How to remove foundation from clothes

Foundation stains can be a pesky problem. The waxy, oily makeup formula easily transfers to clothing and penetrates fabric to leave unsightly marks. While foundation stains may seem stubborn, there are many techniques you can use to successfully remove it from clothing.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to banish foundation stains. You’ll learn about:

  • Common causes of foundation stains
  • Homemade stain removal solutions
  • Laundry tips and stain pretreatment
  • Solutions for set-in stains
  • Fabric-specific removal methods
  • Products for stain removal
  • Preventing future foundation stains

With the right products and techniques for your fabric type, you can easily restore your clothes to their foundation-free glory!

remove foundation from clothes

Causes of Foundation Stains

Before jumping into removal methods, let’s look at how foundation stains happen so you can try to avoid them.

Transfer from Skin

Foundation applied to your face and neck can transfer onto clothing from contact with collar areas, shoulders, and other body parts. Transfer is more likely with thicker, creamier formulas.

Spills and Drips

Accidents like knocking over an open foundation bottle or leaks in your makeup bag can lead to major stains. Drips while applying foundation can also end up on your clothes.

Makeup Brushes

Brushes with leftover foundation residue will leave streaks if they brush against your shirt, pants, or other garments.

Buildup in Laundry

Over time, layers of foundation can accumulate on clothing and get embedded into the fibers. These deposits lead to stains if not washed out promptly.

No matter how careful you are, foundation stains are bound to happen occasionally. The key is using the right removal method for your fabric.

Homemade Removal Solutions

Before pulling out the heavy-duty cleaners, try some homemade solutions using ingredients you likely already have:

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that works great on fresh stains. Make a paste with water, apply to the stain, let sit for 30 minutes, then launder as usual. The alkaline soda helps break down pigment.

Dish Soap

Squirt dish soap directly on the stain and gently scrub with an old toothbrush. The sudsy formula dissolves makeup oils. Rinse thoroughly and wash normally.

Hydrogen Peroxide

As a bleaching agent, peroxide can bubble away new makeup stains. Apply to stain, let sit 2-3 minutes, then rinse and launder. Avoid using on delicate fabrics.

Baby Shampoo

The gentle cleansing of baby shampoo makes it ideal for delicates. Work into stain, let sit 5 minutes, then rinse. The soap molecules lift pigment.

White Vinegar

This pantry staple cuts through grease. Sponge vinegar onto the stain, let sit 1-2 minutes, then rinse with cool water and wash. The acetic acid dissolves pigment.

Rubbing Alcohol

For oil-based makeup stains, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol and let soak in a few minutes before washing. It breaks down foundation oils.

Test these homemade solutions to find the best one for your stain and fabric type. They can save clothes and skip costly cleaners!

Laundry Tips for Removal

In addition to spot treatments, certain laundry techniques can boost your success in removing foundation from clothing:

Pretreat Stains

Rub a laundry pretreatment stick, gel, paste, or spray onto stains before washing. Enzyme-based pretreatments work extremely well to break down makeup.


Don’t let stains sit for long before washing. The quicker you can launder the item after staining, the better chance of removing it.

Inspect Clothes

Check over clothes for any makeup stains and pretreat them before tossing into the wash. This prevents stains from setting.

Wash in Hot Water

Use the hottest water setting safe for the fabric. Hot water is best for breaking up foundation pigments and oils.

Extra Rinse Cycle

Use the extra rinse cycle on your washing machine to ensure all detergent and makeup residue gets flushed away completely.

Dry Thoroughly

After washing, make sure clothes dry fully. Heat can set stains, so dry foundation-stained items inside-out.

Stick to these laundry habits and give stains attention before washing, and you’ll keep clothes looking their best.

Removing Set-In Stains

For stubborn foundation stains that have already set into the fibers, you’ll need to use some heavy-duty treatments:

Liquid Detergent

Let set-in stains soak in a concentrated amount of liquid laundry detergent before washing. The extra cleaning power helps tackle embedded makeup.

Oxygen Bleach

Products like OxiClean use the power of oxygen to lift tough makeup stains. Make a paste with water, let it sit for 8+ hours or overnight, then launder.

Color-Safe Bleach

For white and colorfast fabrics, spray on color-safe bleach like Clorox 2. Let sit 5 minutes before washing. Check for color-fastness first.

Stain Remover Spray

Liquid sprays with oxalic acid or hydrogen peroxide help dissolve set-in oil and makeup stains. Apply liberally and let soak 15-30 minutes before washing.

Tide to Go Pen

This stain pen with Tide detergent is great for on-the-go foundation marks. Just rub it in, rinse, and wash later. Convenient for clothing stains away from home.


For extreme cases, soak the garment for several hours or overnight in your choice of stain remover, detergent, or oxygen bleach solution. This gives time for the product to fully penetrate and lift the stain.

With heavy-duty treatments and repeated washings, even the most stubborn foundation stains can eventually be removed. Persistence pays off!

Fabric-Specific Tips

The fabric type makes a difference in which stain removal methods will be most successful:


  • Pretreat with dish soap, detergent, or alcohol
  • Wash with hot water, bleach safe for colors


  • Pretreat with liquid dish soap or Goo Gone
  • Wash in cold water with laundry enzymes


  • Pretreat with hydrogen peroxide or baby shampoo
  • Wash gently by hand with mild detergent


  • Pretreat with oxygen bleach spray
  • Wash by hand with mild detergent in cool water


  • Pretreat with a small amount of mild shampoo
  • Rinse thoroughly, allow to air dry


  • Make baking soda + peroxide paste, scrub gently
  • Rinse then wash in cold water


  • Use suede brush and shampoo to scrub gently
  • Allow to air dry


  • Wipe gently with a leather cleaner and soft cloth
  • Avoid over-scrubbing

Always check fabric care labels first. Follow the proper methods for each fabric type, and your foundation woes will be over.

Top Foundation Stain Removal Products

In addition to homemade solutions, some commercial products are extremely effective at tackling foundation stains:

ProductKey Features
Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover PenConvenient pen applicator, instant on-the-go stain removal
Carbona Stain Devils #9Removes oil-based makeup stains, great for set-in stains
OxiClean Max Force SprayOxygen powered formula, pretreats stains
Grandma’s Secret Spot RemoverEnzyme-based spray, safe for delicate fabrics
Purex Crystals Fabric ShampooDissolves oil and grease stains in the wash

Preventing Future Stains

While removal methods are crucial, preventing stains in the first place is even better. Here are some tips:

  • Apply minimal foundation and set with powder to avoid transfer
  • Use an old shirt as a drop cloth when applying makeup
  • Immediately treat any marks on clothing after applying makeup
  • Store makeup neatly sealed and upright in bags
  • Clean brushes after each use so they don’t stain clothes
  • Spray finished laundry with a stain-resistant coating
  • Keep stain remover wipes or pens in your bag in case of accidents

With some simple habits, you can avoid foundation stains ruining your outfits. Stop stains in their tracks and save your wardrobe!


Removing foundation stains doesn’t have to be an endless struggle. With the right products and techniques tailored to your fabric, you can successfully banish foundation from clothing.

Test out stain pre-treatment sprays, commercial cleaners, and homemade solutions to find what works best. Check care labels and proceed gently, especially on delicates. With some persistence, soaking, and repeating treatments if needed, clothes can look pristine once again!

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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