How to Remove Liquid Medicine Stains

How to Remove Liquid Medicine Stains From Clothes

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 6 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 15

Drug manufacturers and pharmacists add flavoring and coloring (dye) to make liquid medicine more palatable. But those same additives make getting the spills and stains out of laundry even more difficult. Most liquid medicines are alcohol-based and fortunately can be removed with some simple household products you most likely have on hand. Taking care of any medicine stain is best handled as soon as it happens to make it easier to remove it. Be aware there is a different method to follow if the stain is from liquid capsules like fish oil.

Use the following steps to remove alcohol-based liquid medicine stains from clothing, carpet, and upholstery.

 Stain type  Dye-based
 Detergent type  Heavy-duty
 Water temperature  Varies depending on the type of fabric
 Cycle type  Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Do not rub immediately. That will only push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers and make the stain harder to remove. Check the care label of the piece of clothing stained with liquid medicine. Test any detergent or cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric. While most cleaning methods are gentle enough for a diverse range of fabrics, knowing an item's specific care needs will help you choose the best stain removal option. Older or dried stains will be harder to remove, so know that you might need to repeat the cleaning process several times before the stain disappears.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Measuring cup
  • Clean white cloths
  • Sponge or soft-bristled brush
  • Paper towels
  • Sink or large plastic tub
  • Non-metal bowl (carpet)


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
  • Oxygen-based bleach (optional)
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent


How to Remove Liquid Medicine Stains From Washable Clothes

As with most stains, liquid medicine stains will be easier to remove from clothing if they are treated immediately. But you can use this same technique whether the stain is fresh or several hours old.

  1. Flush the Stained Area

    Flush out as much of the medicine as possible by holding the stained item with the back of the fabric under a cold water faucet running at full force.

    Flushing from the wrong side of the fabric will push the stain out from the fibers.

    rinsing the garment with medicine stain in the sink
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  2. Mix Solution

    Mix one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with 2/3 cup of isopropyl or rubbing alcohol.

    mixing a solution of vinegar and rubbing alcohol
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 
  3. Treat the Stain

    Blot the stain on both the front and back sides of the fabric using a clean white cloth and the vinegar/alcohol solution. Keep turning the white cloth to a clean area to blot away as much of the stain as possible. When no more color transfers to the white cloth, move to the next step.

    person dabbing the alcohol and vinegar solution onto the medicine stain
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  4. Rinse the Stained Area

    Rinse the stain thoroughly with cold water. If the stain is gone, wash the clothes or bed linens as recommended on the care label. If any stain remains, proceed to the following step before laundering.

    person rinsing the garment under the faucet
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  5. Mix a Soaking Solution

    • Fill a sink or large plastic tub with cool water and add oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) following package directions. 
    • Submerge the garment completely and allow it to soak for at least six hours or overnight.
    a garment submerged in a bowl
    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell
  6. Check the Stained Area

    Before washing, check the stained area. If it is gone, rinse well, and launder as usual. Check the clothing care label to determine what water temperature to use when laundering the garment, and then wash in the hottest water advised. Ensure there is no hint of a mark or darkened ring on the garment. If any traces of the stain remain, repeat the process with a fresh oxygen bleach/water solution and allow the clothing to air-dry. When the stain is gone, it's safe to wash and dry normally.


    Always check a stained item before tossing it into a dryer. The high heat of the dryer can set the stain and make it almost impossible to remove.

How to Remove Liquid Medicine Stains on Carpet and Upholstery

The same cleaning techniques recommended for carpets can be used to remove liquid medicine stains from upholstery. Take special care not to saturate the fabric to prevent excessive moisture in cushions. If the upholstery is vintage or silk, consult an upholstery cleaning professional.

Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

  1. Blot the Stain

    Blot the stain with a plain white paper towel as soon as possible. Work from the outside edges of the stain toward the center to prevent making the stain larger.

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a small non-metal bowl or measuring cup, mix a solution of two cups of cool water, one tablespoon distilled white vinegar, and one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap.

  3. Apply the Cleaning Solution to the Stain

    • Dip a clean white cloth, sponge, or soft-bristled brush into the solution and work into the stained area. 
    • Blot the stain with a white paper towel moving to a clean area as the dye is transferred from the carpet to the paper towel. If the stain is older, you may need to repeat and leave the solution on the stain for 10 or 15 minutes before blotting. If color remains, dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and apply to the stained area.
    • Blot away with a clean white paper towel and repeat until no more dye is transferred to the paper towel.
    • Move to the next step, once the stain is completely removed.
  4. Rinse the Stained Area

    Rinse the stained area with plain cool water and a clean white cloth to remove any soapy residue. Blot dry with white paper towels or another clean white cloth.


    Rinse well as leaving any soapy residue in the carpet will actually attract more soil.

  5. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the carpet to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight, then vacuum to lift up carpet fibers.

Additional Tips for Handling a Liquid Medicine Stain

If the liquid medicine stain is persistent, try this method, but only on carpet that is white or very light-colored, as this process can remove the color from darker colored ones.

  • Dip a cotton swab in a three percent solution of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Blot the stained area and let the hydrogen peroxide sit for two or three minutes.
  • Blot away with a clean, dry white paper towel and then sponge with a clean white cloth dipped in fresh, plain water.
  • Allow to air dry and then vacuum.

When to Call a Professional

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, blot away as much of the liquid medicine as possible with a cloth dipped in plain, cool water. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. The same applies to a stain that damages silk or vintage upholstery; you need to contact a professional cleaner, or else you are likely to do more damage if you try to remove the stain yourself.

If you have a carpet that is made out of wool or is a thick shag rug, you should consider contacting a professional to handle the job. They can also handle the larger and tough-to-get-out stains easier. Additionally, if you try to remove a stain and still can't get it out, it's best to let the professionals handle it. Make sure to choose a reputable professional carpet cleaner to clean your carpet. Good professional cleaners have the proper equipment to extract the moisture from the carpet, leaving it almost dry.