IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How to remove sunscreen stains from clothes and furniture

Don’t let sunscreen stains ruin your summer. Here’s how to get rid of those ugly, oily spots on your bathing suit, clothing, furniture and car seats.
Cropped Hands Of Woman Applying Suntan Lotion On Back Of Daughter At Poolside
“Since sunscreen is an oil-based product, the first step is to remove the oil,” Vera Peterson told TODAY Home.Ratchapoom Anupongpan / Getty Images

Whether you’re swimming, playing outdoor sports, or simply basking in the sun, slathering on sunscreen is one of the most essential rituals of the season. While your SPF helps protect against sunburns and skin cancer, it’s also really hard to keep the stuff contained to just your skin.

Tackling yellowy-orange sunscreen stains on clothes, furniture and car seats is an annoying part of the summer experience. But experts like Vera Peterson, the Dallas-based president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company, say that there are effective ways to remove sunscreen stains. Here’s what to do.

How to get sunscreen stains out of clothes

One thing you can do to avoid sunscreen stains in the first place is to wait until the sunscreen fully dries before putting on your bathing suit or getting dressed. Additionally, when reapplying, be mindful of your sleeves and necklines.

But accidents happen, so whether wet sunscreen from your arm smears on your shirt or a big, goopy drop lands on your dress, the best way to prevent the stain is to focus your stain-removal efforts on the oil. “Since sunscreen is an oil-based product, the first step is to remove the oil,” Peterson told TODAY Home.

  1. Turn the clothing inside out and flush the stain under cold running water.
  2. Make a solution of warm water and liquid dish soap and blot the stain with it, working from the outer edges inwards.
  3. Rinse the area well with cold water.
  4. Launder as usual, using a heavy-duty detergent.
  5. Don’t place clothing in the dryer until you’re certain the stain has been removed, since the intense heat could set the stain.
  6. If further treatment is required, Peterson suggests soaking the clothing overnight in a solution of cold water and oxygen-based bleach, mixed according to package directions.

How to remove sunscreen stains from car seats and furniture

It’s not just your family’s clothes you need to worry about. Sunscreen frequently ends up on car seats and furniture, like the living room couch.

The first thing to do in this case is to read the manufacturer’s suggestions for cleaning, according to Peterson. For example, she said, “couches always come with a cleaning tag, just like your favorite items of clothing.” The instructions on the care label will vary, depending on the material the furniture is made out of. Some furniture may require professional cleaning.

Here are Peterson’s tips for removing sunscreen stains from furniture upholstery, including how to remove sunscreen stains from car seats made of fabric, leather or microfiber.


  1. Combine 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 cup of warm water in a small spray bottle.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and quickly screw the top onto the spray bottle. “Baking soda and vinegar will create a lot of bubbles when combined,” warned Peterson.
  3. Spray a white cloth with the cleaning solution, and gently dab and rub any stains on the fabric. Alternatively, wipe down the entire piece of furniture with the solution for a good deep clean.
  4. Let the fabric dry.


  1. Create a cleaning solution by combining equal parts water and white vinegar in a small bucket.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution so that it’s damp but not wet.
  3. Wipe the leather, rinsing the cloth regularly.
  4. Dry the leather furniture with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.


  1. “Rubbing alcohol is your friend when cleaning most microfiber items,” said Peterson. Spray an area with rubbing alcohol and then scrub with a white or light-colored sponge (so no color transfers to the couch while you scrub). Working section by section, you’ll see the stains lift off onto the sponge.
  2. The furniture should dry quickly, as alcohol evaporates rapidly.
  3. Once it’s dry, use a dry scrub brush to brush the couch in a circular motion in order to fluff the fabric.

Remember: The longer sunscreen sits on your clothing or furniture, the harder it’ll be to get the oily stain out, so don’t delay. If you’re short on time, pre-treating the stain with cold water, a cleaning solution or stain stick may help. It’s also a good idea to avoid oxygenated bleaches and chlorine, since they can react with a common ingredient in sunscreens (avobenzone) and make the stains worse.