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Removing Pollen Stains

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 4 Mar 2021 | comments*Discuss
Pollen Stains Stain Removal Stubborn

You’ve just been given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and you’re delighted until you notice the bright orange stains on your shirt and in the carpet. What’s going on? Then you realise with a sinking heart that they are pollen stains and you wonder if your clothes and carpet will ever come clean again.

What Causes Pollen Stains?

Pollen is actually composed of tiny, microscopic grains that transport male gamete (male DNA material) into the female part of the flower for reproduction. A pinch of pollen powder can contain thousands of grains and the grains themselves can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the species of the plant.

The colour in the pollen is usually a range of pigments, from the water-soluble flavonoids (e.g. the blue and red anthocyanin pigments found in delphiniums and fuchsias) to the fat soluble yellow and orange carotenoids found in flowers like lilies. It is these strong pigments that cause the stains and the most dreaded ones of all are those found in lily pollen.

Should I Try to Rub it Off?

No! This is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Rubbing or even brushing hard will simply push the pigments deeper into the fabric and spread the stain even further. In addition, if you use your fingers, the oils from your skin will actually set the stain. Instead, shake out the clothing very gently to remove as much pollen powder as possible (do this outside so as not to get pollen onto your carpets or transferred onto your upholstery).

Alternatively, you can use a piece of tape and gently lift up as much of the pollen as possible with the sticky side. As long as the pollen is still sitting on the surface of the clothing, it is still relatively easy to remove.

What About Rubbing the Stain With a Wet Cloth?

Again, a terrible idea as this will spread and set the stain even more. You can try rinsing the stained area with cold water from the back but be careful as water will often spread the stain.

So How Can I Remove the Stain?

Try soaking the garment in cold water for half an hour and then rinse it thoroughly, repeating these two steps until most of the stain has been removed. Then apply a spot stain remover to the area and wash the garment in the hottest temperature possible if it is a washable fabric, otherwise rinse as before.

Check the area again before drying the garment – in many cases, you will have to repeat the stain remover and wash treatments several times before the stain completely disappears.

Can I Use an Enzymatic Detergent?

Yes, if your garment is washable then an enzymatic detergent may work well on pollen stains.

What About Another Kind of Solvent?

Reddish pollen stains can often be removed by pouring some 99% Isopropanol (Isopropyl Alcohol) - which can be obtained from pharmacists or hardware stores - over the area and then blotting up the resulting yellow liquid with paper towels. This may be a good idea for non-washable items, like carpets. Regular rubbing alcohol (70% Isopropyl Alcohol) probably won’t work because of its higher water content. Another alternative to try is to blot from the outside of the stain inwards with dry-cleaning fluid.

What About the Dry Cleaner?

If you are unsure about how to treat the stain, it may be best to leave it to the professionals. Try to gently remove as much excess pollen as possible through shaking or using sticky tape, and then take the garment to a good dry cleaner as soon as possible. In many cases, they will be more effective than many home-based cleaning methods.

Will Sunlight Bleach Out Pollen Stains?

Yes, this unconventional treatment does seem to work. Once you have gently shaken off or lifted the excess pollen with sticky tape, you can try laying the garment out in direct sunlight for a few hours – in many cases, the pollen stain will disappear.

How To Enjoy Lilies Without Pollen Nightmares

It is possible to enjoy lilies in the house if you take some precautions first. Make sure you cut off the anthers (the long stalks bearing the pollen) as soon as the flowers open enough for you to get access to them. Bouquets from professional florists will often have this done on the open flowers, before you take them home.

Alternatively, you can also “stick” the pollen to the flowers by giving the anthers a quick spritz with hair spray but this is really only suitable for flowers that are to be used to for a short time (e.g. wedding bouquet).

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[Add a Comment]
I have got yellow pollen stains on a washable blind. Tried washing up Liquid did’nt work, Any suggestions how I can get rid of them please,
Jan - 4-Mar-21 @ 1:46 AM
Which Stain Slayer by stain devils is the correct product for removing flower pollen form vinyl tablecloths?
jj - 16-Apr-19 @ 4:20 PM
Urgent! My new bag made of leather (gamuza, in spanish) got in contact with a Lilystamen... Itry to take it with water and didn’t go away!!! ???? Any suggestions to save it!!???? Please. Tia ??
Vicky - 20-Apr-18 @ 3:33 PM
@Abi - most things come out of a bath tub as the pollen wouldn't soak in. But thanks for the advice that Cillit Bang is the best for such things :)
Trish - 18-Dec-17 @ 11:17 AM
I got lilly pollen on our bath tub and managed to rub some in by mistake. Flash didn't work but Cillit Bang did.
Abi - 16-Dec-17 @ 10:37 AM
@Landis - really, really tricky with cashmere as the wool absorbs the stain :(
MartaV - 8-Dec-17 @ 3:28 PM
Hi I hope you can help - I just got yellow pollen stains on Agrey cashmere sweater - the wash instructions said to hand wash in cold which I did / it removed some of the stains but there is still a large stain in the very middle. Any idea how to get the remaining stain out ?
Landis - 25-Nov-17 @ 8:32 PM
I have a lily stain on my white leathette chair. Is there anything I can do to remove it?
T - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:26 PM
Hi, Just had the same problem with lily stains on window sill. Flash kitchen spray and a cloth worked a treat !
Sh - 16-Sep-17 @ 11:05 AM
OMG, had awful Lilly pollen stains left on new pvc table cloth in our beautiful holiday home. Tried every kind of stain remover but nothing worked. Last result was to leave out in the sun for 3 hours, came back and the stains had completely gone, miracle and free ????
Jules - 1-Sep-17 @ 3:06 PM
I managed to get Lilly pollen into cream carpet, tried to remove it with a wet cloth, now it's even worse! What do I do?
Karen - 13-Apr-17 @ 3:27 PM
Hi, I managed to get Lilly pollen around the plastic sealant on my sink at home! It's gone yellow! Any ideas how to remove it? Thanks and help!!
Nat - 21-Oct-16 @ 8:53 AM
Gainsie - Your Question:
I got pollen all over my new vinyl tablecloth. Luckily I had Stain Slayer by stain devils which dissolved the pollen and I was able to wipe the majority of it off

