How To Remove Hand Sanitizer Stains From Fabric

how to remove hand sanitizer from fabric

First of all, we must ask the obvious question: does hand sanitizer stain fabric? The answer might surprise you. 

Technically, no, hand sanitizer doesn’t leave a stain. It would be easier to deal with if it did. 

So what, exactly, are those spots left behind by sanitizer spilled or spattered on your clothes, shoes, or rug? The answer lies in the common ingredients of this germ-killing agent.

There are two types of hand sanitizers:

  • Alcohol-based: Alcohol-based sanitizers usually contain at least 60% rubbing or ethyl alcohol (Purell contains 70%), which is also an ingredient in some stain removers.
  • Benzalkonium chloride: Benzalkonium chloride is a germ killing agent with bleaching properties.

Maybe you’ve already had an “ah-hah” moment just from the above information. Hand sanitizers don’t leave stains per se. Rather, they can actually remove the color from fabric as would happen if bleach were spilled on them.

Some fabrics are more susceptible to bleaching than others. Darker colors are more at risk for obvious damage. Fabrics types that are easily affected by sanitizer include wool, silk, rayon, chiffon, suede, and leather.

Knowledge is power. Just understanding the nature of the potential harm caused by hand sanitizer can enable you to act quickly for minimum damage. Also, once you realize the problems sanitizer can cause, you’re more likely to keep it well away from clothing and other surfaces that might be damaged by its bleaching properties.

Quick action is the key ingredient to minimize spotting. Accidents happen, but here are some steps to take to avoid catastrophic damage.

How To Remove Hand Sanitizer Stains From Fabric

Step One: Scrape off excess

As soon as you see a blob of sanitizer land on a fabric surface, gently scrape off as much as possible. Gentle is a key word here, as you want as little penetration as possible. Use your fingernail or a paper napkin to remove the gel without spreading it around.

Step Two: Wash clothing

Get spattered clothing into the wash or to the dry-cleaner’s as soon as possible. Be sure the cleaners understand the issue so that they don’t use any chemicals that might make the spots worse. 

If you’re not able to wash the garment right away, you can dab the spot with a damp cloth after scraping away as much sanitizer as possible. Just be careful not to spread the sanitizer around by wetting too large an area. 

Step Three: Professional cleaning

Especially if the spill or spot is on suede or leather, it may be necessary to take the problem to a professional cleaner. If the spot cannot be cleaned or hidden, leather items may need to be re-dyed. 

Step Four: Hide the spot

If cleaning doesn’t work, it may be possible to hide sanitizer spots by adding an embellishment such as an appliqúe, jewelry, or fabric-painted design. Spots may also be covered with a vest, jacket, or decorative scarf. 

Step Five: Try to dye the spots

You can try to repair obviously lighter spots with a closely-matching fabric marker pen. Wash the garment before attempting this step. This repair actually works best on darker fabrics. Lighter colors are harder to match. You may have to repeat the dyeing process after a few washings. 

You could also just re-dye the entire garment. Before you begin that process, make sure you read the instructions on the fabric-dye package to ensure you can safely use it on your garment. Dyeing fabric can be messy and cause a new set of problems if not carefully done.

If the damaged fabric is a furniture cushion or rug, talk to a professional before attempting to use dye on it. 

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