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How To Get Mascara Stains Out Of Everything

Illustration for article titled How To Get Mascara Stains Out Of Everything
Photo: Annie Spratt (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

I have a quandary about waterproof mascara in carpet. It’s not how it sounds. I have a puppy who I’m 90% sure developed opposable thumbs; she made it through two doors and a cabinet and her reward was chewing an entire tube of mascara in two different spots on my white berber carpet. And my brand new white couch. I know, it sounds decorate like a white collar drug lord. Any ideas on getting waterproof mascara out of the carpet and the couch? The material is a cotton slipcover material but it isn’t removable (fucking Pottery Barn).

Some personal news: I had a recent victory over mascara that had gotten smeared all over a set of practically brand new pillowcases. And, because I’m a benevolent Clean Person, I was like, “I really need to tell The People about this!” Then I realized that this week is Valentine’s Day, and oh, I was overjoyed, because this advice will be relevant to those of you who spend the day sobbing into your pillows (which? No tears, bunny, you’ll find love, there’s a lid for every pot and probably none of you are washing it) AND to those of you who spend the night face down on your pillows for, um, other reasons.

This stain removal advice also applies to clothing, as well as to the carpet and furniture that our LW is asking about. The main difference in stain removal with sheets and clothes (launderables) and furniture and carpet (non-launderables) is in technique, so I’ll cover both products and techniques here for you today.

OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover

This is the stuff I used to get the mascara off the set of practically brand new pillowcases. Now look, I know a lot about stains and the removal thereof but there are always things for me to learn and, oh wow, learn I did! Because I had pretty much zero expectation that the OxiClean spray that just happened to be the stain remover I had stashed closest to my bed (yes, I keep a stash of stain removers need my bed, I can’t recommend it highly enough!) was going to take the mascara stains off my practically brand new pillowcases, but it was there, so I tried it. And as you already know because I already told you, it worked! Here’s what I did: I stripped the pillowcase off the pillow, sprayed some of this Oxi-Made-Of-Magic treatment on the stains, rubbed the fabric against itself and POOF! The stains were gone.


To use this on carpet or upholstery, saturate — but don’t soak — the stain with the spray, then scrub at it using a light-colored damp — DAMP, NOT WET! — rag or sponge, rinsing it out with clean water as needed.

Tide Ultra Stain Release

I’ve mentioned this stuff before and I keep coming back to it because it’s seriously SO LEGIT and not just for use in a washing machine. I once used it to take crayon out of a friend’s couch, and recommended it to an editor whose dog had released his bowels all over her white deep pile carpet. It worked on both those stains, so I feel pretty confident in recommending it for use on mascara stains.

To use it to for non-laundry stain removal, pour a small amount (about a quarter teaspoon) into the bottle’s cap, and fill the cap about halfway up with water. Then, using a light-colored rag for upholstery or an old toothbrush for carpet, scrub at the stains. When the stains are out, go over the area with clean water to remove the detergent residue.

Fels Naptha or K2r

These two products are different, formula-wise, but they’re similar in that they fall into the category of products I refer to as The Big Guns.


Fels Naptha is a laundry bar, and to use it on Really Bad Stains, you’ll get it wet and rub it directly on the fabric OR pick some up using a wet toothbrush (your technique of choice for carpet and upholstery), and use the toothbrush to scrub at the stains. K2r is basically dry cleaning solution in a can. It’s a spray that you apply directly to a stain, allow to dry, and then brush away using the top of the can, which is fitted with bristles for the job.


Handheld Cordless Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

This is a bit more of an investment than a sub-$10 cleaning solution and a toothbrush, but I think it’s worth mentioning to close this out: If you have a pet (or a toddler, or a college student), a carpet and upholstery cleaning machine is something that you should consider throwing some money at. Plug-in portable and upright models have more power, but this cordless handheld model is great for people who are shorter on storage space and money.


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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