How to Remove Makeup From Towels

Whether your towels are for use at home or your business, you want them looking bright and clean. You can care for your towels and launder them as best as you can, but stains happen. When you or your guests wear makeup, your linens are even more likely to end up with marks from mascara, eyeliner, lipstick or foundation.

You know how difficult removing cosmetics from a towel can be if you’ve tried it before, but don’t toss out your towels yet. There are solutions worth trying when you’re wondering how to get makeup stains off of towels. But how do these stains happen, and why are they so stubborn?


How Makeup Stains a Towel

From powders to creams and everything between, what’s in your cosmetics may help you feel pretty, but it won’t leave your towels looking that way. Makeup typically contains a mix of substances, but the ones responsible for stubborn stains are pigments, waxes and oils.

Colorful and black pigments in makeup may contribute toward color payoff for you, but for your linens, these pigments create visible stains. Lipstick’s waxy formula and high-intensity color make stains vibrant and challenging to remove. Mascara’s black or dark brown pigments create dark smudges that you can’t remove with water alone. The oil and wax components of many cosmetics make these stains water resistant. Since water by itself won’t do much by way of removing makeup from a towel, you’ll want to use some type of cleaner on your linens.

How to Get Makeup Out of Towels

Don’t give up hope on your makeup-stained towels. Quick action can make your linens look new again, but you should know how to treat the stain effectively first. Because of their components, different types of makeup require different removal. From eye makeup to lip products, we’ve gathered tips on how to remove specific makeup from towels.

Before we get into the specifics, there are a few general tips to keep in mind when removing makeup stains from towels:

  • Blot, don’t scrub fresh stains at first
  • Spot-test cleaning solutions on linens to check colorfastness
  • Don’t machine dry the towel until the stain is gone
  • Don’t use fabric softener when washing stained linens

The tips above will ensure that you don’t discolor your towel or spread and set in the stain. Now that you know some general advice, it’s time to learn how to remove cosmetic stains from your towels. The best cleaners to use depends on a few factors, so continue reading to see how to save your towels from makeup stains.

How to Get Eyeliner and Mascara Stains out of Towels

The key to successfully removing eye makeup from a towel is treating the stain early. Sometimes, you don’t catch every stain, but it’s not the end for your towels. Whether you treat the stain right after it happens or don’t find it until later, these tips can help you get eyeliner and mascara stains out of your towels:

  1. Remove what you can: Your mascara may not clump on your lashes, but excess amounts can on your towels. Carefully scrape or pick off significant bits of makeup — do not scrub them into the fabric. Eliminating pieces of makeup will save you from accidentally creating a more prominent stain as you treat the spot.
  2. Blot first: Take a paper towel dampened with warm water and pat the stain to remove even more makeup. You can mix in some liquid dish detergent if your mascara or eyeliner is waterproof and stubborn.
  3. Try liquid dish soap: For fresh stains that you’ve blotted, add a drop of dish detergent and rub it into the fabric. Follow that with a rinse of warm water. Don’t despair if this method doesn’t work the first time. Repeat the process, letting the towel sit with some dish soap on the stain for 15 to 30 minutes before scrubbing again.
  4. Treat spots with a grease stain solvent: If you have a stain remover designed to eliminate grease, give that a try. Do a spot test on your towel to ensure the solvent won’t discolor the fabric then follow the cleaner’s instructions. Typically, you’ll want to apply the solvent to the stained area then leave it for 15 minutes. Follow that with scrubbing, rinsing and laundering in the washing machine.
  5. Soak forgotten stains: Set-in makeup requires more time with cleaning solvents. Mix warm water, liquid dish soap and a stain remover then allow the towel to soak overnight. Rinse under warm water then check for any marks before laundering. Remember not to machine dry the towel until the stain is gone.

Still left with eye makeup stains on your towels? Apply a bit of high-quality laundry detergent with enzymes that work to dissolve and lift stains. Allow the detergent to sit on the stain for as long as you would a stain remover solvent, then rinse and inspect the towel. If the mark remains, you may have to use bleach on white towels as a last-ditch effort. We’ll get into the specifics of bleach in a moment, but there are still other cosmetic stains out there that we need to address.

How to Remove Foundation Marks on Towels

While mascara and eyeliner contain oil and wax, liquid foundations vary. Depending on the formula of makeup, you may have to try different methods of stain removal. In general, there are three types of these facial cosmetics with three ways to handle their stains:

  1. Powdered foundation: Gently dust off excess powder, being sure not to rub it into the towel. You can use a lint roller to lift the excess foundation, making sure that the roller is sticky and you do not apply to much pressure. From there, apply a solution of white vinegar and water after testing it on a small area to ensure it will not affect the color of your towel. If that method still leaves your linens with foundation marks, remove them with one of the other methods.
  2. Oil-free liquid foundation: For this and oil-based foundation, you’ll want to remove excess makeup with something sturdy for scraping. Household objects like a dull butter knife or a credit card work well to remove large amounts of foundation that have spilled on your towel. Then use water and white bar soap to remove oil-free foundation stains. Rinse the towel, machine wash it, and air dry to check that the stain is gone. You can also use the foam-variety of shaving cream to remove oil-free foundation marks.
  3. Oil-based liquid foundation: After scraping away any excess foundation, try to remove what you can of the makeup mark with a stain remover stick. If you can still see a stain, pre-treat the towel with dish detergent as you would with oil-based mascaras.

If a guest to your business used a towel, and you aren’t sure whether or not the foundation is oil-free, your best bet is to use the method for oil-based foundation. That solution is strong yet gentle enough to use for removing foundation marks on towels.

