How to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks from Clothes and Carpet

scorched shirt
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Ironing scorch marks happen. The phone rings, you get distracted and leave the iron on fabric in one place for too long. Or, most likely, you choose an ironing temperature that was too hot for the fabric.

Now what?

Too much heat from an iron can damage some garments permanently by melting the fibers. However, if your scorched shirt or pants are made from cotton, linen, ramie, rayon or wool (natural fibers) fabric you may be able to save it. However, remember the fabric will be weakened permanently in the scorched area and will wear out more quickly than the rest of the garment.

How to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks from White Clothes

If the scorch mark is light and you catch it right away, stop ironing and immediately work in some heavy duty laundry detergent into the stain (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty) with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush and wash the garment in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

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 only a small section at a time. Start by dipping a cotton swap in hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the stain. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleaching agent that will work on the discoloration. Dip another cotton swab into non-sudsing household ammonia and apply it onto the stain as well. WARNING: DO NOT mix the hydrogen peroxide and ammonia together in a bowl. The mixture can form TOXIC FUMES when combined in large quantities.

Let the treated area stand for several minutes and then flush with water. Repeat if necessary and move to another section of the scorch mark. Do not leave the hydrogen peroxide/ammonia solution to dry on the fabric.

If 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 with a wipe down of a white cloth dipped in clean, cool water.

If a stain remains after trying the hydrogen peroxide/ammonia or vinegar removal methods, mix a solution of warm water and oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiCleanNellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) following package directions. Submerge the entire piece of scorched clothing 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 man-made fibers as well as natural fibers like cotton and linen. Do not use on silk or wool or leather - including any trim or embellishments made from those materials.

How to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks from Colored Clothes

If the scorch mark is light and you catch it right away, stop ironing and immediately work in some 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.

For heavier scorch marks, do not use the hydrogen peroxide/ammonia treatment on colored clothes because fading can occur that can not be reversed. Instead, use distilled white vinegar or a soak in an oxygen bleach solution to remove the stains.

How to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks from Wool Fabrics

If the scorched fabric is made of wool or another protein fabric like cashmere that is thick and fuzzy, brush the scorched area lightly with a soft brush - like an old toothbrush - to remove burned or charred fibers. Rub a bit of liquid detergent into the scorched area and wash in cold water. If the scorched item is delicate, like a sweater, hand wash instead.

If you have created a shiny streak on wool because you forgot to use a pressing cloth, a white cloth dipped in white distilled vinegar will help remove the shine. Finish by blotting up the area with plain, cool water and allow to air dry.

How to Remove Scorch or Burn Marks from Carpets

If you happened to be ironing on a carpeted floor and burned or melted the fibers, start by allowing the area to cool completely. Use some medium-grit sandpaper to brush the area and remove the melted fibers. You can also use very fine scissors - like manicure scissors - to remove the melted fibers. You will have to be careful and not cut too deep or your carpet will be bald.

If the scorch mark very light, use the hydrogen peroxide/ammonia or distilled white vinegar methods to remove the stain. Always finish by blotting the area with cool, clean water and allow to air dry.

Melted Man-Made Fabrics and Your Iron

If the iron has melted a hole in the fabric or severely scorched clothes made from synthetic blends - nylon, polyester, acetate, acrylic - they can never be restored. 

If the fabric melted onto the soleplate of your iron, follow these tips to remove the melted fibers. DO NOT use the iron again until the soleplate is cleaned. You will just ruin another piece of clothing!