Remove Mascara Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

woman applying mascara

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Mascara makes our eyelashes look fabulous, but it is not a plus on clothes, towels, pillowcases, and carpet. Learn how to properly remove the difficult combination stains of dye and oily/waxy ingredients. Don't skip any steps or you'll be left with those dreaded mascara smudges!


Click Play to Learn How to Remove Mascara from Clothing, Carpets, and Towels

Remove Mascara From Washable Clothes and Linens

All mascaras are formulated from oils, waxes, and dyes. When stains appear on washable fabrics, start by treating the oily/waxy component of the stain first with a stain remover like Shout, Zout or Spray 'n' Wash. Work the product into the stained fabric with a soft bristle brush or with your finger. Allow the stain remover to work for at least fifteen minutes before washing the garment or linens as recommended on the care label. Use the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabric.

If you don't have a stain remover, use a bit of heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide or Persil are brand names) that has enough enzymes to dissolve, lift and remove the stain. After the stain remover or detergent has done its work, give the stain another light scrub with the brush and rinse in hot water. Next, wash the item as usual in the hottest water suitable for the fabric (consult the garment's care label for this information).

After washing, check to see if any stains remain. Never dry a mascara-stained fabric on high heat in a clothes dryer. The dryer's high heat can cause the stain to be permanently set. If traces of the mascara dye remain after washing, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product to add per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment or stained linen and allow it to soak for at least eight hours or overnight. Check the stain and repeat if necessary and finish by washing as usual.

using a soft brush to remove a mascara stain
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Mascara Stains From Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, the best bet is to head to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. Point out and identify the stain to help them treat it correctly.  If you decide to tackle the stain at home, try sponging the area with a bit of dry cleaning solvent on a white cloth. Start at the outside edge of the stain and work toward the center to keep it from becoming larger. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. Allow to air dry. If you decide to use a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. 

How to Remove Mascara Stains From Carpet

If the mascara wand hits the carpet, lift it away carefully. Don't rub the stain without treating because you may push the stain deeper into the fibers or make the smear larger.

The best stain remover for carpet is a dry cleaning solvent that will dissolve the oily/waxy component. Use a clean white cloth and blot the stain until no more color transfers to the cloth. Blot with a clean cloth dipped in plain water to "rinse" and allow to air dry — vacuum to lift fibers.

If you don't have a dry cleaning solvent, mix one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon household ammonia with two cups of warm water. Dip a clean white cloth or sponge in the solution and blot the stain. Work from the outside edges toward the center to keep the stain from getting bigger. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. It is important to rinse with a cloth dipped in plain cold water because any soapy residue left in the carpet can attract soil. Allow to air dry away from direct heat.

blotting mascara stains from carpet
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Mascara Stains From Upholstery

The same stain removal steps used for carpet can be used for upholstery. Take extra care to avoid over-saturating the fabric and the cushion underneath. Excess moisture can lead to mold and mildew problems. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, it is best to consult a professional cleaning company or if you need more stain removal tips.