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How do you get the orange-ish/yellow-ish stains left by certain types of sunscreen (Coppertone Sport, for sure) out of white clothes? Thanks!
I always feel sort of depressed when I have to talk about sunscreen stains. It’s weird, because usually I love talking about stains! But sunscreen stains are such a wicked bummer and here’s why: There’s an ingredient commonly found in sunblock called avobenzone, and it causes those terribly stubborn orange-ish stains.
The issue with avobenzone is that, when it comes in contact with iron, a chemical reaction occurs that creates stains that are, in effect, rust stains. The problem, of course, is that there’s iron in our water supply, especially if you live in an area with hard water. So when we end up with those orange-y sunscreen stains what we need to treat, in effect, are actually rust stains. And rust stains are a funny animal.
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Treating a Sunscreen/Rust Stain
There are some rust stain removers that are designed specifically for laundering purposes, like Carbona Stain Devils #9 (Rust and Perspiration). Note that Stain Devils aren’t a pre-treatment like Shout, they’re meant to be used directly on the stain, and then rinsed out before the garment goes in the washing machine.
There are also general purpose rust removers, like Whink Rust Stain Remover, that can be used for removing rust stains from hard surfaces like porcelain as well as from fabrics. Your local hardware or home improvement store will be a good source of rust removers; just note that they can vary in terms of usage, so you’ll want to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
There’s also a folksy remedy for rust stains that involves using lemon juice and salt. You’ll want to start by rinsing the stained section of the garment with cool water, then squeeze lemon juice on the stain. Lay the garment flat, then pour an anthill-esque pile of salt on the lemon juice. Let it sit overnight, brush away the salt and then launder as usual.
What Not to Do to a Sunscreen/Rust Stain
This is short and sweet but it’s super important: When it comes to treating rust stains, skip the use of both chlorine and oxygenated bleaches, because they can make the stains worse.
How to Avoid Sunscreen/Rust Stains Entirely
Avoiding these stains in the first place doesn’t mean skipping sunscreen entirely. (Please don’t do that!) The sort of obvious solution is to find formulas that don’t contain avobenzone, which would be great if it weren’t for the fact that it’s actually pretty hard to find formulas that don’t contain avobenzone. Ho hum.
They do exist, however, and this seems to be especially true of sunscreens that are developed for use on babies and children. There’s a helpful r/SkincareAddiction thread in which a user rounded up some drugstore brand formulas without avobenzone. There were two Coppertone formulas in the bunch, so if our Letter Writer wants to remain brand loyal, he can check out either Coppertone Kids Tear Free or Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple.
If you can’t find a sunscreen without avobenzone, at least opt for a cream sunblock over an aerosol spray formula. A cream formula isn’t as easy to apply, but it is much easier to control where the sunscreen is going than with the spray formulas.