How to remove sunscreen stains

How To Remove Sunscreen Stains – 3 Important Steps

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How to remove sunscreen stains

The most common stains on the bathing suits are sunscreen stains. So knowing how to remove sunscreen stains is essential to make your swimsuit last longer and look better.

Whether you are using sunscreens or self-tanners both of them are capable of leaving stains on your bathing suit which are hard to get rid of unless you know some secrets 🙂

Therefore we have investigated the most efficient ways how to remove these stains from your swimwear without damaging both your nerves and swimsuit 🙂

How To Remove Sunscreen Stains – Your 1-0 Win Over The Stain

How to remove sunscreen stains

I suppose all of us know the importance of sunscreens while in the sun. But together with all of the benefits they can cause you some headache, as well.

It is due to the fact that you can find yourself with your brand new bathing suit (or cover-up) showing off some either greasy oily-looking or dark-brown rusty stains. So the fact is that sunscreens are capable of creating these stains unless you deal with it at once.

While the greasy ones are the most common ones, the rust ones are the most difficult ones.

Learn these simple steps to get rid of sunscreen stains. The good news is that actually, it is not hard at all to remove these stains as long as few tips are kept in mind.

Why Do The Stains Appear?

The sunscreen stains appear on the fabric due to the chemical ingredients the sunscreen contains.

There is a substance in the majority of sunscreens reacting with minerals found in water and this reaction is what causes the dark-brown or sometimes yellowish stains.

Consequently, if there is a high mineral composition in your water, it is a good idea to avoid using sunscreens containing avobenzone as this is the substance reacting with the minerals in the water.

The harder the water, the more persistent the stain.

The more synthetic the material, the more persistent the stain.

Owing to the fact that swimsuits are made of synthetic materials, this is particularly relevant bathing suit problem, especially if you live in the area where the water is hard.

I live in the area with very hard water. Consequently, this is a big problem for us and this instruction is like a godsend to me.

How to remove sunscreen stains
So How To Remove These Stains?

The sunscreen stain should be treated right away to avoid them taking form. So whether you pre-treat the stain or wash the garment at once, the main thing is to do something immediately. Otherwise, the things will become really difficult.

In many cases, the immediate wash will not be possible. Therefore, the first aid is an important step to make things easier later.

Step#1 – First Aid

The first thing to do is to remove any solids. Afterwards, put some sand, cornstarch, bi-carb soda or talcum powder on the stain for 15 minutes or more (for the best results, let it be half an hour, if possible). Sand, cornstarch, and powder are perfect means for absorbing the oil till you will be able to wash the swimsuit as needed.

When at least fifteen minutes have passed, lightly brush them away. The main emphasis here is on the word – lightly. Remember to avoid rubbing your swimsuit as it can lead to a breakdown of the fine fabric.

Step#2 – Treating

When you get at home – the time has come to take proper care of the swimsuit (or cover up or any other garment that has the stain).

If your water is soft, just put some prewash stain remover on the stain and lightly massage it into the material. The best choice of prewash stain remover fro swimsuit would be the one designed for delicate fabrics for cutting through the oil/grease.

If your water is hard, it is a good idea to make it softer by using a water softener or distilled water. Afterwards, follow the instructions mentioned above. And this should be obeyed during both treating and washing stage.

Let the stain remover settle for 15 – 30 minutes.

Step#3 – Washing

When the prewash stain remover has worked for 15 – 30 minutes, wash your swimwear as usual by following these swimsuit washing instructions.

If the stain has appeared on your cover-up or another piece of clothing, just follow the washing instructions on the relevant garment.

If you have hard water, don’t use too hot water or chlorine bleach as it will only lead to a more severe problem.

If the sunscreen mark was on the white clothes and the above steps didn’t help you, don’t worry. There are few more additional steps to take to deal with this.

  1. When the white clothes are washed, hang them in the sun by sprinkling the lemon juice on the stain and area around it. Owing to the bleaching properties of the lemon juice, it is a good solution to deal with difficult stains.
  2. Another solution is to use some chemical bleacher by following the instructions, though I do prefer the more natural one.

