If you've ever applied sunscreen all over your body only to find greasy, white marks on your sofa after returning from a day out in the sun, you aren't alone. When sunscreen hasn't properly soaked into your skin, it can mark everything from your car interior to your bedsheets. Annoying, right?

Waiting for your sunscreen to dry is the best form of prevention, but it's not always realistic—especially if you have small, wriggly children at home. Read on to learn how to get sunscreen out of fabric, including how to remove sunscreen from your car interior, so you can protect your skin and your belongings.

How Sunscreen Interacts with Fabric

Chemical and physical sunscreens can both stain fabrics due to certain ingredients in their formulas. For example, Avobenzone is a common ingredient in chemical sunscreen. When it mixes with minerals found in water, it can leave a brownish, rusty residue behind on fabrics. Oils found in both types of sunscreen can also leave greasy marks on fabric-covered surfaces.

Sunscreen stains can be particularly stubborn on natural fabrics like linen, cotton, and silk. While not technically a fabric, take extra care with leather as well. Sunscreen can leave stubborn marks on a leather or suede couch or leather seats in your car.

Women enjoying clean white sheets and white linen without sunscreen stains

Preventing Sunscreen Stains

The good news is that sunscreen stains can be avoided. You just need to let your sunscreen dry properly before you plop down on the couch or hop into the car. Try applying your sunscreen as soon as you get out of the shower or before you get dressed in the morning. Then, pull on a lightweight robe while you blow dry your hair, apply your makeup, or sip your coffee—anything that keeps you busy for at least 15 minutes so your sunscreen has the chance to completely absorb into your skin.

How to Get Sunscreen Out of Fabric: A Step-by-Step Guide

On busier, more chaotic days, you might need to quickly smear on your sunscreen and jump straight into the car. Life happens, right? Here's what to do if you're faced with removing a sunscreen stain, including how to remove sunscreen from your car interior:

Step 1: Use a spoon or blunt knife to scrape up any excess sunscreen from the fabric surface.

Step 2: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the surface to absorb the oily residue.

Step 3: Wait 15 minutes. Then, use a vacuum to remove the baking soda.

Step 4: Apply a cleaning solution such as dish soap, laundry detergent, or stain remover to the area. Wait for a few minutes.

Step 5: Wipe away the solution with a damp washcloth and blot the area until the cleaner is gone. Repeat this step if necessary.

Step 6: Allow the surface to air dry.

Keeping Skin Health Top of Mind

Applying sunscreen daily and reapplying regularly throughout the day is essential to your skin health. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can compromise your skin's tone and texture and increase your risk of skin cancer. Remember that UV damage can happen all year round—not just on sunny days at the beach—so make covering exposed areas of your body a habit. While the thought of staining your favorite furniture might give you pause, your skin health depends on it.

Allowing your sunscreen enough time to dry before you sit down or get into the car should prevent any pesky stains. If you do see a stain, don't worry. Refer back to this handy step-by-step guide and give yourself a pat on the back for putting your health first.


  • Catherine Hufton

    Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.