There's a sinking feeling when you open the dryer and see that smear of oily residue all over your clothes. I've been there. My youngest son was notorious for leaving a ChapStick in his pocket (He did come up with an excellent solution to the issue), so we became true experts on removing those stains.
ChapStick or any lip balm or ointment creates a combination stain of wax, oil, and sometimes dye if the balm is tinted. The key to successful removal from washable clothes is to tackle all of the components as soon as possible.
How to Remove ChapStick Stains on Washable Clothes
Step One: Scrape
If there is any visible melted wax on the surface of the fabric, grab a spoon, dull knife or the edge of a credit card and gently scrape it off the fabric. Never rub! Scrapping will prevent the wax from becoming more deeply embedded in the fibers.
Step Two: Treat and Patiently Wait
Carefully check every area of the stained clothes and treat each spot with an enzyme-based stain remover like Zout. If you do not have a stain remover, use a bit of heavy-duty laundry detergent like Persil or Tide that contains enough enzymes that will cut through the oily residue and release it from the fibers.
Work the stain remover into the ChapStick stains with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush works great). Let the stain remover sit on the stains for at least 30 minutes.
Step Three: Rewash and Check
After the stain remover has had a chance to work, you must rewash the stained clothes in the hottest water recommended on the care tag. If the stains have not been removed, repeat the stain removal steps before you toss the clothes in the dryer again.
If the ChapStick was tinted and you see traces of color left, this is the time to grab some oxygen-based bleach that will remove the lip balm color but not harm your washable clothes. Following package directions, mix a solution of oxygen bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2 or Nellie's Natural Oxygen Brightener are brand names) and warm water. Completely submerge the stained garment and allow it to soak for at least two hours and overnight is even better. This will remove the dye. Rinse well with plain water and dry the fabrics as usual.
Step Four: Check Your Washer and Dryer
Once you've been through this cleaning process, you certainly don't want to do it again anytime soon. So, carefully check your washer and dryer to retrieve the offending ChapStick and look for any residue clinging to the interior drums.
If you see some residue in the washer drum, use a bit of laundry detergent on an old white rag to remove the waxy coating. Dip the rag in hot water and dot with detergent and scrub away.
For residue in the dryer, wet some old rags and toss in the dryer. Set the dryer to high heat and let it run for about five minutes. This will soften the wax. Dip an old rag in white distilled vinegar and wipe away at each waxy smear you see in the drum. As the wax is removed, wipe down again with another clean cloth dipped in plain water.
Chapstick Stains on Dry Clean Only Clothes
If you have really hot pockets and somehow the ChapStick has melted on a garment that is labeled as dry clean only, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If you are planning 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.
Simple Solutions for Lip Balm Stain Prevention
Of course, the first step to preventing this melting disaster from ever happening again is to check and empty every pocket before clothes go in the hamper or washer.
However, that doesn't always happen. My son's solution? Buy only ChapSticks or other lip balms that clip onto a key ring. The keys are seldom left in pockets (they're needed before laundry time) and they are big enough and noisy enough to be found when they hit the washer drum.