How to Remove Hair Spray Stains From Clothes and Carpet

How to Remove Hairspray Stains

The Spruce / Adriana Sanchez

Did you know that the origins of hairspray are linked to wartime insect repellent? During World War II, scientists were looking for a way to provide insect repellent to the soldiers in the South Pacific and the aerosol can became a standard. After the war, innovative beauty products entrepreneurs saw the can as a way to deliver a resin-based lacquer to hold women's elaborate hairstyles in place. Helene Curtis introduced the term “hairspray” in 1950 for her product, Spray Net. 

Today's hair sprays are very different from that original lacquer and some contain a range of ingredients from conditioners to washable dyes to add a hint of color to your hair. The delivery methods have changed as well to reduce environmental effects on the ozone layer.

But every time you spray a hair product, there's a chance it will land on your clothes, your carpet or even upholstery. Of course, the best idea is to prevent stains by using the hairspray before dressing, using washable bath rugs and avoiding upholstered furniture.

Washable Clothes

Most hair spray formulas today contain alcohol, sticky polymers or gums and often oils to condition hair that can leave both an oily and waxy stain on fabrics.

As soon as you notice a basic hair spray stain, start by treating the oily/waxy component of the stain with a solvent-based stain remover. If you don't have a stain remover, apply a heavy-duty liquid detergent like Tide or Persil (these are leading high-performance brands that contain the necessary enzymes to break apart the oily component) directly to the stain and work it in by gently rubbing the fabric together with your fingers or use an old soft toothbrush. Let the stain remover work for 15 minutes and rinse the area with hot water.

Next, wash as usual following the garment's care label directions. Check the stained area of the garment before you place it in the dryer. If the stain remains, repeat the steps.

If the hairspray contains dye, even temporary dye for root cover-up or highlighting, there is a step you should do before treating the oily/waxy component. Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener or OXO Brite) and tepid water. Submerge the entire garment. Allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight to remove the dye component of the spray. Check the stains. If the dye is removed, treat the oily stain as recommended and launder as usual. If the dye remains, repeat the soaking. Oxygen bleach is safe to use for all washable fabrics, white and colored, except for silk, wool and anything trimmed with leather.

Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, your best bet is to head to the cleaner and point out and identify the stain. This is particularly important if the stain is on a natural fur because the formulas of most brands contain alcohol which can dry the hides and oils that can penetrate the fur and eventually become rancid. 

Carpet and Upholstery

If the rugs in your bathroom or dressing area are machine washable, follow the same steps recommended for washable clothes to remove the hair spray stains. However, if you repeatedly use hair spray in an area with wall to wall carpet, you're going to end up with stains that need to be removed from the carpet fibers.

If the carpet feels sticky or stiff, mix a solution of 1/2 cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol with 1/2 cup cool water. Sponge the alcohol solution onto the affected area and let it work for at least ten minutes. Blot away the moisture with paper towels. 

Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Repeat the steps if necessary and then vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

If there are dye stains on a light-colored carpet, mix one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with three tablespoons of warm water. Blot the solution onto the dye stains and blot away with a dry cloth as the dye is transferred. Allow to air dry and repeat if needed.

The same cleaning solutions and techniques recommended for carpet can be used to remove hair spray stains from most upholstery fabrics. If the fabric is silk or vintage, consult a professional especially if you need more stain removal tips.