Why you should NEVER bleach white clothing stained with sunscreen

Why you should NEVER try to bleach a light shirt that has sunscreen stains – and what you should do instead

  • A photo has revealed why you should never bleach a sunscreen-stained shirt
  • Reactions between bleach and a chemical in SPF will turn fabric pink
  • Sunscreen stains can be removed with laundry detergents that cut through oil

A photo of a soiled white T-shirt proves why you should never bleach light coloured clothes that are stained with sunscreen.

The image, uploaded anonymously to an Australian Facebook cleaning group, shows a top heavily marked with pale pink around the sleeves, armpits and neckline.

The discolouration is the result of a chemical reaction between bleach and avobenzone, a key ingredient used in sunscreen.

Instead of bleaching, sunscreen stains should be removed with a laundry detergent designed to cut through oil and grease.

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This photo of a soiled white T-shirt proves why you should never bleach light coloured clothes that are stained with sunscreen

‘I may be late to the party here, but I recently discovered that I should not try bleach to get rid of the sunscreen stains from my white tops,’ the post began.  

‘Anyone have a better way of getting sunscreen out of clothes? I like to wear sunscreen but I really dislike the stains it leaves.’

Sunscreen stains fabric due to the chemicals it contains, chiefly avobenzone which turns a yellowish brown colour when mixed with minerals found in water.

Natural materials including cotton, silk and wool are the most susceptible to sunscreen stains, while synthetics such as nylon and polyester are more robust.

The photo shared on Facebook drew helpful responses, with one woman suggesting dabbing stains with a solution of vinegar and baking soda before washing on a normal cycle.

Another said she sprays Aldi mould remover over the affected area and has always found it to ‘work great’.

How to remove sunscreen stains from clothes

1. Remove as much excess sunscreen from the affected area as you can, then blot it with a dry cloth.

2. Sprinkle either bi-carb soda or cornflour over the stained area to absorb excess oils. Give it about 30 minutes before brushing off.

3. Brush off any excess powder then rub it with a strong laundry detergent as we mentioned above.

4. Soak your clothing in hot water mixed with detergent for up to 30 minutes, then rinse it with clean hot water once this time has expired.

5. If you’ve done all this, then it’s fine to be laundered with the rest of your clothes.

Source: CanstarBlue Australia 

A guide from consumer experts at Canstar Blue advises blotting sunscreen from clothes before covering stains with cornflour or baking soda to absorb excess oil.

The powder should be left to soak for at least 30 minutes, then brushed away and replaced with a generous rub of oil-busting laundry detergent.

Clothes should then be soaked in hot water for a further 30 minutes, before being rinsed with clean hot water and thrown in the washing machine on a standard 40 degree wash. 

If the fabric are still stained after washing, you can try squirting fresh lemon onto the affected area and hanging it out in the sun, Canstar advises.

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