How to remove stains from polyester

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that’s wrinkle-resistant, durable, and easy to care for. It’s commonly used in clothing, upholstery, and other textiles. While polyester has many benefits, it also tends to hold onto stains. Oil, grease, ink, makeup, food, and other substances can be difficult to remove from polyester once they set in.

The good news is that it’s possible to get stains out of polyester, even if they’ve been there awhile. With the right techniques and stain removal products, you can restore the look of stained polyester fabric. In this expanded article, we’ll explain how to remove a variety of tough stains from polyester using household ingredients and cleaners.

remove stains from polyester

How Polyester Holds On to Stains

Before getting into stain removal methods, it helps to understand why polyester is prone to stubborn staining. Polyester is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. This is why liquids tend to bead up on polyester instead of absorbing directly into the fibers.

While the hydrophobic quality makes polyester resistant to water-based stains, oil-based stains have an easier time attaching to polyester fibers. That’s because oil bonds readily to the synthetic polyester material.

The oil stain remains stuck to the surface while hydrophobic polyester continues repelling water. This makes oil and grease stains on polyester even more challenging to remove than stains on natural fabrics like cotton.

Luckily, with the stain fighting techniques ahead, you can successfully tackle set-in stains on polyester fabric. Let’s go over how to remove several common stains from polyesters.

How to Remove Food Stains from Polyester

Food stains like tomato sauce, chocolate, coffee, wine, and other edibles can leave lasting stains if left on polyester fabric. Here are tips for removing set-in food stains from polyester:

  • Scrape off any excess food residue with a dull knife or spoon. Try to remove as much of the stain as possible before applying any moisture.
  • Mix a solution of 1 tablespoon dish soap per 1 cup of warm water. Use a soft cloth or sponge dipped in the solution to spot treat the stain.
  • For more stubborn stains, apply a pretreatment stain remover like Shout or OxiClean directly to the spot before rubbing with the dish soap mixture. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards to remove all soap residue.
  • If needed, mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a paste and gently rub it onto the stain using a toothbrush. Let sit for 2 minutes before rinsing.
  • Repeat process if needed for tough food stains. Then launder as usual to lift any remaining discoloration.
  • Avoid putting stained polyester in the dryer, which can set the stain permanently.

How to Get Grease Stains Out of Polyester

Oily, greasy stains are some of the most challenging to remove from polyester. Grease and oil bond tenaciously to polyester fibers on a molecular level. Here are tips for conquering grease and oil stains on polyester:

  • Start by blotting up any excess grease with a clean rag or paper towels. Try to absorb as much as possible.
  • Apply an oil-fighting stain pretreatment like Carbona or K2R directly to the grease stain. Let it soak in for 10-15 minutes to break down the oil.
  • Make a solution of 1 tablespoon dish soap per 1 cup warm water. Use a sponge or cloth dipped in the mixture to gently scrub the stain.
  • For extra grease-fighting power, mix the dish soap with laundry detergent instead of water. The added surfactants help cut through oil.
  • Rinse the fabric thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residue.
  • If the stain remains, repeat the dish soap scrubbing process until the grease is fully removed. Polyester is stubborn with grease stains.
  • Once gone, launder the polyester garment or fabric as usual to remove any lingering stain or odors. Let air dry if possible.

Tips for old grease stains:

  • Re-wet the stain with hot water before applying stain removers – this makes old grease stains easier to penetrate.
  • Make a paste by mixing 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar. Rub it into the stain with a toothbrush.
  • Soak grease stained polyester overnight in a solution of warm water, laundry detergent, and 1/2 cup ammonia.

How to Remove Makeup Stains from Polyester

Cosmetic stains like foundation, mascara, lipstick, eyeshadow, and self-tanner can leave unsightly discoloration on polyester fabric. Here are tips for lifting makeup stains on polyester:

  • Try to blot up wet stains immediately with a clean cloth. Avoid vigorous rubbing which pushes makeup deeper into fibers.
  • Apply a pretreatment stain stick, spray, or gel to help break up makeup and lift it from the polyester.
  • Make a solution of 1 part dish soap and 1 part warm water. Use a soft cloth dipped in it to gently dab the makeup stain. Dish soap helps cut through oils.
  • For heavy makeup stains, try swiping over the spot with micellar water or rubbing alcohol using a cotton pad. This dissolves makeup so it can be blotted away.
  • Rinse thoroughly afterwards, then launder the polyester fabric on the hottest setting safe for the material.
  • Avoid the dryer until makeup stains are 100% gone – heat can permanently set them.
  • For delicate fabrics, clean with cold water using a mild laundry detergent alternative like Woolite.

