Sometimes, when you're ironing, scorch marks happen. We're all human. You may have become distracted or you chose an ironing temperature that was too high for the fabric. If you iron on a carpet floor to do crafts, steam stains, or revive fibers—or use it as a substitute for an ironing board—things can also go awry, leaving burn marks. On rare occasions, you may find scorches on your carpet from a dropped cigarette or a spark from a candle. Too much heat can melt fibers and leave unsightly burn marks.
If the scorched fabric is made from natural fibers like cotton, linen, ramie, rayon, or wool, you may be able to save it. (Scorched wool must be handled a bit differently because it's a protein fiber.) Cleaning scorched clothing and carpets made from manmade fibers can be tricky. However, even if the burn is successfully removed, remember that the fabric will be weakened permanently in the affected area and will wear out more quickly than the rest of the garment.
How Often to Clean Clothes and Carpet to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks
The treatments to remove scorch or burn marks from clothes and carpet are fairly aggressive. You should be able to remedy the problem with one treatment. However, you may have to repeat whichever process you use to completely remove the scorch or burn mark.
Equipment / Tools
- Soft-bristled brush
- White cloths
- Washer or large sink
- Emery board or medium-grit sandpaper (optional)
- Manicure scissors (optional)
- 2 small bowls (optional)
- Heavy-duty laundry detergent
- Distilled white vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
- Household ammonia (optional)
- Oxygen-based bleach
- Cotton swabs (optional)
|How to Wash Clothes to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks|
|Detergent||Heavy-duty or gentle, depending on fabric|
|Water Temperature||Varies by fabric|
|Cycle Type||Normal or gentle, depending on fabric|
|Drying Cycle Type||Air-dry usually preferred|
|Special Treatments||Pre-treatments vary|
How to Remove Light Scorch Marks on White Clothes
Treat Fresh Scorch Marks Immediately
If the scorch mark is light and you catch it right away, stop ironing and immediately work some heavy-duty laundry detergent such as Tide and Persil into the stain with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Let it work for at least 10 minutes, and then wash the garment in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.
If you didn't catch the mistake right away and find it later—and the scorch stain is very light—you can also try wiping the stain with a clean white cloth dipped in distilled white vinegar. Keep moving the cloth to a clean area as the scorched fibers are transferred. Finish by wiping down the satin with a white cloth dipped in cool water.
How to Remove Heavy Scorch Marks on White Clothes
Treat With Hydrogen Peroxide
For a heavier scorch mark on a white cotton or linen shirt, find an open, well-ventilated space to work. If the stain is large, work on a small section at a time. Start by pouring a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, a mild bleaching agent, in a small bowl. Dip a cotton swab in the hydrogen peroxide, and apply it to the stain.
Swab With Household Ammonia
Dip another cotton swab into a separate small bowl filled with household ammonia, and apply it onto the stain as well. Let the treated area stand for five minutes.
Don't mix the hydrogen peroxide and ammonia in the same bowl. Use a separate bowl for each ingredient. The mixture can form toxic fumes.
Rinse and Repeat
Flush the treated area with cold water. Repeat if necessary, and move to another section of the scorch mark. Do not allow the solution of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia to dry on the fabric.
Treat With an Oxygen Bleach and Water Soak
If a stain remains after trying the previous methods, mix a solution of warm water and oxygen bleach (e.g., OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, OXO Brite) following package directions. Submerge the entire scorched item, and allow it to soak at least eight hours or overnight. Then, wash as usual. If a stain remains, repeat the process.
How to Remove Scorch Marks on Colored Clothes
Treat With Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent
If the scorch mark is light, work a bit of heavy-duty laundry detergent into the stain with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush, and wash the garment in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.
Wipe Stain With Vinegar
Wiping the scorched area with a cloth dipped in distilled white vinegar may also help. Be sure to rinse well after using the vinegar to prevent discoloration.
For heavier scorch marks, do not use the hydrogen peroxide and ammonia treatment on colored clothes because fading can occur that can't be reversed.
Soak in Oxygen Bleach and Water
Mix a solution of warm water and oxygen bleach following the package directions. Submerge the entire scorched item, and allow it to soak at least eight hours or overnight. Then, wash as usual. If a stain remains, repeat the process.
The oxygen-bleach soaking process is safe to use on polyester and all synthetic fibers as well as natural fibers. Don't use on silk, wool, or leather, including any trim or embellishments made from those materials.
How to Remove Scorch Marks on Wool
Treat Shiny Streaks With Vinegar
If you forgot to use a pressing cloth while ironing wool, it may have caused a shiny streak. To fix it, dip a white cloth in white distilled vinegar, and blot the shiny streak. Finish by dipping a cloth in water and blotting the area to rinse. Allow the fabric to air-dry.
Brush Away the Burned Fibers
For heavier scorch marks, you'll need to remove burned or charred fibers. If the fabric is made of woven wool or another protein fiber like cashmere that's thick and fuzzy, brush the scorched area lightly with a soft brush. An old toothbrush also works well to remove damaged fibers.
Treat With a Gentle Detergent
If the garment is unstructured and made of washable woven wool, rub a bit of liquid gentle detergent into the scorched area, and wash in cold water on the gentle cycle. If the scorched item is knitted, like a sweater, hand-wash instead.
How to Remove Burn Marks on Carpet
Let the Carpet Cool Down
If you happen to be ironing on a carpeted floor and burn or melt the fibers, always allow the area to cool completely before tackling a repair.
Treat a Scorch on Light-Colored Carpets
If the carpet is very light in color, use the hydrogen peroxide and ammonia method to remove the stain. Always finish by blotting the area with cool water, and allow to air-dry.
Don't use this method on a dark-colored carpet. The color will be greatly affected.
Buff Away the Burned Fibers
Use an emery board or medium-grit sandpaper to lightly brush the scorched area of the carpet and remove the burned or melted fibers. Don't scrub heavily or you'll have a bare spot on the carpet.
Trim the Burned Fibers
You can also use fine-tip scissors, like manicure scissors, to remove the melted fibers. Avoid cutting too deep, or your carpet will be bald.
If ironing caused burns or scorch marks on your clothing or carpet, you'll need to clean the iron before using it again. Remove any melted fibers from the soleplate of your iron once it's completely cooled down. Use a spatula to scrape off the fabric, tweezers to remove fibers, or a mix of vinegar and water to eliminate remnants. Don't use an iron until the soleplate is cleaned or it can ruin another piece of clothing.
If your iron has melted a hole in the fabric or severely scorched clothes made from synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, acetate, or acrylic, the damage can never be repaired.
Structured wool garments like coats or suit jackets should be taken to a professional dry cleaner. An experienced tailor may be able to fix a burned hole by reweaving the woolen fabric.
For carpets, patching is possible. If you have any matching carpet scraps or hidden areas under furniture that can be removed, many carpets can be patched by cutting out the burned section and replacing it. This works best on higher-pile carpets where seams can be better hidden.
Dangers of Mixing Bleach with Cleaners. Washington State Department of Health.