How to Remove Self-Tanner Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

self tanner stain on carpet

Moussa81 / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10-20

Self-tanners, wipe-on tanning cloths, and spray-on tans from a can or salon can make you look sun-kissed, but they don't look so great on your carpets and upholstery. Because self-tanners are made to stain your skin, they'll also leave a serious stain on fabrics. Your first attempt to remove the spot only requires dishwashing detergent and water, but tougher self-tanner stains can be removed with hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach.

Here's what you need to know to get self-tanner stains out of carpet and furniture.

  Stain Type Dye and oil
  Detergent Type Liquid dishwashing detergent
  Water Temperature Warm

When to Call a Professional

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult a professional upholstery cleaner especially if you need more stain removal tips.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Paper towels
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Vacuum

Materials

  • 1 bottle liquid dishwashing detergent
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide (if necessary)
  • 1 bottle oxygen-based bleach (if necessary)

Instructions

How to Remove Self-Tanner Stains on Carpet and Upholstery

  1. Remove Solids

    Lift any lotion solids directly up from the fibers with a dull knife, spoon, or the edge of a credit card.

    Warning

    Don't rub or attempt to wipe away the self tanner. Rubbing will only push the product deeper into the fabric fibers.

    removing self tanner stains from upholstery

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Treat the Stain

    • Mix a solution of one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent with two cups of warm water.
    • Dip a soft-bristled brush in the solution and work it into the carpet. Start at the outside edge of the stain and move toward the center to keep it from spreading.
    • Keep blotting with white paper towels as the tanner is transferred out of the carpet. 
  3. Rinse the Stained Area

    Finish by dipping a clean sponge or cloth in cool water and blot the stained area well with white paper towels to absorb all the moisture. Rinsing is a very important step because any soapy solution residue remaining can attract additional soil.

  4. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat and sunlight, then vacuum to lift any matted carpet fibers. 

  5. Use This Method on Stained Upholstery

    The same cleaning steps and solutions that are used for carpet can be used for upholstery. Take extra care not to overwet the fabric because excessive moisture in cushions can cause problems.

    Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

Additional Tips for Handling a Self-Tanner Stain

Don't despair as there are some other treatments you can try if the stains are proving to be resistant to coming out. If any colored stain remains on the carpet, you need to pull out the more powerful solutions, but keep in mind that these will only work on certain color carpets.

  • Blot the stain with a solution of one tablespoon hydrogen peroxide mixed with one tablespoon of water. This should only be used on a light-colored carpet because it can bleach darker dyes. If the carpet is brightly colored, use an oxygen bleach/water solution instead, following the package directions. (Oxygen bleach cannot be used on wool carpets.)
  • Dip a clean white cloth in plain water and blot the area to rinse.
  • Air-dry and vacuum to lift carpet fibers.