How to Remove White-Out Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Hard Surfaces

Bottle of correction fluid spilled on a table.
By David Plater UK / Getty Images

"White-out" has become a generic household term for correction fluid. And whether you're using the Wite-Out brand or any other type of quick-drying correction fluid, stains can be a problem. Often, they start as a drip or small spill and end up as a bigger problem because it's hard to remove white-out without spreading it. The trick is to contain the fluid by working from the outside of the stain toward the center to prevent it from spreading.

It is better to let the stain dry before attacking it. However, on hard, smooth surfaces you can use a cotton swab or a pointed utensil to lift the wet fluid straight from the surface.

Stain type Chemical-based
Detergent type Regular laundry detergent
Water temperature Warm
Cycle type Varies with fabric 

Before You Begin

A variety of cleaners and stain removers are effective in removing correction fluid, but many of them can also remove the color from fabric and other materials. That's why it's important to test any stain remover in an inconspicuous area to make sure it's safe to use on the material.

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.

Generally, you have to be more careful with fabric and other soft materials than with hard surfaces. Lubricants such as WD-40 work on fabric and carpet, but they're petroleum-based and can leave an oily stain on the material. Acetone can dissolve acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic fabrics. Always spot-test first to be sure.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes plus washing time

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Cotton swab
  • Adhesive remover or solvent
  • Laundry stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Remove White-Out From Clothing

  1. Apply a Solvent

    Dip a cotton swab into a commercial adhesive remover (such as Motsenbocker's Lift Off) or a household solvent, such as rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover (with acetone). Dab the white-out stain with the swab, working from the outside of the stain toward the center.

  2. Reapply the Solvent

    Let the treated stain sit for one minute, or as directed by the manufacturer, then dab again with a swab and the remover until the white-out is dissolved and the stain is mostly gone.

  3. Rinse the Fabric

    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. Pretreat the Stain

    Apply your favorite laundry stain remover to the stained area and let it sit for 15 minutes or as directed.

  5. Wash and Dry

Wash the clothing in warm water, using your regular detergent. Confirm that the white-out stain is completely gone before drying the clothing. If there's any doubt, air-dry the item, then check again for the stain. Air-drying won't set the stain (if any remains) like the heat of the clothes dryer will.

Remove White-Out From Hard Surfaces

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 minutes

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Adhesive remover

Tools

  • Plastic scraper
  • Rags
  1. Scrape It Off

    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. Hit It With Solvent

    Apply a commercial adhesive remover (such as Motsenbocker's Lift Off) directly to the white-out and let it sit for about one minute or as directed by the manufacturer. Alternatively, you can use WD-40, rubbing alcohol, or nail polish remover (with acetone), as long as it won't damage or stain the surface.

  3. Wipe It Up

    Wipe up the white-out and remover with a clean rag, working from the outside of the stain toward the center. Repeat the same process as needed until the stain is gone.

  4. Clean the Surface

Clean the surface with water or a suitable detergent, wiping with a clean rag. WD-40 and some other products leave an oily residue that should be removed.

Remove White-Out From Carpet

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes plus drying time

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Rubbing alcohol or other solvent

Tools

  • Spoon
  • Vacuum
  • White cloths
  1. Scrape and Vacuum

    Scrape or scoop up any wet or loose white-out, using a spoon. Be sure to work from the outer edges of the stain toward the center, to prevent spreading the stain. Vacuum up all loosened dry material.

  2. Apply a Solvent

    Dampen a clean white cloth with rubbing alcohol, dry cleaning solvent, or a citrus-based stain lifter. Carefully blot the stain with the cloth to remove the white-out. Repeat with fresh alcohol and a clean area of the cloth until the stain is gone. Do not over-wet the carpet or pour alcohol or any other solvent directly onto the stain because it can damage the carpet backing.

  3. Blot to Rinse

    Remove the alcohol by blotting with a clean cloth dampened with plain water or club soda. Water or club soda won't damage the carpet or backing, but it's best not to saturate the carpet; patiently blot instead.

  4. Vacuum to Fluff

Vacuum the carpet to fluff the fibers, and let the carpet dry completely before walking on it.

Tip

If traces of white-out remain after treating the carpet with alcohol or another solvent, try blotting with a solution of one teaspoon of liquid dish soap and two cups of warm water. Let the solution work for five minutes, then rinse by blotting with plain water or club soda.