How to Remove Breast Milk and Baby Formula Stains

How to Remove Breast Milk and Baby Formula Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-15

Every parent knows the messiness of feeding time. While both stains are protein-based, breast milk stains are easier to remove than baby formula stains. The same cleaning methods work for both; however, formula stains may require repeat cleanings or a visit to a dry cleaner. Be sure to remove the stain before storing the item because, if untreated, it can darken and become more difficult to remove.

Check out the following steps to eliminate breast milk and baby formula stains on clothes, carpet, and upholstery. Never use hot water on a still-stained item because it cooks the protein and can make the stain impossible to remove.

Stain type Protein-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Cool
Cycle type Varies depending on type of fabric

Before You Begin

Before beginning the treatment process, resist the urge to rub the stain, as it will only push the matter deeper into the fabric fibers, making it more difficult to remove. Check the care label on the garment and 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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cloth
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Basin
  • Spoon
  • Vacuum (optional)
  • Sponge
  • Washer/dryer

Materials

  • Oxygen bleach
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty detergent

Instructions

How to Remove Breast Milk and Baby Formula Stains From Washable Clothes

The key to removing formula stains is addressing them as soon as possible, although it may be hard to prioritize when caring for your baby.

  1. Scrape Crusted Matter

    Scrape or brush off any crusted formula or breast milk, and soak the garment in cold water for at least 30 minutes, adding a bit of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent like Tide or Persil. This will help clear excess formula or milk before you move on to more thorough treatment.

    Large bowl with stained clothing filled with water by kitchen sink

    The Spruce / Jesi Lee

  2. Mix Water and Bleach

    Fill a basin with cool water and oxygen-based bleach, following package instructions for correct measurements. Submerge the stained item in the mixture and allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. Scrub the stain with a soft-bristled brush before laundering as usual. Oxygen-based bleach is safe to use with white and colored fabrics.

    Baby food stain on orange shirt blotted by white towel with baby bottle on top

    The Spruce / Jesi Lee

    Tip

    When washing baby clothes, it's best to use fragrance-free and dye-free detergents.

How to Remove Breast Milk and Baby Formula Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

You can use the same cleaning steps used for carpet for upholstery. Take care not to oversaturate the fabric, as excess moisture in cushions can create mold or mildew. 

  1. Remove Excess Matter

    Use a spoon or cloth to remove excess liquids and solids. Begin at the outside of the spill and work inward the center to prevent the stain from spreading. Finish by blotting with white paper towels to absorb as much remaining matter as possible.

  2. Blot the Stain

    Dip a clean white cloth or sponge in cool water and blot the stained area. Move to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. Try not to oversaturate the fabric.

    Baby formula spilled on blue pillow and blotted with white paper towel

    The Spruce / Jesi Lee

  3. Mix a Solution

    Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap with 2 cups of warm water. Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the mixture and saturate the stain, working from the outside inward. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred.

  4. Rinse the Stain

    Dip a clean cloth in tepid water to rinse the area. Be sure to rinse the fabric thoroughly, as lingering soap can attract soil. Blot with a dry cloth and allow the item to air dry away from direct heat before vacuuming to lift the fibers.

  5. Mix a Fresh Solution

    Mix a fresh solution of the oxygen bleach and cool water if the stain persists. Saturate the stained area with the solution and allow it to sit on the stain for at least 30 minutes before blotting the solution and sponging with tepid water. Finally, blot with a clean, dry cloth until all moisture is gone. Allow the item to air dry away from direct heat.

When to Call a Professional

If the stained garment is labeled as dry clean only, blot away as much of the stain as possible before visiting your dry cleaner as soon as possible. If your stained upholstery is silk or vintage, do not try to remove the stain at home. Instead, contact a professional upholstery cleaner.

Additional Tips for Handling Breast Milk and Baby Formula Stains

Getting breast milk and baby formula on your clothes or your baby's clothes is practically unavoidable, so keeping stain removal wipes on hand for quick clean-ups is helpful. It may take several soakings to remove the stains, but you can likely remove them without visiting a professional. If the breast milk or baby formula persists, you may repeat cleaning methods as many times as you see fit.