A rushed pedicure, a late-night lipstick application after one too many martinis, an overzealous reach across an overcrowded vanity. If these scenarios don’t immediately spark images of spills, stains and frantic dashes for the spot remover, then consider yourself lucky (and perhaps knock on wood before you give yourself that pat on the back).

For the rest of you, we’re here to tell you we’ve been there. And because we’ve seen and done it all — including moving our furniture to accommodate carpet-stain removal gone bad and applying shaving cream on makeup stains — we know which solutions work and what techniques to avoid. Let us break it down for you.

makeup stains

How to Remove Nail Polish Stains

Nail polish is tricky because the obvious solution is to use nail polish remover, but polish remover can interact with some fabrics and dyes, so spot test a dab of non-acetone remover before you attack the stain.

If nail polish remover is out of the question, use rubbing alcohol and a paper towel to blot away the color. This could be a lengthy process, but keep adding alcohol and removing pigment until the stain is gone. For smaller stains on delicate fabric, try the lipstick removal methods below.  

How to Remove Lipstick Stains

The best cure for lipstick stains is already in your bathroom: hairspray. Spritz the stain, let it sit for a few minutes and dab off with a clean cloth. In a pinch, a piece of tape can be used to transfer the stain off of delicate fabrics. Finally, rinse and wash for best results.

While lipstick stains on clothes are avoidable (for the most part), lipstick stains on wine glasses are near impossible to escape. When treating lipstick-stained wine glasses, reach for the salt before turning to your standard soap.  

How to Remove Foundation Stains

Pre-treat liquid and cream face makeup stains with a clarifying product like shaving cream, liquid soap or dish detergent to cut through the oily component of the foundation. Use a clean cloth to lift the pigment as you blot. For stubborn stains, it may be helpful to add a small amount of alcohol to the spot. Then toss it in the wash to remove any traces of the makeup mishap.  

How to Remove Powder Stains

The age-old advice “don’t rub” applies more than ever to powdered makeup stains. First of all, dust off as much of the excess as possible. Then use a mixture of white vinegar and water to blot away the stain. Test the concoction in an inconspicuous spot first to ensure the color is not compromised. Finally, wash the garment with high-quality, color-safe bleach.  

How to Remove Waterproof Mascara Stains

For minor stains, try using an oil-free makeup remover. The oil-free formulation is key; otherwise you’ll end up making an even bigger mess. For heavy-duty projects, turn to professional oil solvent, which you can find at your local dry cleaners. Let the solvent dry on the stain, brush off the residue and wash according to the label instructions.  

Do you have any makeup stain horror stories? Share your worst in the comments below (and let us know how you got it out!).

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