Our Response:
We're glad this worked for you and it acts as a good recommendation for our other readers in the same situation.
StainExpert - 28-Sep-16 @ 2:35 PM
I got pollen all over my new vinyl tablecloth. Luckily I had Stain Slayer by stain devils which dissolved the pollen and I was able to wipe the majority of it off
Gainsie - 27-Sep-16 @ 3:33 PM
I have managed to get lilly pollen on my vinyl flooring? Any ideas how to remove??
Me2 - 21-Aug-16 @ 1:48 PM
@Socks - I used a good quality supermarket carpet cleaner, can't remember the name of it, but it was an extra stain-buster one which worked. Have a look on the back of the label and pick the one that is most suitable for you.
Tilly - 5-Apr-16 @ 12:20 PM
HELP!,!!!! lily pollen on cream carpet, silly me tried removing with damp cloth made stain worse does anyone have any suggestions how to remove yellow stain .
Socks - 4-Apr-16 @ 1:28 PM
iv rubbed Lille pollen in to our new carpet can anyone please help with ideas on how to remove it
pammy - 16-Jan-16 @ 2:12 PM
Hello, lily pollen fell from the flowers onto my brand new white gloss kitchen table. I wiped it off with dettol surface cleaner and its left a nasty yellow stain that I can't get out. Does anyone have any ideas? I don't have the ruin the table by scrubbing? Gutted.
Hayley - 12-Sep-15 @ 8:01 AM
I hope your cat is alright. Many plants are toxic to cats but lilies are especially poisonous. The hazards posed by pollen dropping readily from the flowers or being brushed onto a cats fur, combined with difficulties in cleaning it up properly, means that lilies must not be brought into homes that are shared with cats.
Concerned - 29-Jul-15 @ 8:28 PM
During the night my cat knocked a vase of lilies on my kitchen table over.In the morning when I wiped up the spilled water it had stained my tile a light purple color.Does anyone no how to get the color out of the tile? I really don't want to have to retile the whole floor. :(
Marla - 18-Jul-15 @ 5:55 AM
@Aimee - if it wont come out with any of the suggestions in the article, then if it is painted wallpaper why not buy a white sample paint pot and give it a light brush over.
StainExpert - 9-Apr-15 @ 9:36 AM
ive stupidly rubbed at lily stains on my white wall paper - Help!!
Aimee - 6-Apr-15 @ 4:55 PM
@Lesley - thanks for sharing this with us. I'm sure our readers will be pleased that you have found something that removes the dreaded lily-pollen stain effectively.
StainExpert - 3-Mar-15 @ 12:57 PM
I had some lilies which still had the stamens in and some pollen fell on my stone workbench in the kitchen.I tried normal kitchen cleaners but didn't work very well so I tried a 100% isopropyl alcohol product and it took the pollen stains off completely.I did do this within 10 minutes of the pollen landing on the worktop.There were also stains around the plastic bin that I disposed of the flowers in and the isopropyl took most of these off too
Lesley - 28-Feb-15 @ 11:29 AM
@Crystal - you may have to get the carpets professionally cleaned, especially if the soil and water has penetrated.
Mags - 19-Jan-15 @ 2:21 PM
My plant fell over onto my tan carpet how can I get the stain out
Crystal - 17-Jan-15 @ 3:14 PM
@Mary - take a look at some of the other comments below. A Vanish stain stick might work, some soapy water on a cloth or if they fail try a touch of bleach on the stains, but be gentle as you don't want to ruin your tablecloth. I hope it works.
StainExpert - 22-Oct-14 @ 2:25 PM
I have lily pollen stains on a plastic tablecloth, wonder how I canremove them
Mary - 22-Oct-14 @ 12:22 PM
@Coffee - if is a plastic-like shelf then have you tried a bit of diluted or even neat bleach on a cloth (be very gentle though, you don't want to make things worse). However, if you decide to leave the stain for a while if the sunlight comes through that particular window then that should help.
StainExpert - 22-Oct-14 @ 11:31 AM
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