How to Remove Milk or Cream Stains

How to Remove Milk and Cream Stains

The Spruce / Adriana Sanchez

We are taught not to cry over spilled milk, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the stains. Milk, cream, and whipped cream are made of liquid protein. The protein, as well as the fat, are the reasons this common household beverage leaves a mark on clothing, carpet, and upholstery. If you've ever left spilled milk on a shirt for a few days, you'll know why it's important to act promptly; not only is the stain difficult to remove but the milk will sour, leaving a bad odor. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make those milk or cream stains disappear.

Washable Clothes

The key to removing milk or cream stains is to tackle them as soon as possible. Immediately blot up as much of the milk as you can with a white cloth or paper towel. Next, flush the milk from the fabric by holding the stain directly under running cold water with the underside of the fabric facing up. This will force the protein solids out of the fibers. If you can't hold the fabric under a faucet, flood the stained area by blotting with a cloth dipped in cool water. Never use hot water because it will cook the protein, making the stain harder to remove. After rinsing, wash the milk-stained clothes as soon as possible as recommended on the care label using a good detergent and cool or warm water. 

If the milk or cream stain is dried or old, scrape or brush off any crusted matter, then soak in cold water mixed with a bit of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty with enough enzymes to break down stains) for at least 30 minutes. Give the stain a light scrub with a soft-bristled brush before tossing in the washer for a full wash.

If the stains are still present, mix a solution of cool water and oxygen-based bleach (brand names include OxiCleanNellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OXO Brite). Follow the package directions to mix the solution and completely submerge the stained item, allowing it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, wash as usual; if it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat.

The same techniques can be used to remove chocolate milk or flavored milk stains. If treated promptly, these stains will also come out. For older chocolate milk stains, use the oxygen-based bleach soak to remove the stains.

soaking the stained garment
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the coffee creamer or milk landed on your favorite suit or blouse that is labeled as "dry clean only," use a spoon to scoop away as much liquid as possible and then blot the stain with a clean white 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. If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

dabbing the milk stain on a dry clean only garment
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

Carpet and Upholstery

The best defense against spilled milk is being prompt. If milk is spilled on carpet or upholstery, you need to act quickly. If the upholstery is vintage or silk, consult a professional before trying to clean on your own. 

Whether on furniture or the carpet, the first step is to use a spoon to scoop up as much liquid as possible. Start at the outside of the spill and work toward the center to prevent spreading. Finish by blotting with white paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible.

While the stain is fresh, dip a clean white cloth or sponge in cool water and blot the stained area from the outside edges toward the center. Try not to over-saturate the fibers and move to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred or rinse out the sponge. As one section is cleaned, blot the excess moisture with a clean dry white cloth or paper towel.

Next, mix one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap with two cups of warm water. Using a clean cloth or sponge dipped in the mixture, saturate the stain working from the outside edges toward the center. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred to the cloth. Work slowly and methodically. 

When no more stain is being transferred to the cloth, take a clean cloth and dip it in plain water to rinse the area. Rinsing is very important because the soap solution can actually attract soil. Blot with a dry cloth and allow to air dry away from direct heat. Then vacuum to lift the fibers.

If the stain did not come out, mix a solution of the oxygen bleach and cool water (follow package directions for the amount of product to use). Saturate the stained area with the solution and allow it to remain on the stain for at least 30 minutes. Then blot up the solution and "rinse" with plain water by sponging the area. Finally, continue blotting with a clean dry cloth until all the moisture is gone. Allow to air dry away from direct heat.

removing milk stain from upholstery
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida