How to get sunscreen/sweat stains out of white/light technical fabric?
August 8, 2013 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I've got a pile of non-organic (microfiber/spandex/etc.) athletic clothing that I love, but every part of it that's white quickly turns orangish--especially around the neckline--if I wear it after putting on sunscreen. (I think sweat is a factor too, although probably less so.) Since it's non-organic, I don't want to clean it in hot water or use bleach, but I have tried soaking it in OxyClean, vinegar solutions, and WIN detergent (which claims to be specially formulated for polyester-type tech fabrics) before washing, and none of those seem to work. Is there anything that does?
posted by psoas to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Avobenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient, reacts with iron in the water (if you have hard water) and produces orange stains. I've just stopped using sunscreen with avobenzone in it, because I invariably would set the stains in the dryer before I noticed them. This website has some ideas for removing the stains (it recommends hot water and bleach, though).
posted by Empidonax at 7:40 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

As Empidonax notes, avobenzone binds iron (the Wikipedia article on avobenzone mentions this). The stains are similar to rust stains.

Logically, then, this post recommends trying products that remove rust stains, e.g., Bar Keeper's Friend, The Works Tub & Shower Cleaner, or Whink laundry rust stain remover.

(That article also notes that Oxy Clean will make the stains worse and might set them permanently. I hope that hasn't happened to you!)
posted by snowmentality at 7:47 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used both the sunscreen sprays and the lotions. When I use a spray, I will get the "orangish" ring around the neckline. Our hard well water (with extra iron in it) makes nasty stains.

For us, the Whink stain remover works every time.

Thanks for the info on avobenzone, I have to check it out, perhaps a different brand spray is my solution

With our water issues, some clothes yellow over time. There is a laundry powder called "No More Yellow" that makes the clothes eye burning white, if you know what I mean. Brighter than new.
posted by Leenie at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2013

Wow, thanks. I would never have pegged it as a rust-like reaction. I now see that DC has "moderately hard" water... will be giving Whink a go.
posted by psoas at 10:05 AM on August 8, 2013

Psoas, thanks for asking this. I've got some cycling jerseys to go work on! :-)
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:03 PM on August 8, 2013

And I see that you've marked this answered but I wanted to add that I've stained white tech shirts with spray sunscreen, accidentally put them through the dryer, then cycled through a couple different spray laundry stain removers and more washing cycles until the shirts were as good as new so hopefully your chances are good.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:39 PM on August 8, 2013

Rit Color Remover works very well to remove colored stains from white fabrics - it's in with the Rit Dye in the supermarket.
posted by aryma at 10:05 PM on August 8, 2013

Just as an update: been through a couple of rounds with both Bar Keeper's Friend and Whink Rust Stain Remover... and so far, no real change.
posted by psoas at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2013

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