How to remove sunscreen stains
The Safest Way to Remove the Stain is to Avoid It 🙂

If you don’t feel comfortable with the stain removal procedure, especially for the sensitive swimwear fabrics, the best would be to avoid the stains. And it is not hard at all.

To begin with, apply your sunscreen before dressing up and let it dry. There is actually more to this than just avoiding the sunscreen stains. The truth is that sunscreens perform greater and protect your skin better if properly soaked and absorbed into the skin. These would be about 15 minutes or so.

Another important rule is to avoid using your sunscreen too much or too excessive amounts of it – just by limiting the amount you can avoid the possibility of getting the stain.

Another way to avoid getting the stains is to purchase the sunscreen without avobenzone though this leads to limited choice.

How to remove sunscreen stains
Know the Material Before Using It

There are certain materials more likely to get sunscreen stains. There is no such thing as immunity to getting the stains, but it is good to know that some materials are more susceptible than others.

Susceptibility to stains of synthetic fibers is well known. I bet you have noticed the sweat stains on the synthetic fibers as this is the most common visual stain problem.

So knowing the material and choosing the right one when there is a possibility to stain can be of great help to you.


Cotton is a well-known natural material, often used for cover-ups and light summer-dresses. It is not only versatile and pleasant but also tough and durable fabric.

The good news is that it is easy to remove stains out of it just by using relevant detergent or light acid. Quite a popular way to get rid of stains on cotton is to use either lemon juice or vinegar. Cotton easily holds up to being soaked and dried without any limitations.


Synthetics are among the materials which are more likely to get stains. Even though they tend to be extremely durable and sturdy, bleaching or other oxidizing agents will deteriorate the fabric very quickly.

In order to remove stains from synthetics, you should use laundry detergent or dish soap in case of oily stains.


Silk is sometimes used for cover-ups and summer dresses due to its outstanding properties making it particularly suitable for this purpose. I have described it more in details here.

Silk is considered as the tricky material when it comes to the cleaning. And it is a reason many of us avoid silk clothing. However, it just requires some more knowledge on the stain removal and caring for this excellent material. And believe – this is so much worth it. It is even impossible to describe the feelings in words when you are wearing silk.

Whenever there happens to be a stain on the silk, you should take a damp cloth and lightly wipe away the stain. After that, rinse the material immediately by using special silk shampoo or baby soap. The main idea here is not to let the stain to dry.

How do you remove sunscreen stains? Is there any special knowledge that we didn’t mention?

Share your knowledge and experience as it could help somebody!

17 thoughts on “How To Remove Sunscreen Stains – 3 Important Steps

  1. Marta

    Hey there,
    Nice article. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t even know that lemon juice can remove stains. I’ll try it, as many times I find stains on my clothes that I can’t remove.
    It’s true that swim-wears are susceptible to the sunscreen, but as you said, it also depends on its material.
    The remedies you’ve listed in your post work even on dry stains?

    • Hi Marta

      I am glad you have found helpful my article on removing sunscreen stains. As also mentioned in the article – it is of extreme importance to do something at once or the first aid as described in the step#1.
      However, if the stain is dry, just start with the step#2.

      Hope this helps!
      Cheers, Arta

  2. Jordyn

    Hi, I enjoyed your article and learned a lot of valuable information to my swim suits in top condition. Would you think the same methods would work on sweat stains? We all sweat when we tan, so I imagine that could be another stain issue,  especially for lighter colored bathing suits.  Thank you for sharing this,  I found it very helpful and informative! 

    • Arta

      Hey Jordyn

      Yes, these steps work also on sweat stains – just it is very important to follow these to get rid of the stains.

      Hope this helps, Arta

  3. Pentrental

    I never really considered the effects of sunscreen stains so carefully so this post is definitely helpful. Usually when I think of  stains things like mustard, coffee and spaghetti sauce come to mind. I’m glad to hear that it’s not difficult to remove the rust colored sunscreen I’ll definitely remember to act quickly applying sand and then later be sure to not forget the stain remover. Another thing I have used to remove stains is club soda, have you tried this one? Cotton is one of my favorite materials to wear to the beach so I’m glad it’s pretty easy to clean.

