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How do I remove lipstick from my sofa?

By Dr. Laundry February 9, 2015

Q: How do I remove lipstick from my sofa?

A:   The technique I recommend for removing lipstick from a garment will only work on your sofa as long as the lipstick stain is on a cushion cover that can be removed. It is also necessary that the fabric be machine washable; hopefully there is some information available under the cushion that tells you how to properly care for the sofa.   If that’s the case, then start by testing all the products you want to use for colorfastness to the sofa fabric.  Usually a product has instructions for this, but if not, then apply undiluted product to a hidden part of the sofa (that you can easily rinse) and wait 10 minutes before rinsing and checking for a color change.  Once you know which products you can safely use, here’s what you can do.

1.  Unzip the cushion and remove the foam insert so you can get to the back of the stain.
2.  Apply a little liquid dishwashing detergent to a clean white washcloth.
3.  Push the dish detergent into the back of the stain (working on the inside of the cushion) while pressing the lipstick onto another clean white washcloth.  This method moves the detergent through the fabric, picking up the lipstick as it goes, and transferring it off the fabric onto the washcloth. White washcloths work well because you can actually see your progress—plus all the liquid dishwashing detergent you saturated the stain with makes it easy to rinse the lipstick off the washcloths when you are finished.  This technique is particularly effective because it doesn’t work the lipstick further into the fabric.
4.  Once no more lipstick transfers off the item, rinse the stained area with a little warm water.
5.  Now, apply Clorox2® Pretreat Stain Remover Spray for Colors to what’s left of the stain.  You could also use an upholstery pretreater.
6.  Wait 10 minutes, then wash immediately using the gentle or delicate cycle, the hottest water recommended, and a mild detergent.
7.  The foam insert MUST be put back inside the cover while the fabric is still damp.  It will be a tight fit but the cover should be able to stretch just enough for you to close the zipper.  If you wait until the cover is dry, it won’t work!

Something important to consider before trying this yourself is the age of the sofa.  If it hasn’t been cleaned in a while, your cushion may end up noticeably cleaner than the rest of the sofa.  If that’s the case, you will need to clean the entire sofa with a steam cleaner.  And if the lipstick is on a part of the sofa that doesn’t allow you to work from the inside to the outside to remove the stain as described above, then you will need to use a steam cleaner to extract the stain following pretreatment.  Use an upholstery/carpet pretreater product designed for high-traffic areas, and be careful not to rub the lipstick into the fabric.

Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!

–Dr. Laundry