Remove White Out Stains in 3 Easy Steps

Correction Fluid
By David Plater UK / Getty Images

"White Out" has become a generic household term for correction fluid. And whether you're using Wite-Out brand or any other type of quick-drying correction fluid, stains can be a problem. Often, they start as a small problem and end up as a bigger problem because it's hard to remove white out without spreading it. The trick to containing the fluid stain and removing the white out altogether is applying an appropriate detergent or stain remover that dissolves the fluid and working from the outside of the stain toward the center to prevent it from spreading. The best remover to apply depends on the material that is stained.

Get It While It's Wet?

Because white out dries in seconds, it's difficult to respond to the stain before the fluid dries, and usually this is a good thing. A drop of white out in clothing or other soft or fibrous materials easily spreads when it's wet, so it's better to let the stain dry before attacking it. On hard, smooth surfaces, try removing some of the wet fluid without spreading it, using a Q-tip, a pointed tool, or utensil to lift the fluid straight up from the surface. But again, there's the risk of spreading it, so just leave it out until it dries. White out is particularly stubborn when it gets into tiny cracks, like wood grain, so be extra careful on hard surfaces with texture.

Once you apply a remover to the dried white out, it will begin to dissolve into a slurry similar to diluted white paint. This is why you should always work from the outside to the center of the stain, to keep the slurry contained as much as possible while you lift it from the surface.

How to Remove White Out from Hard Surfaces

A number of removers will remove white out on hard surfaces—surfaces that won't be damaged by solvents and oils. The best bet is a good adhesive or pen-ink remover, such as Motsenbocker's Lift Off. Most of these can be used on fabric and carpet as well as hard surfaces, and they're generally easy to wash from the surface to remove after the stain is gone. Other options include WD-40, rubbing alcohol, and nail polish remover (with acetone). Test any remover in an inconspicuous area to make sure it won't damage the material you're cleaning.

  1. Scrape up the dried white out with a plastic scraper or old credit card. Don't use metal tools, which can scratch or gouge the surface.
  2. Apply the remover directly to the white out and let it sit for about 1 minute or as directed by the manufacturer.
  3. Wipe up the white out and remover with a clean rag, working from the outside of the stain toward the center.
  4. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone.
  5. Clean the surface with water or a suitable detergent. WD-40 and some other products leave an oily residue that should be removed.

How to Remove White Out from Clothing

Generally, you have to be more careful with fabric and other soft materials than with hard surfaces. Lubricants like WD-40 work on fabric and carpet, but they're petroleum-based and can leave an oil stain on the material. Acetone can dissolve fabrics containing acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic. To be safe, test the remover in an inconspicuous area or on some scrap material first.

  1. Dip a cotton swab into a commercial adhesive remover (such as Motsenbocker's Lift Off), rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover (with acetone), then dab the white out stain with the swab, working from the outside of the stain toward the center.
  2. Let the treated stain sit for 1 minute, or as directed by the manufacturer, then dab again with the swab and remover until the white out is dissolved and the stain is mostly gone.
  3. Rinse the fabric under warm water. If solid pieces of white out remain, repeat the dabbing process with the remover and swab, then rinse again with warm water.
  4. Apply your favorite laundry stain remover to the stained area, then wash the clothing in warm water.
  5. Confirm that the white out stain is completely gone before drying the clothing.

How to Remove White Out from Carpet

To remove white out from carpet, follow steps 1 and 2 used for clothing (above), then blot the stain carefully with a paper towel or clean rag. Pinching the individual carpet strands with the towel also helps. The important thing is that you blot or pinch, rather than rub, which spreads the white out. Repeat as needed, using a clean section of towel each time. If necessary, you can try the same procedure with dry cleaning solvent, following the manufacturer's directions for application. Rinse the area with small amounts of clean water to get rid of the remover.