Sunscreen Stains Be Gone: Your Ultimate Guide on How to Get Sunscreen Out of Clothes


Welcome to the sunny side of life, where the skies are clear, the sun is beaming, and our skin is generously lathered in sunscreen. While we conscientiously protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, our clothes often fall victim to unsightly sunscreen stains. These greasy marks can be the bane of a summer wardrobe, turning a favorite shirt or dress into a garment of despair. But before you relegate your stained clothes to the back of the closet, take heart. This guide is your ally in the fight against sunscreen stains, offering practical solutions to keep your clothes as fresh as a summer breeze. So, let’s embark on this stain-removing journey together and ensure that the only thing that remains vibrant this summer is your skin and your style.

Understanding Sunscreen Stains

Sunscreen works wonders for our skin, but it can wreak havoc on fabric. The very ingredients that shield us from UV rays, like avobenzone, oxybenzone, and zinc oxide, are also the culprits behind those stubborn yellow or orange stains on our clothes. These stains are not your average mark; they are the result of a chemical reaction between the sunscreen’s oils and the fibers of your clothing, often exacerbated by the heat of the sun.

Why Sunscreen Stains Are Challenging:

  • Chemical Composition: Sunscreens are formulated to be water-resistant so that they don’t wash off when you swim or sweat. This same property makes them resistant to the usual laundering methods.
  • Oil-Based vs. Mineral-Based: Oil-based sunscreens tend to leave greasier stains that are harder to remove, while mineral-based ones may leave a powdery residue.
  • Fabric Absorption: Different fabrics absorb sunscreen differently. Synthetic fibers, for example, are more likely to hold onto oil-based stains, while natural fibers may respond better to cleaning agents.

Understanding the nature of these stains is pivotal in selecting the right removal method. It’s not just about cleaning; it’s about understanding the chemistry of the stain and the textile.

Pre-Treatment: The First Step to Success

When it comes to sunscreen stains, time is of the essence. The longer a stain sits, the more it bonds with the fabric, making it harder to lift. Here’s how to tackle it head-on:

Immediate Actions:

  • Gently Scrape Off Excess: Use a blunt knife or a spoon to carefully remove any excess sunscreen from the fabric. Be gentle to avoid grinding the stain deeper into the fibers.
  • Blot, Don’t Rub: Take a clean, dry cloth or paper towel and blot the stained area. Rubbing can spread the stain and embed it further into the fabric.

Pre-Treatment Steps:

  1. Spot Treatment: Apply a liberal amount of pre-treatment stain remover or liquid laundry detergent directly onto the stain. These products are designed to break down oils and make them easier to wash away.
  2. Let It Sit: Allow the pre-treatment to work its magic for at least 15 minutes. For tougher stains, you may want to let it sit for up to an hour. This gives the cleaning agents time to penetrate the stain.
  3. Rinse and Repeat: After the pre-treatment has had time to sit, gently rinse the area with warm water. If the stain is still visible, apply more pre-treatment and let it sit again.

By understanding the nature of sunscreen stains and acting quickly with pre-treatment, you’re setting yourself up for success. Stay tuned as we delve into the specifics of removing these stubborn marks, ensuring your summer wardrobe remains as flawless as your sun-protected skin.

How to Get Sunscreen Out of Clothes: The Basics

Removing sunscreen stains doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right approach, you can say goodbye to those pesky marks. Here’s a detailed guide to help you through the process:

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Blotting the Stain: Begin by gently blotting the stained area with a clean cloth or paper towel. This will help remove any surface residue without spreading the stain further.
  2. Pre-treating with Stain Remover: Apply a generous amount of stain remover or liquid detergent directly onto the stain. Use your fingers or a soft-bristled brush to work the solution into the fabric gently. This helps to break down the oils and prepare them for washing.
  3. Choosing the Right Detergent: Opt for a detergent that’s formulated to fight grease. Enzymatic detergents are particularly effective as they break down the oils and waxes in sunscreen.
  4. The Best Water Temperature for Washing: Hot water can help dissolve oils, but it’s crucial to check the garment’s care label first. If the fabric can handle it, use the hottest water recommended to aid in stain removal.
  5. Checking the Stain Post-Wash: Don’t dry the garment until you’re sure the stain is out. Heat from the dryer can set the stain, making it nearly impossible to remove. If the stain remains after washing, repeat the pre-treatment and washing process.