Tips for old makeup stains:

  • Soak the stained fabric in a solution of warm water, oxygen bleach powder, and borax for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub liquid dish soap into the stain. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Apply a dab of petroleum jelly and let sit overnight, then launder in warm water. The oil in the jelly can help lift oil-based makeup stains.

Removing Ink Stains from Polyester

Ink stains on polyester can be tricky depending on the age of the stain. But even set-in ink can often be removed with some work:

  • Try to immediately blot fresh stains with a paper towel or cloth. Avoid aggressive rubbing which pushes ink deeper into the fibers.
  • Flush the backside of the fabric with cold running water while supporting the front stain side. This can help push ink through to the other side.
  • For fresh stains, apply rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or hand sanitizer to the spot. Let it soak in 1-2 minutes before blotting. These solvents break down ink pigments.
  • To lift dried or set-in ink stains, saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. Gently rub the stain until ink transfers to the cotton.
  • Rinse polyester thoroughly after treatment to remove residue. Then launder fabric on hottest setting safe for material with detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda.
  • Avoid drying ink-stained polyester in heat, which can permanently set stains. Air dry items instead.
  • For severe ink stains, try commercial stain removers like Amodex or Cascade Stain & Odor Remover according to package directions. Test first for colorfastness.

Tips for old ink stains:

  • Apply hairspray to the stain and let sit for 2 minutes before gently dabbing with a cloth. The alcohol in hairspray helps dissolve old ink stains.
  • Make a thick paste with cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide – apply to stain for 5 minutes before rinsing.
  • For extra lift-power, mix dish soap with Vitamin C powder. Scrub onto ink stains before laundering.

Removing Sweat Stains from Polyester

Sweat and body oils can lead to yellow discoloration and odor issues on polyester clothes. Try these techniques to banish sweat stains:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon oxygen bleach powder, 1 tablespoon dish soap, and 1 cup warm water. Apply it directly to stains to lift discoloration, then launder.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide – gently rub onto sweat stains before washing.
  • Add 1/2 cup baking soda to the wash cycle to neutralize odors along with detergent and oxygen bleach alternative.
  • For extra whitening, soak polyester in a solution of lemon juice, vinegar, and very hot water for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach on polyester, which can damage fibers. Opt for oxygen bleach instead.
  • Dry sweat-stained polyester clothes in the sun – the UV rays help naturally whiten.

Tips for severe sweat stains:

  • Make a thick paste using meat tenderizer powder and water. Rub it thoroughly into the stains before laundering. The enzymes help lift discoloration.
  • For pit stains, rub liquid dish soap into the stain and let sit 1 hour before washing. The degreasing action lifts sweat residue.
  • Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub diluted white vinegar into sweat stains before washing.

Removing Mildew Stains from Polyester

In damp environments, polyester can develop unsightly gray or black mildew stains:

  • First, brush away any surface mildew outdoors using a scrub brush. This prevents scattering spores when laundering.
  • Apply a commercial mildew stain remover like RMR-86 or OxiClean Versatile to the affected area. Let it soak in 10-15 minutes.
  • Make a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 4 parts water. Spray it on the mildew stain and allow to bubble 5 minutes.
  • Rinse the fabric thoroughly before washing in hot water with laundry detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda.
  • Add 1/4 cup lemon juice or oxygen bleach to the wash cycle for extra whitening and mildew lifting-power.
  • Once fully dry, place polyester in direct sunlight which kills any lingering mildew spores.

Tips for severe mildew stains:

  • Make a paste with borax powder and hot water – apply to the stain and let sit overnight before rinsing and washing.
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and salt to make a scrubbing solution for tough mildew stains.
  • Use a toothbrush to work pure lemon juice into the stain – the acidity fights mildew. Let sit 1 hour before washing.

Removing Dye Stains from Polyester

Bleeding dyes from a damaged clothing item or fabric can wreak havoc on polyester in the laundry. Here are tips for dye stain removal:

  • Rinse the fabric thoroughly under cold water to dilute and spread out concentrated dye pigments.
  • Make a solution of 1 part oxygen bleach powder to 4 parts cold water. Soak the stained polyester 10-20 minutes to lift color.
  • Blot wet stains with rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or hand sanitizer. These solvents help dissolve and lift dye.
  • Wash polyester stained by dyes alone on hot cycle with laundry detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda.
  • Add white vinegar to the wash cycle – the acetic acid helps remove dye transfer.
  • Avoid drying until dye stains fully lift, since heat sets discoloration.
  • For future prevention, use a dye magnet like Carbona Color Run Remover when washing brightly colored fabrics.

Tips for dried/set-in dye stains:

  • Make a thick paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide – apply to the stain for 5 minutes before washing.
  • Mix 1-part oxygen bleach powder with 2-parts water. Add 3-4 crushed vitamin C tablets. Apply to stain, wait 15 minutes, rinse well.
  • For heavy discoloration, use a commercial dye stain remover like RIT or Carbona according to package directions before washing.

Removing Candle Wax Stains from Polyester

Candle wax can be a fussy stain if dripped onto clothing, table linens, or upholstery. Use these techniques to remove wax from polyester:

  • First, gently scrape off any hardened wax chunks using a dull knife or plastic scraper. This eliminates excess buildup.
  • Cover the wax stain with a paper bag or paper towels. Run a medium-hot iron over the bag, which will draw wax into the paper. Replace paper as needed.
  • After wax is absorbed, apply rubbing alcohol, hairspray or lighter fluid to the remaining stain. Gently sponge with clean cloths until wax transfers.
  • Make a paste of 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide and 2 teaspoons borax powder. Apply to residual staining for 5-10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Launder polyester on hottest setting safe for fabric with laundry detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda to remove any remaining wax oils.
  • Avoid drying wax-stained items until fully removed – heat can further set wax into polyester fibers.

Tips for old wax stains:

  • Place wax-stained polyester in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer overnight. The cold makes wax brittle for easier removal.
  • Gently rub liquid dish soap into the stain and let sit 15-30 minutes before washing. Dish soap helps cut greasy wax oils.
  • For heavy wax, apply an iron to a paper bag on top of the stain. Immediately use a scraper to lift softened wax off the fibers.

Removing Blood Stains from Polyester

It’s best to treat blood stains on polyester quickly before they have a chance to dry and set into the fabric. But even older blood stains can be removed with some work:

  • Rinse the backside of fabric under cold water as soon as possible once stained. This prevents blood from penetrating the fibers.
  • Apply an enzymatic cleaner like BioKleen Bac-Out directly to the blood stain per package directions. Enzymes break down proteins in blood.
  • Make a thick paste by mixing meat tenderizer with a small amount of water. Gently rub it into the stain, wait 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly in cold water.
  • Launder polyester with an oxygen bleach additive like OxiClean using the hottest setting safe for the fabric. This lifts blood remnants.
  • Avoid drying until blood is fully removed – heat can permanently set the stain into fibers.
  • For old, dried blood, dampen the stain with water before using removal techniques. This allows cleaners to penetrate into the fibers better.

Tips for dried/set-in blood stains:

  • Make a paste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Gently rub into stain using an old toothbrush before washing.
  • Soak the stain in cold salt water for 1 hour before laundering.
  • Apply meat tenderizer to the stain, wait 10 minutes, then dab with hydrogen peroxide before washing.


While polyester is prone to oil-based staining, the good news is that almost any type of stain can be removed with the proper techniques. Use absorptive blotting for fresh stains, stain-fighting chemical solvents and cleaners, enzymatic applications, and laundering to lift set-in stains from polyester fabric. With some targeted elbow grease, you can keep your polyester clothing, upholstery, and linens looking pristine.

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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.

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