How to Get Lipstick Out of Clothes in 9 Steps

By: Alison Cooper & Austin Henderson  | 
A young girl sits on a bathroom floor with lipstick smeared on her face
Maybe your makeup application wasn't this messy, but you could still be in trouble if you don't have these lipstick stain removal tips handy. Sasha Gulish / Getty Images/Image Source

Lipstick: It's the final touch to your stunning look but a nightmare for your wardrobe. If you don't know how to get lipstick out of clothes, you've probably had a very bad laundry day at some point in your life.

The vibrant colors and oil-based formula make lipstick stains a formidable opponent for any fabric. When these stains undergo the heat of a dryer, they set deeper, becoming even more challenging to remove.


But lipstick stains, while challenging, are not invincible. With the right approach and a bit of patience, you can keep your clothes free from the colorful grip of lipstick. The key to successful stain removal lies in understanding the nature of the stain, acting quickly, and using the appropriate treatment method.

Step-by-step Lipstick Stain Removal

As soon as you spot a lipstick stain, it's game time. The sooner you tackle it, the better your chances of victory. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps or materials you'll need to apply; saving your favorite shirt is worth the hassle.

  1. Remove excess lipstick. Use a dull knife or a credit card to gently scrape off any excess lipstick. Be careful not to rub the stain further into the fabric.
  2. Apply rubbing alcohol. Dab (don't rub!) the stain with a clean cloth soaked in room-temperature rubbing alcohol.
  3. Apply hairspray. Apply strong-hold hairspray and wait for 15 minutes. Then, dab gently with a cloth soaked in warm water.
  4. Apply nail polish remover. Before using nail polish remover, check to make sure your fabric can tolerate acetone, as it might damage some fabrics. If you're in the clear, apply acetone-based nail polish remover and scrub lightly with an old toothbrush. Follow up with isopropyl alcohol.
  5. Apply dishwashing soap solution. Spray diluted liquid dish soap on the stain and gently work it in.
  6. Apply petroleum jelly. Apply petroleum jelly with a cloth or toothbrush.
  7. Apply liquid glycerin. Rub in liquid glycerin and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  8. Apply specialized solutions. Use diluted ammonia, vinegar or oxygen bleach with an eyedropper for precise application.
  9. Rinse and repeat. Thoroughly rinse after each attempt. Persistence is key — you might need to repeat a method or try different ones.

When home remedies don't cut it, it might be time for a professional touch. A trip to the dry cleaner can work wonders on those particularly persistent stains.


Additional DIY Lipstick Stain Removal Techniques

Sometimes the usual tactics just don't cut it. When faced with particularly stubborn stains, you need to up your game with advanced techniques. Here's a rundown of some specialized methods that can save your favorite outfit from the dreaded lipstick mark.

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

This dynamic duo can work wonders. Create a paste of baking soda and lemon juice, apply it to the stain, and let it sit for 30 minutes. The natural bleaching properties of lemon juice, combined with the gentle abrasiveness of baking soda, can lift the stain out.


Shaving Cream Magic

Surprisingly, shaving cream can be an effective stain remover. Apply it directly to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wash it off. It's particularly useful on delicate fabrics where harsher chemicals might do more harm than good.

White Vinegar Solution

White vinegar is a powerhouse in the stain removal arena. Apply it directly to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes and then gently dab it off. It’s especially effective on lipstick stains due to its acetic acid content.

Hand Sanitizer Hack

Hand sanitizers aren't just for clean hands; they can also clean stains. The alcohol content in hand sanitizers can break down the oils in lipstick, making it easier to wash out. Apply, let it sit for a few minutes, and then dab away.

Hot-and-Cold-Water Technique

Sometimes alternating between hot and cold water can help. Start by soaking the stain in cold water, then switch to hot water (be mindful of the fabric's heat tolerance), and finally rinse in cold water again. This method can help loosen and lift the stain.


Lipstick Stain Prevention and Care

Preventing lipstick stains is just as crucial as knowing how to remove them. A proactive approach can save you time and preserve the integrity of your garments. Here are some essential tips to help you avoid these colorful mishaps and ensure the longevity of your clothing.

  1. Pretreat at-risk fabrics. Treat susceptible areas with a stain repellent before heading out.
  2. Put on lipstick with care. Be mindful when applying lipstick. A simple slip can lead to a stain skirmish.
  3. Read care labels. Always check the care label before attempting any cleaning method. Some fabrics are more delicate and require specific care.
  4. Test first. Before applying any solution, test it on an inconspicuous area of the garment to ensure it doesn't cause damage.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.


Lipstick Stain FAQ

Are lipstick stains permanent?
No, lipstick stains are not always permanent. With prompt and proper treatment, most lipstick stains can be removed. The key is to act quickly and use the right removal technique for the fabric.
Can dish soap remove lipstick stains?
Yes, dish soap, especially liquid dish soap, can be effective in removing lipstick stains. It's particularly good at breaking down the oils in the lipstick. Apply it to the stain, gently rub it in, then rinse with cool water.
How does rubbing alcohol work on lipstick stains?
Rubbing alcohol is great for treating lipstick stains because it helps to dissolve the oils. Dab a cotton ball or a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol on the stained area, then gently blot. Remember not to rub, as this can spread the stain.
Can vinegar get out lipstick stains?
You can use a solution of dish soap and white vinegar to get rid of lipstick stains. The same solution can be applied to other fabrics such as carpets or upholstery.
What's the most effective way to remove lipstick from clothes?
The most effective way varies depending on the fabric and the type of lipstick. Generally, a combination of pretreatment with a stain remover or liquid dish soap, followed by laundering in the hottest water safe for the fabric, works well.

Lots More Information

  • Martha Stewart. "Lipstick Stains." (April 10, 2012)
  • Real Simple. "Hairspray as a Lipstick Stain Remover." (April 10, 2012)