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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing foundation from a white dress

By Dr. Laundry November 21, 2012

I just noticed foundation all over my white dress. It has been there for more than a month. Can I still remove it?

Make-up stains typically have both a color and an oily component, and it’s good to work on the oily component first by pretreating stains with a little liquid dishwashing detergent (like Dawn). Apply a little directly to the stain and rub it in. Wait 5 minutes, and then wash the dress depending on the fiber content (check the care label) using one of the following methods:


  1. For white bleachable fabric (avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex), wash in hot water with detergent and  ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Air dry the dress and check for success—you want to keep the dress out of the dryer so you don’t heat set heavy make-up stains that would come all the way out with a second treatment.

  2. If your dress contains any spandex:  wash in hot water with detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. Air dry and check for success—repeat the treatment if necessary for complete removal.


It’s hard to give generic advice without knowing more about the dress. I would hate to find out the white dress you are asking about is a silk wedding dress—for that I would recommend dry cleaning. If this is the case, when you take the dress to the cleaners show them the makeup stain so they can pretreat it.