7 Fool-Proof Tips From The Experts To Remove Makeup Stains From Towels

It’s time to come clean.

Clean white bath towels

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It happened: You didn’t fully remove your makeup and accidentally wiped mascara all over your towel. Or perhaps a guest accidentally spilled some foundation, wiped it up with a towel, and you didn’t find out until after they left. Makeup is made from some complicated concoctions, specifically designed to last as long as possible—which makes rescuing your towels from permanent splotches a tricky game of trial-and-error. Here are seven tips to remove (and prevent) makeup stains on towels.

Prevent Stains With The Right Towel

It may sound obvious, but there’s a lot of tricks you can use to make sure stains never even become an issue (besides getting a really good cleanser). The first one? Weezie Towels Co-Founder and Creative Director Liz Eichholz recommends using a dark terry instead of white. “Our makeup towels are designed with mascara in mind," she says. "The deep navy terry keeps those pesky smudges at bay.” (P.S. She has thoughts on when it’s time to replace towels too.) Alex Wojenski, Grove Guide at Grove Collaborative recommends something similar. Gove Guide's makeup towel is designed specifically for removing makeup as well. "Simply wet it with warm water and rub on your face in small circular motions, and your makeup comes right off leaving your skin and towels clean," Wojenski says. "It's a win-win!” She also says that facial towelettes are great when on the go.

Hurry Up

“To remove makeup stains from your towels, you’ll want to wash them as quickly as possible,” Wojenski urges. The longer you wait, the less likely they are to come out. It may be tempting to start scrubbing, but this will only set the stains in further. Gently scrape off any excess amount of mascara, liquid foundation, lipstick, or other makeup with a butter knife. If the stain is fresh, gently blot the residuals with a paper towel. Powdered particles can simply be shaken or blown off.

Learn Your Chemistry

Stain removal isn’t one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to makeup. Mascara and eyeliner have oils in them which makes rubbing in a liquid dish detergent incredibly effective. Oil-free liquid foundation, on the hand, benefits from shaving cream, applied the same way as dish detergent. Powdered makeup is less complex, and can be dissolved with a basic pre-treatment or stain remover (Wojenski likes MOLLY'S SUDS Oxygen Whitener and Grove Co. Stain Remover Spray). Lipstick requires a one-two punch: start by applying hairspray or dabbing rubbing alcohol onto the spot to dissolve the pigments. Then, gently rub liquid dish detergent over it to remove the wax and oils.

Soak It In

In order for these magic makers to work, they need some time to soak into the terry. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes before (with the exception of the hairspray or rubbing alcohol for lipstick) rinsing the towel out with warm water stain side down, which clears out the makeup and cleaner at the same time.

Be Patient

Depending on how bad the stain is, you may need to repeat this process multiple times. Particularly stubborn ones could benefit from an overnight soak in warm water with a laundry booster.

Skip The Bleach

At this point, the towel is ready to be washed in hot water. If it’s white, you may be tempted to bleach it—which you can technically do, but we recommend trying a bleach alternative like OxiClean first. This is because bleach can cause the fibers in your towel to break down, meaning they won’t last as long. One time isn’t going to do that much harm—unless the care tag says otherwise—but it’s better as a last resort. (Don’t forget to sort your laundry beforehand.)

Avoid The Dryer

Unless you’re confident that the stains have been 100% removed, don’t put your towels in the dryer. The heat will set them in, making it way more difficult to problem solve going forward. Let them air dry first, because it’s harder to look for stains when they’re wet.

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