7 Creative Ways to Hide Stains on Clothes

How to Hide Stains on Clothes

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

We all get stains on our clothes. Unfortunately, some stains just won't come out. A leading culprit is a splatter from chlorine bleach that removes the color from most fabrics. On the opposite end, permanent ink from a marker is almost impossible to remove unless it is treated immediately. Some stains are missed and the item is tossed in the dryer and the high heat bonds the oily molecules to the fibers.

When one of these things happens, you can toss the garment in the trash, turn it into your work-in-the-yard gear, or make it into cleaning rags. Or, you can try one of these eight creative ways to hide the stain and keep wearing your favorite shirt!

Before You Begin

Before you attempt any of the ideas, take your abilities, your time, the value of the garment, and the expense to hide the stain into consideration. If the item is expensive business wear, consider visiting a professional seamstress or dry cleaner for suggestions. For kid's clothes that will be outgrown quickly, include them in the project. They may be proud to show off their handiwork.

  • 01 of 07

    Add Color

    White and gray shirt with blue stain colored in with fabric marker

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    If the stain is light enough, you might be able to camouflage it by coloring it.

    • Use the right type of marker: You can purchase permanent markers just for fabric or use a permanent ink marker (Sharpie).
    • Plan your design: Look at the stain and plan what to draw over it. You may need to add more than one design element for the look to be cohesive.
    • Protect the garment: Place a heavy piece of cardboard under the fabric as you draw or you'll have traces of the ink in places you may not want it.
    • Set the ink: Once you have completed the artwork, iron the garment using the highest temperature recommended on the care tag to set the ink.
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  • 02 of 07

    Paint It

    White and gray shirt with blue stain sprayed with fabric spray paint and stencil

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Fabric paints are perfect for hiding a stain whether you use liquid paint and a brush or spray fabric paint and a stencil.

    • Read the label: Take time to read the label instructions carefully.
    • Plan your design: Sketch your design on a piece of paper before you start painting on the garment. You can often use a soft-lead pencil to draw the design on the fabric before you paint.
    • Protect the garment: Place a piece of cardboard under the work area to prevent bleeding onto the back of the fabric.
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  • 03 of 07

    Bleach It

    Pink shirt with white circle painted with small brush and bleach

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Looking for an easy fix for a bleach spot? Try more chlorine bleach. You can use a bleach pen or a small brush dipped in bleach to create an original design on any fabric that isn't white.

    • Prepare a neutralizing solution: A neutralizing solution will stop the bleaching action when you reach the desired color. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts water in a plastic bowl. Mix this up before you begin your bleaching project so it is ready to use.
    • Plan and Protect: Plan your design and protect the rest of the garment by putting a heavy piece of cardboard under the area you are bleaching. Protect work surfaces with plastic or old white towels.
    • Design and neutralize: Apply the bleach with a bleach pen or brush. When the design is finished, use a clean paintbrush to apply the neutralizing solution to stop the bleaching.
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  • 04 of 07

    Add an Iron-On

    White and gray stained shirt ironing clip art on transfer paper

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    If you're not confident in your artistic skills, use an iron-on decal. You can purchase decals or create your own with iron-on transfer paper found in craft stores.

    • Follow the directions: Read the directions provided with the decal or transfer paper to select the correct iron temperature.
    • Let it cool: Do not attempt to handle the garment until the decal is completely cool.
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  • 05 of 07

    Tie-Dye It

    Canvas bag with yellow stain with tie dye package and rubber bands

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    You can purchase tie-dye kits or DIY with packages of fabric dye. Follow the instructions carefully to achieve the look you desire. Make sure the stain is hidden in one of the darker colors of dye!

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  • 06 of 07

    Add Embroidery, Patch, or Buttons

    Pink shirt with stain sewing on ice cream patch with pink yarn

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    Hide the stain with embroidery, a sew-on patch, or buttons.

    • Use your embroidery skills: Stitch an abstract design or flower to cover a stain. Be sure to use color-fast embroidery floss that can be washed the same way as the base fabric.
    • Sew-on a patch: Colorful patches are sold online and in craft stores. Choose one large enough to cover the stain or add several to create a new look.
    • Add buttons: Create a design with buttons, beads, or sequins to hide the stain.
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  • 07 of 07

    Hide it Temporarily

    Gray shirt with stain covered with pineapple button

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

    This fix requires no sewing, coloring, ironing, or painting. As a bonus, you can do these on the go as a temporary solution rather than a permanent fix.

    • Put on a jacket: Hide a stain on a shirt by adding a jacket or sweater.
    • Use a brooch: If the stain is in an appropriate spot, hide it with a brooch or other jewelry.
    • Add a scarf or necktie: Scarves and neckties are great at hiding stains until you can find another solution.
Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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