We've all done it. We get a little too exuberant when brushing our teeth and little white or blue specks appear on our clothes right before we're ready to head out of the door. (Perhaps this is why our mothers told us to brush our teeth before we got dressed).
Removing these little dots seems so simple: just wipe them away with a damp cloth. But sometimes they reappear or just will not go away. Why is that and what do you do to solve the problem?
Toothpaste Stains on Washable Clothes
Some toothpaste formulas contain titanium dioxide powder that makes them look whiter. It doesn't whiten your teeth, just makes the toothpaste white. The titanium dioxide is the ingredient that is difficult to remove and causes the white stains to reappear.
Water alone on a towel will not remove titanium dioxide during a quick cleanup. You must use a bit of laundry detergent to break up the stain. If a blob of toothpaste lands on your clothes, use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to lift the stain away from the surface of the fabric. Do not rub because you'll only push the toothpaste deeper into the fibers and make it harder to remove.
Next, mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent in one cup of water. Stir to mix well. Dip a clean white cloth in the solution and rub away the toothpaste. Do not oversaturate the fabric. Finish by dipping another clean white cloth in cool water and wipe away any detergent/toothpaste residue. Allow the stain to air dry.
If you don't have time to clean the toothpaste speckled garment and choose to just change clothes, the stains will be removed when washing the garment. The surfactants and enzymes in the laundry detergent will take care of the problem. Simply wash as usual following the care guidelines of the garment.
One word of caution: if you use a toothpaste that contains hydrogen peroxide, it is important to remove those stains right away. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild form of bleach and can cause discoloration on dark fabrics.
Dry Clean Only Clothes
For clothes that are labeled as dry clean only, carefully remove any large blobs of toothpaste with a dull knife or spoon to prevent the paste from working deeper into the fabric. No rubbing!
If the toothpaste contains titanium dioxide, it is best to take the garment to a professional dry cleaner and identify and point out the stain. If the toothpaste does not contain titanium dioxide and the fabric does not water spot (water can often leave spots on dark silks), use a white cloth dipped in plain cool water to remove the stain. Gently rub the spots with the cloth and then blot with a dry white cloth to remove moisture.
If you are using a home dry cleaning kit to clean the entire garment, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.
Carpet and Upholstery
When the toothpaste blob hits the carpet, quickly remove it with a dull knife or spoon to prevent the stain from getting spread deeper into the fibers. If you can't clean right away, blot the area with a white cloth or paper towel dipped in plain water. Work from the outside edge to prevent the stain from getting larger. It is especially important to treat as soon as possible if the toothpaste contains hydrogen peroxide and the carpet is dark in color.
To remove the stain, mix a solution of two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid and two cups cool water. Dip a sponge, white cloth, or soft-bristled brush in the solution. Start at the outside edge of the stain and work the cleaning solution into the stained area. Blot with a clean white cloth or paper towel to transfer the stain out of the carpet. Keep moving to a clean, dry area of the cloth until no more stain is transferred.
Dip a clean white cloth into some plain water to rinse the area. It is particularly important to rinse away any cleaning solution that can actually attract soil to the area. Blot until no more soapy residue remains.
Allow the carpet to air dry away from direct sunlight and heat. Vacuum to lift carpet fibers.
The same cleaning techniques recommended for carpet can be used to remove toothpaste stains from upholstery. Take extra care to not overwet the fabric to avoid excess moisture in the cushions.
If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult a professional upholstery cleaner.