Specialized Techniques for Different Fabrics

Different fabrics require different care strategies. Here’s how to approach various materials:

  • Delicate Fabrics: For delicate items like silk and wool, avoid harsh chemicals and excessive agitation. Instead, opt for a specialized detergent and treat the area gently. Hand washing is often the safest method, using cool water and a gentle touch.
  • Synthetic Fabrics: Fabrics like polyester and nylon are more resilient and can handle a pre-treatment with a solvent-based stain remover. However, it’s still important to follow up with a thorough wash using an appropriate detergent.
  • Natural Fabrics: Cotton and linen are robust and can typically handle more vigorous washing. Pre-treat these fabrics with a stain remover, and then launder them in the warmest water recommended by the care label.
Your Ultimate Guide on How to Get Sunscreen Out of Clothes

Stubborn Stains: Advanced Tips and Tricks

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, sunscreen stains can be particularly stubborn. Here are some advanced techniques to tackle those:

  • DIY Solutions: Mix baking soda and vinegar to create a paste, and apply it directly to the stain. The natural abrasiveness of baking soda can help lift the stain, while vinegar breaks down the oils. Let it sit for an hour before washing.
  • Commercial Stain Removers: For tough stains, look for a stain remover that’s designed specifically for grease and oil-based stains. These often contain stronger solvents that can break down sunscreen ingredients more effectively.
  • The Role of Sunlight in Removing Sunscreen Stains: Interestingly, while sunlight can set some stains, it can also help remove others. After washing, let the garment air-dry in the sun. The sun’s UV rays can help break down the remaining stain.

Remember, the key to successful stain removal is persistence and patience. With these tips and tricks, even the most stubborn sunscreen stains will stand little chance against your cleaning prowess. Keep these strategies in your back pocket for a stain-free summer!

Machine Washing vs. Hand Washing: What’s Best for Sunscreen Stains?

When it comes to sunscreen stains, the method you choose for washing can make a significant difference in the outcome. Here’s how to decide between machine washing and hand washing:

Machine Washing:

  • Efficiency: Machine washing is a time-saver and can be quite effective, especially for sturdy fabrics that can endure agitation.
  • Settings: Use the appropriate settings for the fabric. A pre-soak cycle can be particularly helpful for sunscreen stains, allowing the detergent to penetrate the stain before the main wash cycle.
  • Extra Rinse: Consider an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the detergent and any loosened stain residue are thoroughly washed out.

Hand Washing:

  • Gentleness: Hand washing is gentler on fabrics, especially those that are delicate or prone to damage in a washing machine.
  • Control: You have more control over the cleaning process, allowing you to treat the stained area with more precision and care.
  • Technique: Use a soft brush or cloth to work the detergent into the stain and a basin of warm water for soaking. Rinse the fabric gently until the water runs clear.

In both cases, it’s essential to avoid high heat until you’re certain the stain is completely removed. Air-drying is preferable after the initial wash to ensure that any lingering stain doesn’t set.

Your Ultimate Guide on How to Get Sunscreen Out of Clothes

Preventing Sunscreen Stains in the Future

Prevention is always better than cure, and this holds true for sunscreen stains as well. Here are some tips to help you keep your clothes free from stains:

  • Let It Absorb: Apply sunscreen and give it time to absorb into your skin before dressing. This reduces the chances of it transferring to your clothes.
  • Hands-Free Application: Consider using spray sunscreens that can be applied directly to the skin without using your hands, reducing the risk of transferring the product from your hands to your clothes.
  • Choose Wisely: Opt for sunscreens that are less oily and more easily absorbed by the skin. Some sunscreens are specifically formulated to be non-comedogenic and non-greasy, which can also mean fewer stains on clothes.
  • Protective Layering: Wear a layer of clothing under garments that you don’t want to get stained, like a thin undershirt, which can absorb the sunscreen instead of your outer layer.
  • Regular Washing: Wash your beach and swimwear regularly to prevent the buildup of sunscreen residues, which can lead to staining over time.


Mastering how to get sunscreen out of clothes is an essential summer skill, ensuring that your favorite outfits remain as vibrant and stain-free as a cloudless July sky. With the detailed guidance provided, you now have the know-how to tackle those stubborn sunscreen marks. Remember, the key to success is understanding how to get sunscreen out of clothes effectively, which involves prompt treatment, the right detergents, and a bit of patience. Whether you’re dealing with a fresh stain or one that’s been sitting for a while, the methods we’ve explored are your best defense.

As you enjoy the sunny days ahead, keep in mind that knowing how to get sunscreen out of clothes can save you time and preserve the life of your garments. Apply sunscreen carefully, launder stained clothes with the appropriate techniques, and always opt for prevention whenever possible. With these strategies in your back pocket, you’re all set to face the summer with confidence, knowing that any accidental sunscreen spills won’t stand a chance against your newfound laundry prowess. So go ahead, slather on that SPF, and step out into the sunshine with peace of mind.

Kelly Rodriguez
Kelly Rodriguez
Where Sophistication and Style Meet.

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