Imagine: you’ve just dolled yourself up and are dressed to the nines in your finest white gown. Wanting to add the touche finale to your elegant ensemble, and having read on the Scent Apprentice that spraying on clothes is a great way to increase a fragrance’s longevity, you add a few choice spritzes of perfume to your dress so that everyone at the gala will be smelling you alllllll night long.
You take one last look in the mirror and, to your horror, you behold the abhorrent sight of a big, fat brown stain on your pearly white gown. Mon dieu! And the chauffeur is already bringing the Rolls Royce up the drive!
What to do?
You have a few options if you want to remove a perfume stain. Depending on the material, you can blot up the excess perfume with a cloth and water, use rubbing alcohol to break down the perfume oils, or use a detergent or vinegar solution.
Let’s take a closer look.
Can Perfume Leave Stains?
Looking at your bottle of perfume filled with clear liquid, you might be wondering: can perfume really leave stains?
The short answer is yes, of course it can.
However, the degree to which it will stain fabric is dependent upon a few different factors.
Modern perfumes are made up of a blend of perfumer’s alcohol (or, in some instances, a carrier oil), essential oils, and aroma chemicals.
Perfumer’s alcohol, which is related to spirits like vodka or Everclear, of course doesn’t leave behind much of a stain.
However, the essential oils made up of raw materials present in perfumes can and do leave stains on fabric, especially light colored fabrics, wood, and leather.
Although perfume oils are diluted in alcohol for perfumes, they are nevertheless quite capable of staining your clothes.
Generally speaking, perfumes with colored liquid leave stains and should be applied with caution. Usually, perfumes with colored liquid either contain dyes, or have higher oil content and natural ingredients than lighter, more synthetic perfumes. However, even colorless perfumes can stain if applied too close.
For best results when spraying perfume on clothes, spray from a distance.
How To Remove a Perfume Stain
So, you’ve stained your white shirt or dress with your deep, cognac-colored, naturals-rich extrait de parfum. What should you do?
First on the agenda would be to assess what kind of fabric or material you’re dealing with.
Cotton, Linen, Polyester, and Other Machine Washable Fabrics
If the garment in question is made with a machine washable fabric like cotton, linen and polyester, then you’ll most definitely have an easier time removing the stain than with a non-machine washable fabric (of course).
As I mentioned previously, there are a few angles of attack you can take to remove the stain, but first you should:
Moisten the stained area with water.
With some stains, especially with fresh stains, a simple dab with water is enough to lift the stain off of the fabric. This should always be the first step, as it will prevent the stain from being absorbed into the fabric. However, if you’re dealing with an older or more tenacious stain, you’ll have to bring out the big guns.
Use rubbing alcohol
If you’re dealing with an older or heavier duty stain, you might have to bust out the good ol’ handy dandy rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.
Because the perfume stain you’ll be working to remove is likely to be oil based, alcohol can help to dissolve it, since both alcohol and oil contain polar molecules.
Simply saturate the stain with rubbing alcohol or peroxide, then place a paper towel or cloth on top of the area where you applied the alcohol. The alcohol will dissolve the stain, and the paper towel will absorb the stain and the alcohol at the same time.
Finally, rub some white bar soap into the stained area to lift up all of the excess oils and alcohol, and let air dry.
Use a detergent solution
A detergent solution, made up of water and dishwashing detergent, can also be very effective at removing perfume stains. Dish detergent is obviously great at breaking down oil and grease when it comes to washing the dishes, so fighting oil-based perfume stains is small potatoes.
Using a detergent solution to remove stains works in the same way as rubbing alcohol. Simply saturate the stained area with the solution, then use a paper towel to absorb. If the stain is truly tenacious, and you’re removing the stain from white fabric, you can also use some bleach, diluted in water, to help put the finishing touches.
Finally, rub some white bar soap into the stained area, and air dry.
If you cannot remove the stain after one go, repeat the process.
Always air dry, and don’t put the garment in the dryer or apply any kind of heat until you’re certain that the stain is gone. Heat can help the stain set into the fabric, after which point the whole thing is kaput.
Silk and Triacetate
Removing perfume stains from silk or triacetate (a synthetic fiber similar to silk) can be a bit trickier. By their very nature they are less absorbent than other fabrics, and must either be hand washed or dry cleaned.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use soap of any kind on silk garments. Instead, saturate the stained area with water, like with a machine washable fabric, and then use a simple solution of white vinegar and water, along with some paper towels.
If you’ve got a really heavy duty stain, you can also look into using glycerin or denatured alcohol on your silk or triacetate garments. Glycerin is a natural solvent which is soluble in water, making it useful for stain removal, and denatured alcohol is an industrial solvent that is often used as fuel in camp stoves.
These are, however, somewhat more niche products that must be sought out. Nevertheless, if you’ve got a truly truculent stain on your silk or triacetate garment, they might come in handy in a pinch.
Leather and Suede
Leather and suede fabric shouldn’t get wet if at all possible, so if your leather jacket or couch is stained with perfume, you’ll have to take a different approach.
First, dab the stained area with a dry paper towel or cloth in order to soak up any excess perfume.
Make a simple solution of soap and water. With your hand, agitate the soap and water solution enough to make suds and bubbles on the surface. Gather up the suds onto a clean, dry sponge, then apply to the stained area. Finally, with a dry paper towel or cloth, remove the suds. The stain should come up if it isn’t too old.
If that doesn’t work, you can also try putting cornmeal on the stain. Cornmeal, kind of like cat litter, is good at absorbing oil-based stains. Let the cornmeal sit on the stained area for about 30 minutes to an hour, then remove it with a stiff-bristled brush.
If you can’t remove the stain, repeat the above processes, making sure never to use water. If that doesn’t work, you might want to consider taking your leather garment or furniture to a leather professional.
There’s a huge laundry list of methods for removing stains from wood, so I won’t be able to list all of them here. However, since perfume is an oil-based stain, you can safely apply the same methods used to remove other oil-based stains from wood.
First, try simply using a vinegar solution. Mix white vinegar and water, moisten a cloth with the solution, then apply to the stained area. Dry thoroughly. You can also use a detergent solution for stains on wood. Mix a mild dish detergent and water, moisten a towel in the solution, and apply to the stained area.
You can also try using your favorite wood cleaner, which will likely contain ingredients useful for fighting oil stains.
Whatever method you choose, make sure that you apply a protective coating after cleaning to restore the wood’s original finish.
The Final Word
In general, if you’ve sprayed them right, most modern mainstream perfumes won’t leave much of a stain unless you apply from close up.
However, if you’re dealing with a more naturals-heavy, oil-rich, or dark colored perfume, you might be in for a spot of trouble (literally and figuratively) if you spray it on your snow-white dress shirt or tobacco suede jacket.
If you do get a perfume stain, though, don’t panic.
Perfume stains can be removed in a number of ways. Rubbing alcohol, a detergent solution, or a vinegar solution are all effective means of removing perfume stains from fabric, leather, and wood. Avoid using water on leather, suede, or wood.
So mix up your detergent solution, bust out the paper towels, and get to scrubbing.