How to remove mascara from clothes

Mascara is a makeup essential for many people, helping to define and accentuate the eyes. However, this essential beauty product can sometimes end up where it’s not wanted – on your clothes. Accidentally getting mascara on your favorite shirt or dress can be frustrating, but don’t worry, there are several effective methods you can use to remove mascara stains from fabric.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover 7 proven techniques for removing mascara from clothes, ranging from simple home remedies to professional-grade stain removers. We’ll also provide tips on how to prevent mascara stains in the first place, advice on handling different types of fabric, and recommendations for the best commercial stain removers on the market.

remove mascara from clothes

By the end, you’ll have the knowledge and tools needed to tackle even the toughest mascara stains and keep your wardrobe looking fresh.

Why Does Mascara Stain Clothes?

Mascara is designed to cling tenaciously to the lashes, creating dramatic, long-lasting eye looks. However, this same adherent quality is what makes mascara so difficult to remove from fabrics. Mascara formulas typically contain a combination of oils, waxes, and pigments that bind tightly to the fibers of clothing.

Additionally, many mascaras also contain waterproof or smudge-proof ingredients, further increasing their stubbornness when it comes to stain removal. The longer a mascara stain is left untreated, the more the pigments and oils can set into the fabric, making the stain even harder to eliminate.

7 Effective Methods for Removing Mascara from Clothes

1. Blot and Rinse

The first step in removing a fresh mascara stain is to act quickly. As soon as you notice the stain, gently blot the area with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb as much of the excess mascara as possible. Avoid rubbing, as this can further work the stain into the fabric.

Once you’ve blotted the stain, rinse the affected area with cold water. The cold temperature helps to prevent the mascara from setting into the fabric. If the stain is on a delicate fabric like silk or satin, you may want to test the water on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage.

2. Use Dish Soap

Dish soap is a highly effective stain remover for mascara, thanks to its grease-cutting properties. Apply a small amount of dish soap directly to the stain and gently work it into the fabric using your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Let the soap sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly with cold water.

The surfactants in dish soap help to break down the oils and waxes in the mascara, allowing the stain to be lifted from the fabric. Be sure to use a mild, unscented dish soap to avoid any potential discoloration or damage to the fabric.

3. Try an Alcohol-Based Makeup Remover

Makeup removers containing alcohol can be highly effective at lifting mascara stains. Apply a small amount of the makeup remover directly to the stain, then use a clean cloth or paper towel to blot and lift the stain. Repeat this process until the stain is removed, rinsing the area with cold water afterward.

The alcohol in the makeup remover helps to dissolve the mascara’s waxes and oils, making it easier to lift the stain from the fabric. Just be sure to test the makeup remover on a small, inconspicuous area of the garment first, as some alcohol-based products can be too harsh on delicate fabrics.

One of the best alcohol-based makeup removers for removing mascara stains is the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water. This gentle yet effective micellar water is formulated to gently remove makeup, including waterproof mascara, without irritating the skin or fabric.

4. Utilize an Enzymatic Stain Remover

Enzymatic stain removers are designed to break down the proteins and fats that make up many common stains, including mascara. Apply the enzymatic remover directly to the stain, allowing it to sit for the recommended time before rinsing with cold water.

The enzymes in these specialized stain removers target and digest the components of the mascara, effectively lifting the stain from the fabric. This method works well on both fresh and set-in mascara stains, making it a versatile option. Just be sure to follow the product instructions carefully, as some enzymatic removers may require pre-treating or soaking the stained area.

One highly recommended enzymatic stain remover for mascara is the OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover. This powerful formula contains a blend of enzymes and other stain-fighting ingredients to tackle even the toughest mascara stains.

5. Try a Baking Soda and Water Paste

For a more natural stain removal option, try creating a paste with baking soda and water. Mix together a small amount of baking soda and just enough water to form a thick, spreadable paste. Apply the paste directly to the mascara stain and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour before rinsing.

