How to Remove Acne Medicine Stains From Clothes and Carpet

Acne medicine cream spilled on surface and clothing with cotton balls on the side

The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 8 - 10 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Acne treatments have powerful ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, to fight bacteria and those same ingredients can ruin clothes, carpet fibers, and towels by permanently bleaching and discoloring fabrics. When benzoyl peroxide combines with moisture, it becomes hydrogen peroxide which can bleach fabrics. Azelaic acid (also known as heptane dicarboxylic acid or lepargylic acid) in acne medicines can also bleach or discolor fabrics. But if you act fast, you may be able to save the fabric.

Stain type Chemical, dye
Detergent type Heavy-duty or stain remover
Water Cold to warm
Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

If the acne medication lands on a fabric with a "dry clean only" label, use a dull-edged knife to remove any solids. Immediately flood the stained area with plain, cool water by blotting with a white cloth dipped in water. After wetting the fabric, use a dry white towel to blot away the moisture.

As quickly as possible, take the item to a professional cleaner. Be sure to point out and identify the stain. Do not allow the stain to remain on the fabric for a long time and do not carry the stained item around in a hot car for several days. Remember, bleaching is permanent.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Washing machine, large sink, or basin
  • Soft-bristled brush


  • Heavy-duty detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Distilled white vinegar


Materials and tools to remove acne medicine stains from clothing

The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  1. Remove Any Solids

    If any of the over-the-counter or prescription acne creams come in contact with any white or colored washable fabric, use a dull knife or spoon to lift any solid matter from the surface. Don't rub the cream because that only pushes the medicine deeper into the fibers. 

    Acne medicine cream removed off white clothing with dull knife

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  2. Flush Away Stains

    As quickly as possible, hold the fabric under a faucet running with a full force stream of cold water. Flush from the wrong side with the fabric directly under the faucet so that the water will help push the medicine out of the fibers.

    White clothing under running faucet to remove acne medicine stain

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  3. Wash as Usual

    Immediately wash the fabric as recommended on the care label. Once bleaching begins on the fabric, it cannot be reversed.

    White clothing being washed under running faucet

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  4. Treat Tough Stains

    At times, the benzoyl peroxide and other ingredients combine with fabric dyes to leave an orange or rust-colored stain. These stains may also become permanent if not treated promptly.

    To remove the discoloration, fill a sink or large plastic tub with cool water and oxygen-based bleach (brand names are OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) following the product directions. Completely submerge the entire garment or towel and allow it to soak for at least four hours; overnight is better.

    White clothing submerged in sink to soak oxygen-based bleach

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu


    This cleaning process is safe to use on all white and colored washable clothes except for silk, wool, or any item trimmed with leather.

  5. Check the Stained Area

    Check the stain; if it is gone, wash the item as usual. If the stain remains, mix a fresh oxygen bleach/water solution and repeat the steps. It may take several treatments to remove the stain.

    White clothing held up against window light to look for acne medicine stains

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Acne Medicine Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

The biggest issue with acne medication stains on a carpet is the bleaching action, especially on dark colored carpets. It is very important to act as quickly as possible. The same steps used for carpet can be used to clean upholstery, but do not to saturate the fabric. Excess moisture can cause problems with the cushion fillings. If the fabric is silk or vintage, treat as a dry-clean-only fabric and consult an upholstery cleaning professional.

  1. Remove Cream Solids

    Use a dull knife, spoon, or spatula to lift any cream or ointment solids directly up out of the fibers. Do not wipe with a cloth because that will push the ointment deeper into the fibers. If the medication is a liquid, blot up as much moisture as possible with a paper towel.

    Acne medicine cream being removed from carpet by dull knife closeup

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Mix a solution of 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid and 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar with 1 cup of very warm water.

    White vinegar poured into glass bowl to make cleaning solution

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  3. Treat the Stain

    Dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution and apply it liberally to the stained area. Work in the solution and allow it to work on the stain for at least five minutes. Blot away the solution with a dry, white paper towel or cloth.

    Acne medicine cream stain rubbed with cleaning solution by soft-bristled brush

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  4. Rinse, Dry, and Vacuum the Area

    Flood the area with plain water and then blot dry. It is important to do this rinsing step because the soap can attract additional soil. Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Vacuum to lift the carpet pile.

    Acne medicine stained carpet vacuumed after cleaning to lift pile

    The Spruce/ Ana Maria Stanciu

  5. Treat Older Stains

    If the stains are older and have bleached the color from the carpet, there is nothing that can be done to correct the problem.

    If the stain is on a light-colored carpet, mix a solution of oxygen bleach and warm water following product directions. Apply to the carpet and let it sit for several hours. Repeat if the stain seems to be getting lighter. Unfortunately, some old, set-in acne medicine stains cannot be removed.


  • Prevent stains from acne medication by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after applying the medicine. This will prevent the accidental transfer to fabric.
  • Allow the medication to dry completely before dressing or getting into bed.
  • Do not toss towels or washcloths that might have acne medication residue on them into the clothes hamper. They can stain other clothes.
  • While using acne medication, switch to white towels and sheets that will not readily show any effects of bleaching.

If stains and bleaching problems remain persistent, at least with bedding, consider buying high-quality microfiber sheets that are tightly woven synthetic fibers. These products inherently resist the bleaching and staining challenges of acne medicine.