How to Get Lipstick Stains off Towels

Lipstick may be one of the more difficult cosmetics to remove from towels. But now that you know how to remove other makeup stains, you can tackle lipstick marks. Lipsticks, like mascara, contain pigments, oils and wax. The concentration of wax and dyes can be higher in lipstick, making the cosmetic more likely to stain and more challenging to remove.

Lip products come in a variety of formulas, but, in general, take these steps to remove lipstick stains from a towel:

  1. Scrape off excess: As you would with mascara and other makeup, remove any extra lipstick that hasn’t had a chance to rub into the towel.
  2. Blot with alcohol: An unusual cleaning method uses hairspray on lipstick stains. The alcohol content in your average hairspray can be enough to clean the makeup mark. If it isn’t, you can also go with a bit of rubbing alcohol after testing a discreet spot of fabric. Dampen a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and blot the stain. Be sure to use different parts of the paper towel so that you’re blotting with a clean section.
  3. Gently scrub dish soap into the stain: Once you’ve taken care of the pigment, you’ll have to remove oils and wax. If you have a new toothbrush or one you use for cleaning, you can use it to rub liquid dish soap into the fabric. Work from the outside in and be sure to stick to the area of the stain. Straying outside of that area could make the stain bigger. You can use dish soap on top of the rubbing alcohol you used in the last step — no need to rinse between the two cleaners.

Removing lipstick stains, or any makeup stains, from towels is quite the challenge. Once you’ve been through that task, you won’t want to repeat it. Consider taking steps to prevent getting makeup marks on your towels.

Preventing Makeup Stains on Towels

Whether or not you’ve gotten makeup stains on your towels before, you’ll want to know how to prevent them from happening. Consider making these changes to make your life easier and keep your towels looking new:

  1. Wash off makeup before using a towel: Wash your face thoroughly to remove makeup before using a towel. If your cosmetics are waterproof, consider the next tip.
  2. Try disposable options: Makeup removal wipes or cleansing solutions on a cotton round will remove a majority of your makeup before or after washing your face. Cleanse your skin thoroughly before drying off with a towel. If you use your towels for a business like a hotel, spa or gym, consider offering these disposable options to prevent your guests from wiping makeup off on towels.
  3. Use darker towels: If you often get dark mascara and eyeliner on your linens, switching to dark towels may save you some hassle. Lighter foundations and makeups can stain dark towels, though, and sometimes dark linens don’t match your decor.
  4. Set an older towel aside: For your personal use, keep an old towel that you won’t mind getting stained. Of course, for businesses or guests, this isn’t an option since you want them to use your most pristine towels.

We understand that even if you take extra precautions, you can still end up with makeup stains on towels. We also know that sometimes, the tips above don’t always work for removing stubborn or set-in stains. While you shouldn’t use the following methods on every makeup stain, we do have some last-ditch efforts to share.

How to Remove Makeup Stains With Last-Ditch Efforts

So you’ve tried all of the above for your mascara, eyeliner, foundation and lipstick stains, but nothing has worked. You still have a few more options that, while a bit more extreme, can save your towels.

  1. Goo Gone or similar cleaners: People often use Goo Gone and other cleaning products to remove stains from crayons and grease, so they should fare well against waxy and oily makeup stains. We consider this product a last-ditch effort since it may cause more stains itself. Petroleum-based products can remove wax and other substances, but the ingredient that makes them work can replace your makeup stain with a grease stain. If this happens, launder your towels with high-quality laundry detergent and check for stains before machine drying. Even if Goo Gone removes a makeup stain, be sure to launder it well because the cleaner can be a skin irritant.
  2. Nail polish remover: Check that the nail polish remover you use is acetone-based as the acetone is what helps remove the oil, wax and pigments from makeup. If not properly washed away, nail polish remover can irritate the skin. Only use a small amount on the stain itself and work with it as you would other stain removers. Carefully work the remover into the stain and blot with a paper towel. If you’re treating makeup stains with nail polish remover, be sure to place paper towels under the area with the stain so that the acetone does not bleed through. Acetone can ruin table surfaces and furniture, so use this cleaner carefully.
  3. Ammonia: Take extra care to ensure that you’ve laundered your makeup-stained towel after trying other cleaning methods, especially if those involved bleach, before using ammonia. Dilute the ammonia in water and add a bit of bleach-free laundry detergent. Soak the stained area for 20 minutes, scrub with a soft-bristle brush and put in your washing machine. If you still see a stain once laundered, be sure that the towel is thoroughly cleaned again before trying other cleaning methods.

Consider the above if other options we’ve described do not work. The suggestions above are last-ditch efforts since they may stain your towels more or irritate the skin if not laundered properly. Don’t lose hope yet if none of these methods worked. There is one more cleaner you could try. If you have white towels, you may consider using bleach to remove those tough cosmetic stains.

Whether or Not to Bleach Makeup Stains

When you see a makeup stain on white towels, your first instinct may be to reach for the bleach. We recommend bleach as a last resort only. Over-bleaching linens will eventually weaken their fibers, rendering your towels less absorbent than when they were new.

Still, if you’ve tried every other option to get makeup stains off of white towels, bleach may be your only chance to restore your linens. If you use bleach, remember these tips:

Get Towels From the Towel Super Center

Hopefully, one of the ideas above helped you solve how to remove makeup from your towels. If a stain sets in for too long and the tips on how to get makeup stains off of towels don’t work, it’s time to replenish your stock of towels.

We’re happy to help you replace towels for your home or business in bulk. Buy wholesale towels from our 100-percent cotton selection at Towel Super Center. Find linens in a variety of sizes and colors with us when you need to replace your towels.

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