The baking soda in the paste helps to absorb and lift the oils and pigments in the mascara, while the water activates the stain-fighting properties. This method is gentle on fabrics and can be used on a wide range of materials, from cotton to silk.

6. Use a Professional Stain Remover

If the above methods don’t seem to be doing the trick, consider using a professional-grade stain remover specifically formulated for makeup and oil-based stains. These specialized products often contain powerful solvents and surfactants that can effectively break down and lift even the most stubborn mascara stains.

When using a commercial stain remover, always test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the garment first to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage. Follow the product instructions carefully, and be sure to rinse the treated area thoroughly afterward.

One highly effective professional stain remover for mascara is the Tide Professional Strength Formula. This heavy-duty cleaner is designed to tackle even the toughest makeup and oil-based stains, making it a great choice for stubborn mascara marks.

7. Take it to the Dry Cleaner

For particularly stubborn mascara stains or delicate fabrics, your best bet may be to take the garment to a professional dry cleaner. Dry cleaners have access to specialized solvents and techniques that can often remove mascara stains that prove resistant to at-home methods.

While this option may be more expensive than trying to remove the stain yourself, it’s often the safest and most effective choice, especially for high-value or irreplaceable items. The dry cleaner can assess the fabric and stain and use the appropriate cleaning process to lift the mascara without causing any damage.

Tips for Preventing Mascara Stains

In addition to the stain removal methods above, there are several steps you can take to help prevent mascara from ending up on your clothes in the first place:

  1. Apply mascara carefully: Take your time when applying mascara, being mindful to avoid getting any on the surrounding skin or clothing.
  2. Use a waterproof makeup remover: Invest in a high-quality, waterproof makeup remover to help ensure complete removal of mascara at the end of the day. The Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover is a popular and effective option.
  3. Wear an old shirt or smock: When applying makeup, consider wearing an old shirt or a smock to protect your clothing from any potential mascara mishaps.
  4. Store mascara properly: Keep your mascara tube tightly closed when not in use to prevent any accidental drips or smears.
  5. Check for signs of wear: Inspect your mascara wand and tube regularly for any cracks or wear that could lead to leaks or excess product being applied.

Handling Different Fabric Types

The methods for removing mascara stains can vary depending on the type of fabric you’re working with. Here are some additional tips for tackling mascara stains on different materials:

Cotton and Polyester

These sturdy, machine-washable fabrics are generally the easiest to treat for mascara stains. The methods outlined above, such as using dish soap or an enzymatic stain remover, work well on these materials.

Silk and Satin

Delicate fabrics like silk and satin require a more gentle approach. Avoid any harsh scrubbing or high-heat drying, as this can damage the fibers. Stick to cold water rinses and test any stain removers on a small, inconspicuous area first.

For silk and satin, the Woolite Delicates Wash is a gentle, effective option for removing mascara stains without compromising the fabric.

Wool and Cashmere

For wool and cashmere items, take extra care to avoid over-wetting the fabric, as this can lead to shrinkage or felting. Blotting with a clean cloth and using a specialized wool or cashmere-safe stain remover, such as the The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, are your best options.

Leather and Suede

These materials require specialized cleaning methods, as water and harsh chemicals can potentially damage the surface. Consult a professional leather or suede cleaner for the best way to address mascara stains on these fabrics.


Removing mascara stains from clothing may seem like a daunting task, but with the right techniques and a bit of elbow grease, you can successfully lift even the toughest mascara marks. By following the 7 methods outlined in this guide – from blotting and rinsing to using specialized stain removers – you’ll be able to keep your wardrobe looking fresh and clean, no matter how much mascara accidentally ends up where it doesn’t belong.

Remember to act quickly, test products on inconspicuous areas, and be gentle with delicate fabrics. With a little know-how and the right tools, you’ll be able to say goodbye to those pesky mascara stains for good. Happy cleaning!

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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.