How to Remove Pollen Stains

Little girl covering her nose to avoid pollen
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Those gorgeous flowers that were delivered may have brightened your day, but did they leave your sleeve with pollen stains? If you look at pollen under a microscope, you see that it has barbs, tendrils, and other structures to latch onto pollinators so it can be spread around. Nature's ingenious design for propagating plants is working against you in getting the pollen out of your clothing.

The most important step to removing pollen stains is to avoid common mistakes that usually make the stain worse. First, do not touch the pollen or attempt to brush or wipe it off in any way; you'll only spread the powdery substance and work it deeper into the fabric. Also, don't run it under water, which can set the stain. The trick to removing pollen is to shake or lift it from the fabric as much as possible before washing the garment.

Stain Type Plant-based
Detergent Type Standard laundry detergent
Wash Temperature Hot

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes plus washing time

Before You Begin

Because you want to get the pollen off without touching it—and without letting the stain touch other areas of the clothing—it's best to take the first step of removal while you're still wearing the garment. If you have to take it off to shake or lift the pollen, remove the item very carefully, withing letting it fold over or touch other areas of the garment or anything else (like a couch) that might become stained itself.

What You'll Need

Supplies:

Tools:

  • Washtub

Instructions

  1. Shake Off the Pollen

    Shake the stained item outdoors to remove as much pollen as possible. Hold the stained area face-down so the pollen can't fall onto other areas of the clothing.

  2. Lift the Pollen With Tape

    Wrap some masking or Scotch tape sticky-side-out around a few fingers, then gently press the tape onto the stain and lift the pollen from the surface. The pollen will come up with the tape. The more pollen you can remove, the better chance you'll have at fully removing the stain. This approach usually is more effective than shaking if the pollen has already been rubbed into the clothing.

  3. Rinse and Soak With Cold Water

    Rinse the stained area with cold water, running the water through the back of the fabric. This will gently encourage the pollen to detach and exit the way it came in. When you've removed as much of the stain as possible with rinsing, soak the garment in a washtub or sink full of cold water for 30 minutes.

  4. Rinse Again

    Flush water through the fabric from the back of the stain to force the pollen out through the front, as before. Every time you rinse, you are gently removing more of the stained area, so be sure to rinse completely. If necessary, soak and rinse the garment again to remove as much of the pollen stain as possible.

  5. Apply Stain Remover

    Apply your favorite laundry stain remover before washing. Let it sit for 10 minutes, or as directed.

  6. Wash as Usual

    Wash the garment in the hottest water that is recommended for the clothing. Hot water will help the stain remover work better, but you don't want it so hot that it damages your clothing or causes it to shrink or fade.

  7. Air-Dry to Be Safe

Check for the stain before drying. Pollen stains may need several treatments to make them fully disappear. If the stain is still there, repeat the above steps as needed before drying the garment. Sometimes it's hard to see if a stain is completely gone while the garment is wet. To be sure, you can air-dry it in a cool room and then check to see if you can still detect the stain. Do not use a clothes dryer until the stain has vanished.

Let the Sun Help

Hanging or laying out the garment in direct sunlight helps get rid of many pollen stains, especially those from light-colored pollen. If you've air-dried your clothing and still detect a stain, leave it in the sun for a day or two to erase the stain a bit more before repeating the stain removal process.

If the pollen stain outlasts your efforts with laundry products and even sunlight, you can try applying rubbing alcohol to the stain and blotting it with a clean white cloth. Be sure to test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area of the clothing before using the alcohol on the stain. Rinse the area thoroughly with water before washing the item.