How to Remove Self-Tanner Stains

Self-tanner lotions, wipe-on tanning cloths, and spray-on tans from a can or salon can make you look sun-kissed and healthy. But they don’t look so great on your clothes, towels, and sheets, not to mention your carpets and upholstery. 

The entire purpose of self-tanners is to “stain” your skin so you look darker. Most contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive, that colors your skin. That same additive can stain, sometimes permanently, your clothes or any fabric it touches when in a wet form.

Self-tanning formulas are a combination stain of dye and oil. Start by removing the oily portion first and then tackle the dye stain. Take your time and the stain usually comes out with some effort.

If you suspect that any self-tanner plopped anywhere besides on your skin, tackle it immediately, as the longer it sits, the harder it will be to remove. Don’t wait for the color to appear. Never rub or scrub as that will push it deeper into the fibers of the material, and do not put a self-tanner-stained piece of clothing in the dryer until there is no stain; otherwise, the heat can permanently set that tanning blob.

The good news is that there are some steps you can take at home to remove self-tanning stains, and it’s time to learn how to do just that.

 Stain type Dye and oil
 Detergent type Heavy-duty
 Water temperature Cold to warm
 Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, head to the dry cleaners as quickly as possible and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. There is no safe way to remove the stains yourself.


  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Heavy-duty detergent with stain-lifting enzymes
  • Oxygen-based bleach

How to Remove Self-Tanner Stains From Washable Clothes And Fabrics

  1. Flush the Stain

    Flush stains as quickly as possible with cold water. Hold the fabric with the wrong side directly under a faucet with a running stream of cold water. This will force the self-tanner out of the fabric instead of pushing it deeper into the fibers by rubbing.

  2. Treat the Stain

    • Mix a solution of liquid dishwashing detergent (this will help remove the oily component) and warm water and sponge the stain working from the outside of the stain to the inside.
    • Rinse well with cold water.
    • Immediately wash as usual in cold or warm water using a heavy-duty detergent that contains stain-lifting enzymes.
  3. Check the Stain Area

    Check the stained area before placing the fabric in a dryer. If the stain remains, move to the next steps to remove the dye.


    Do not place the garment in a dryer or hang in the sun until all stains are removed. High heat can permanently set self-tanner stains.

  4. Mix a Soaking Solution

    If the stain is older or remains after the first treatment:

    • Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie’s All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water.
    • Submerge the garment completely and allow it to soak for at least eight hours.
    • Check the stain. If it is gone, wash as usual. If it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but it should come out.

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Self-Tanner Stains on Carpet and Upholstery

The same cleaning steps and solutions that are used for carpet can be used for upholstery. Take extra care not to overwet the fabric because excessive moisture in cushions can cause problems.

Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer’s care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult a professional upholstery cleaner especially if you need more stain removal tips.

  1. Remove Solids

    Lift any lotion solids directly up from the fibers with a dull knife, spoon, or the edge of a credit card.


    Don’t rub or attempt to wipe away the lotion. Rubbing will only push the product deeper into the fabric fibers.

  2. Treat the Stain

    • Mix a solution of one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent with two cups of warm water.
    • Dip a soft-bristled brush in the solution and work it into the carpet. Start at the outside edge of the stain and move toward the center to keep it from spreading.
    • Keep blotting with white paper towels as the tanner is transferred out of the carpet. 
  3. Rinse the Stained Area

    Finish by dipping a clean sponge or cloth in cool water and blot the stained area well with white paper towels to absorb all the moisture.


    Rinsing is a very important step because any soapy solution residue remaining can attract additional soil.

  4. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat and sunlight, then vacuum to lift any matted carpet fibers. 

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Additional Tips for Handling a Self-Tanner Stain

Don’t despair as there are some other treatments you can try on some clothing and carpets if the stains are proving to be resistant to coming out. Try these steps.

For Clothing: If the stain remains and the garment is light-colored, you can use hydrogen peroxide to help remove the dye.

  • Place the hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) on a cotton swab and dab it on the stain. If you are not sure if the garment is colorfast, test the hydrogen peroxide on an interior seam. If there is any transfer of color, do not use.
  • Rinse with cold water after treating with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Finally, if the stain remains, try rubbing pure vegetable glycerin into the stain. The glycerin can help break down the stain.
  • Then, repeat the dish detergent and peroxide steps.

For Carpet: If any colored stain remains on the carpet, you need to pull out the more powerful solutions, but keep in mind that these will only work on certain color carpets.

  • Blot the stain with a solution of one tablespoon hydrogen peroxide mixed with one tablespoon water. This should only be used on a light-colored carpet because it can bleach darker dyes.
  • If the carpet is brightly colored, use an oxygen bleach/water solution instead, following the package directions. (Oxygen bleach cannot be used on wool carpet.)
  • Dip a clean white cloth in plain water and blot the area to rinse.
  • Air-dry and vacuum to lift carpet fibers.

Disclaimer: Curated and re-published here. We do not claim anything as we translated and re-published using google translator. All images and Tattoo Design ideas shared only for information purpose.

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