Lipstick on a collar might have been the traditional clue of a husband who was straying but in reality, this is more often the annoying result of rushed make-up. Even if you are very careful, with certain types of clothing – such as high-neck sweaters – it is inevitable that you will end up with traces of make-up, such as foundation on the collar. Try to prevent make-up stains by wearing a handkerchief or scarf around your face when putting on clothing. Alternatively, wear a dressing gown over your good clothes as you are applying make-up. Always take the time to remove make-up before going to bed – not only will your skin be grateful but so will you when it comes to the time to wash your sheets!
Make-up stains can be divided into two types: oily stains, such as from lipstick and mascara, and non-oily stains such as from eye shadows, blush and other powdered make-up. The former tends to be the harder type to remove as you will have to treat the grease first. In all cases, take the clothing off as soon as possible – do not allow the stain to dry but tackle it immediately. In general, most make-up stains can be removed if treated properly.
Non-Oily Make-Up / Water-Based Make-Up
If these stains are fresh, they often come out simply by rubbing gently with a baby wipe or clean cloth moistened with a mild pH balanced detergent (a mild non alkaline non bleaching detergent). A small amount of witch-hazel spread evenly over the stain and then rubbed firmly with a damp cloth is another thing you could try. Whitening toothpaste is another home-made solution: moisten the stain then rub some toothpaste over it and leave for a few minutes, before using an old toothbrush over the stain and finally rinsing.
If it is a deeper stain, you will need to treat the area first with an enzyme pre-soak product or even just some neat detergent applied directly to the stain. Leave for about 30 minutes and then wash in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Make sure the detergent you use does not contain natural soap as that can permanently set the stain. Check the stained area before you put it in the dryer – if the stain is still there, do not dry it but repeat the pre-treatment.
If the fabric is non-washable, you can treat small marks by gently sponging with warm soapy water. Otherwise, it is best to use an appropriate dry-cleaning product or consult the professionals.
If you get powdered make-up on carpet or upholstery, try to vacuum or brush up as much loose make-up as possible before dabbing the stain with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol, then blot dry. Keep doing this until there is no more stain to lift out. If the stain persists, you can then try a solution of (non-bleaching) detergent and water, or even a dry-cleaning product. Always rinse and blot as thoroughly as possible. If the stain is really stubborn, you may have to use hydrogen peroxide sprayed onto the stain and then blotted up.
For old stains that had been unnoticed for some time, you may have to resort to using bleach – if the fabric can handle it. Always check the care label first and try to use a colour-safe bleach.
Lipstick is the most common oily make-up to stain clothes and upholstery, followed by mascara (such as on pillow cases). These are ultimately greasy stains and therefore need to be treated as such first, with an oil solvent to dissolve the stain. Before doing anything, however, scrape off as much of the excess make-up as you can with a butter knife. Then, apply a dry-cleaning fluid to the stain. This is an oil solvent that will tackle greasy, oily stains by enzymes that attack the protein-glue which bones the stain to the fabric. Do this by putting the stain “face-down” onto a clean, old towel and dabbing the stained area with the solvent, so that the stain comes out of the fabric and onto the towel. Rinse the area thoroughly. Next, dab some liquid detergent (and very little water) onto the stain using your fingers – this will lift the remaining colour out of the fibres. You can also use some rubbing alcohol as an alternative or an additional remover. Rinse again and then check for any remaining stains, before laundering as normal, if the fabric is washable.
If the fabric is not washable, it is best to leave it to the dry cleaners. For carpets and upholstery, follow the same steps as for washable fabrics above.
Again for very stubborn stains or older, deeper stains, you may have to resort to using a bleach and water mixture – apply to the stain using an eye dropper and flush after each application with water. (Check that the fabric can handle bleach!) A mixture of equal parts ammonia and water can also be used to bleach a stain, although never use ammonia on non-washable fabrics, such as wool, silk or spandex, as it can corrode the material.
Remember that stain removal is a repetitive process as each application often only removes a percentage of the stain, so remain patient and repeat as necessary. Also always test removal solutions on an inconspicuous corner of the fabric first.