    • Arta

      Hey there

      Thank you so much for your comment. Soda is also one of the options to use for stains unless they are the greasy ones. Soda is not a good solution for a greasy stain as soda might set it.

      Cheers, Arta

  4. Simple for Beginner?

    Hi Arta, thank you for sharing the valuable information. As a guy I am the one that does 70% of the washing and the rest my wife does the washing, you know we are a partnership and she does a lot so I help where I can. 

    Thank you for the insight we have had such issues in the past and I will take your words and advice next time we hit the beach and other times. My wife wears sunscreen all the time and sometimes there are stains here and there but I will do what you recommend, as it very useful information for anyone who does the washing.

    Have a great day and thank you again.

  5. Tracy

    Firstly, thanks for these tips on how to remove sunscreen stains. I actually tried washing them off alone but the stains did not budge which makes it rather bizarre to me. But seeing the procedures here really delight me. I will definitely aplly them and hopefully I can get rid of the stains. However. I would prefer to avoid them as you’ve given ways to by just applying the sunscreen and letting it get dried before wearing the suits. Thanks

  6. drinkteahub

    I find modern prewash stain removers generally excellent for removing most stains, as long as its suitable for delicate fabrics. However, my grandmother swore by lemon juice as a stain remover so I was interested to read you list that – I definitely think it works, I’m just not sure if it is any gentler than proprietary stain removers. And you’re right, the very best thing to do is let your sunscreen soak into your skin, which seems like it takes ages because it does compared to ordinary moisturizer, and that avoids most of the problems.

  7. Abayomi

    Excellent and educative article,this is an eye opener post,the steps to remove sunscreen stain,the first aid,and treating the affected area,I got to know vividly that the best way to keep safe is avoiding the stains because the texture of the material,there is an adage that says prevention is better than cure,that is the best solution to adopt,thank you for sharing this helpful write-up

  8. Jones

    Well done, this is really educating article. Removing stain is something that bothers a lot because at the end of the day, I end up messing the fabric up. Thanks for sharing, it has really shown me how to efficiently remove stains especially sunscreen stain, I’I’ll give it a trial soon and I’ll also share with my girlfriend because she complains of stain on her swimsuit every time she uses sunscreen. Please is there not any other product like sunscreen that can be used without leaving stain?

    • Arta

      Hey Jones

      We haven’t yet found the product that is like sunscreen but is not leaving the stains. The only way to avoid the stains from the sunscreen as also explained in the article is to apply sunscreen before putting on the bathing suit and allow it to soak in.

      Cheers, Arta

  9. Claudio

    Hello Arta,

    After reading your excellent article, I consider it better to try to avoid stains caused by sunscreen before they happen.

    I have heard many times of hard and soft water have something to do with the amount of calcium they contain?

    I loved the clarity you have in detailing the different materials of bathing suits and what cleaning product you recommend.

     I will bookmark your site for my wife to contact you. 

    Thank you! Claudio

    • Arta

      Hey Claudio

      Yes, you are right, the difference between hard and soft water refers to the minerals (and yes, also calcium) they contain.

      And I completely agree with you about the stains – it is better to avoid them before they happen.

      Cheers, Arta

  10. Patrick Chilanga

    Very detailed and precise article with relevant links for further information. I appreciate the emphasis on knowing your material and treating it with the suited reagents.

    The recommendation not to use of hard water for materials has other benefits on you wallet as less detergent is used to get the job done. So accessibility is an advantage.

    These solutions would be applicable to other types of stains but, as rightly stated in the article, knowledge of your material and the source of the stain will be needed.

  11. Benny

    Hello, I really love your articles and the design of your website is spectacular. Getting stains off clothes can be tiring and a pain in the ass. And then getting out sun burns is something on a different level. The steps you highlighted here in your article is really going to be if great help. And it is really easy to understand. I am going to share this

  12. Evagreene

    Wow this is an amazing article! Believe me, these steps are amazing and important for ladies. All thanks to tankini for consistency. I totally agree with you, indeed the best way to remove the stains is to avoid it. Thanks for sharing this with us! It’s helpful. I recommend it for ladies…

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