot the stain — don't rub! — with the vinegar-soaked cotton ball.
Step 4: Dampen a clean cloth with cool water, and blot the stain again — don’t rub!
Step 5: Let it sit for 15 minutes.
What’s the best way to pretreat a lipstick stain?
Here are the results of the pretreatment:
Natural dish soap
The paper towel on the left side of each item illustrates how much of the lipstick the dish soap removed. Of the three methods we used, the dish soap comes in at the number-one way to pretreat and remove a lipstick stain.
The cotton round on the right side of each garment shows that vinegar wins second place out of the three. It’ll do in a pinch, but it’s not ideal.
While rubbing alcohol is a powerful stain remover for some things, lipstick isn’t one of them. Blotting the stain with alcohol removed virtually none of the lipstick color from any item besides the scarf and the white button-up, which leaves rubbing alcohol in last place.
Like your cleaning products unscented? Here are 7 unscented dish soaps on Grove that receive the highest overall ratings from our members.
It all comes out in the wash — or does it?
Before: lipstick stains
To refresh your memory so you don’t have to scroll up, these are our freshly stained garments.
After pretreating the lipstick stains, we tossed all of them — including the cashmere scarf, oops — into a cold-water wash cycle. (The scarf survived!) We used natural laundry detergent and a Grab Green bleach alternative pod.
After: The best way to get lipstick out of clothes
Dish soap: the best way to remove lipstick from clothes
The dish soap did a bang-up job. It worked best on the blue shirt (74% polyester / 22% nylon / 4% spandex), the pillowcase (100% polyester), the periwinkle scarf (100% cashmere) and, to a lesser degree, the white pullover shirt (100% cotton), which has a greasy spot where the lipstick was.
Vinegar: second place
The cleaning vinegar did a pretty good job on the cashmere scarf, and it sort of worked on the white cotton pullover, but you probably wouldn’t wear it in public. Or maybe you would — we don’t judge.