There are two clear signs you had an unforgettable vacation under the sun. Number one, a nice new tan. Number two, a yellow sunscreen stain around the collar of your neck and sleeves.

Sunscreen is great - and you should wear it every day - but it's notorious for its tough stains. So much so that it can seem to ruin a nice white shirt or sundress for good. Is removing sunscreen stains even possible?

It is. In this guide, we discuss the equipment needed to remove sunscreen stains and how to prevent them.

Why Does Sunscreen Stain So Badly?

Sunscreen has a pretty important job: protecting our skin from destructive UV rays. UV rays can permeate your dermis and beyond, damaging DNA in the process. It's for this reason you can get skin cancer if you aren't conscious about wearing sunscreen and UV-blocking clothes.

Reflecting and Absorbing

Sunscreen blocks the sun by one of two methods: reflecting or absorbing UV radiation. Mineral reflector agents include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They function as miniature "mirrors" that reflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin.

The other kind, absorbers, absorb UV radiation and then convert it into harmless heat energy. Whether reflecting or absorbing, it succeeds in protecting your skin. Unfortunately, they're also thick, goopy chemicals that love sticking to cloth fibers.

Identifying the Culprits

Oxybenzone and avobenzone are the two active ingredients responsible for those yellowish or rusty stains. Stains may become irreversible in some cases if you're not quick to treat the garment.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide create a different kind of challenge. They may cause white smears that don't permanently discolor your fabrics. They contain microscopic mineral particles that cling to the fibers through several washes.

Other Factors

Hard water, such as in your washing machine, can interact with the minerals and deepen the color of the stain. Your sweat may also have a chemical makeup that affects the reaction. Avobenzone, the absorber, soaks up other minerals and chemicals - i.e., your sweat.

Removing Sunscreen Stains from Clothes

There are two effective ways to remove stains. If one doesn't work, try the other.

Use Salt and Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a popular cleaning ingredient for the kitchen, and it works great here, too. Lay out your stained garments and rub lemon juice into each stain with an old toothbrush. Then, sprinkle some table salt on top of those affected areas.

Leave it there overnight and let it do its magic. The next morning, brush off leftover salt into the garbage or sink and launder it as you might normally.

Use Laundry Cleaner

The best detergent to remove sunscreen stains is rust-removing laundry detergent. Before washing, read the instructions. It's likely to recommend soaking the clothes in water first prior to washing.

After that, rub the detergent into each stain with that old toothbrush. Rinse it with nice, warm water and then wash.

Got those whitish zinc stains? In that case, apply the detergent to the stains and soak for at least 10 minutes. Rinse it in cold water until you see the white disappear.

Same as before, put it through a normal washing cycle once the stain is visibly gone. Otherwise, repeat the process of pre-treatment until you no longer see those white particles.


Removing Sunscreen Stains from Carpets

Did your kids dribble sunscreen on the floor while preparing for a beach day? No worries. Treating it should be quick and easy.

Use Baking Soda, Talcum Powder, or Cornflower

First, remove as much of the sunscreen as you can with a hard object - try a spatula. Avoid rubbing it deeper into the carpet fibers.

Then, pour on a small amount of the above ingredients, whichever is handy. You can eyeball it; just sprinkle enough to cover the stains.

Wait approximately 24 hours, and then use a vacuum to remove the powder. It should come right off!


Removing Sunscreen Stains from Upholstery

Upholstery doesn't stain the same as clothing since it doesn't get washed or soaked with sweat. The process for cleaning it is a bit different.

Use White Vinegar and Liquid Dish Soap

Mix these two ingredients in a spray bottle. Approximately one cup of white vinegar and half a teaspoon of dish soap should do. Shake it thoroughly to mix the ingredients.

Using a microfiber cloth or sponge, spray the affected areas and wipe them down. The solution works well for all types of fabric - including car upholstery. It can remove it from armrests and non-fabric surfaces, too.

Use a clean sponge and clean water to remove traces of soap. Ventilate the area thoroughly and allow it to dry. Spritz on some rubbing alcohol or leather cleaner for leather sunscreen stains.


Preventing Sunscreen Stains

Now that you have removed the stains, how can you prevent them from happening again next time? Here are a few tips.

Buy Higher-Quality Sunscreen

It's often the cheap, waterproof sunscreen that's the most oily and stain-causing. Opt for better mineral-based, oil-free varieties if you can afford them. If you plan to do a lot of water activities, then swimsuits and water sports clothes are less likely to stain.

Apply Sunscreen Before Dressing

This isn't a foolproof method, but it should avoid the majority of staining. Simply apply sunscreen in advance, let it dry, then get dressed.

Treat Clothes ASAP

If you use a lot of sunscreen, then just get into the habit of soaking them at once. Have rust-removing detergent on hand after getting undressed.

Wear UV-Blocking Clothes

The easiest solution is to skip sunscreen. UV-blocking clothes succeed in blocking more UV rays than sunscreen. Then you have less sunscreen to put on, preventing more frequent stains.


Find the Best UV-Blocking Clothes at Bloq UV

Removing sunscreen stains can seem like a fool's errand, given how persistent and yellow they are. Depending on your fabric type, you can use vinegar and dish soap, rust-removing detergent, or baking soda. With some care and preparation, you can prevent these stains altogether - or make them easier to remove.

Bloq UV sells high-quality UV-blocking clothes that protect you from the sun's harmful rays. Our product even has a Skin Cancer Foundation stamp of approval! Check out what we have on sale.