Experts Share How to Get Foundation Out of Any Type of Fabric

We've all been there: You’re getting ready on a busy morning and your makeup is on-point, your hair is styled perfectly and your outfit looks totally put together and suddenly, ugh! You notice a smudge of foundation on your blouse. Don't panic! You might need to make a quick change, but your favorite top isn't ruined forever. Here, the expert advice for how to get foundation out of clothes and return them to their former glory, no matter which material they're made from.

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Why is foundation so difficult to remove?

Simply put, the intent of foundation is to both adhere to and pigment your skin, so if it comes into contact with fabric, it’s going to behave the same way.

"Foundation will typically absorb right into the fibers of whatever material it spills onto, posing a real challenge to remove,” admits makeup artist Saffron Hughes from “That’s why it’s best to tackle the problem as quickly as possible, so the foundation has less time to set.”

How can I avoid stains in the first place?

How to get foundation out of clothes: Woman in Bathrobe Applying Cream to Her Face in the Bathroom
aquaArts studio/Getty

There is a reason runway models put on their makeup before putting on their expensive duds—“once on your face and set with a setting spray, your makeup isn’t going anywhere — but if you put on your outfit first, you risk foundation sprinkling or dripping onto it while you’re still applying,” says makeup artist Natalie Harper. “So overall it’s best to wait to dress until after your face is ready to go.”

How to get foundation out of clothes

Foundation comes in both powder or liquid forms, and the liquid types are either silicone-, water-, or oil-based. Luckily, the methods below can help regardless of which type you use.

One thing to keep in mind: When working with any of the methods below, dab at the stain—don’t rub, “or you risk spreading it,” explains Hughes. “And try to work from the outside of the stain inward for the same reason.”

To get started, you’ll want to start by using a credit card or plastic butter knife to gently scrape off any excess foundation you can. Then proceed based on which type of fabric the foundation spilled onto.

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If the material is cotton or denim

“Pre-treat the stain by rubbing undiluted liquid laundry detergent into it, then leave it for 15 minutes to settle in,” says Harper. “Follow up by washing the garment in the warmest temp it recommends on the label; repeat without letting the garment dry if it comes out of the wash with any remaining stain.” No liquid laundry detergent? Dish soap can work, as well. Just follow the steps shown here:

How to get foundation out of clothes if the material is silk

Blot the stain with a cloth dampened with cold water first, then gently dab with a mild dish soap like Ivory or even baby shampoo, which won’t damage this delicate fiber, until the stain is lifted, says Harper. The garment should be left to air dry once the stain has been lifted.

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If the material is wool

“You can start with the same method as with a cotton garment, but with wool you’ll need to stick to a cold water wash cycle since it’s so prone to shrinking,” says Harper. “And like silk, it’s best to let wool air-dry, rather than risking damaging the material in your clothes dryer.”

How to get foundation out of clothes if the material is linen

How to get foundation out of clothes: Shirts in linen fabric in the wardrobe

“Make a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water, then apply that directly to the stain,” says Hughes. “Vinegar is a mild acid, it will help break down and lift off the stain. And unlike heavier detergents, vinegar will gently loosen the fibers of linen, preserving its soft, flowy feel once the garment is dry.” Simply blot at the stain with the vinegar mixture until it’s gone, then launder as usual.

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If the material is leather

“In this case, you really want to use a leather cleaner specifically designed for removing stains, and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully,” says Harper. “That way you don’t cause permanent damage.” Two to try: Furniture Clinic Leather Stain Remover or Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner.

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If the material is nylon, rayon, polyester or synthetic

“These materials are usually a little more stain resistant, and can withstand a tougher cleaning process,” says Hughes. “First blot the stain with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol, which will quickly break down the bond between the foundation and the material, then when the stain is no longer visible, wash in whichever water temperature the garment’s tag recommends for normal care.”

How to get foundation out of clothes if the material is velvet

“The trick here is removing the foundation from all the individual fibers in the material,” says Harper. To do: Gently brush the stain with a soft-bristled brush to lift off excess foundation, then spot clean with a mixture of water and mild detergent — either dish soap or laundry detergent will work — until the stain is gone, then launder according to instructions on the garment’s tag.

How to get foundation out of towels or your carpet

You can pre-treat the stain using liquid laundry detergent or dish soap, then dab using a cloth dampened with plain, cold water until the stain is completely removed. If you’re working on a carpet and it gets soaked during the cleaning process, you may want to go over the spot with a wet/dry vac. Watch a how-to, here:

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