How to Get Stains Out of White Shirts | Removal Guide

no stains on a white dress shirt

Written by Colin Ma

We’ve all been there; you accidentally spilled something on your white shirt and are afraid the stain will never come out. It’s certainly not out of the question; white shirts and stains don’t mix. And if you have the same problem I recently had, you weren’t in a position to take off your shirt and attend to the stain right away.

shirt stain

If you're working long hours in a professional dress shirt, you might also have stains at the collar of your shirt. Don't worry, we have a separate guide on how to remove the ring around the collar here and how to remove sweat stains from the underarms.

Once the stain sets in, you’ve got an even bigger challenge on your hands. So, what are you to do? Well, stick around, and I’ll explain how to get various stains out of white shirts.


Creating Your DIY Solution for Stain Removal 

OK, first things first. Not all stains are the same. As such, not every technique will yield the same results for removing stains out of white clothing. So I’m going to detail stain removal for a variety of stains in the hopes that we can help you get that pesky stain out once and for all—especially when just laundry detergent isn't enough.

dish soap

Before you get started, you’ll need to create a mixture and put it in a small spray bottle. To make this DIY solution, you’ll need:

  • a small bowl or bucket
  • two parts 3% (or approximate) hydrogen peroxide ( H₂O₂)
  • one part dishwashing liquid soap
  • warm water
  • your favorite essential oil to help give the mixture a pleasant aroma (optional) 

Once you have combined all of the components, pour some of the contents into a small spray bottle to make your stain remover.

You will be turning to and using this handy mixture often, so make sure you have plenty on hand in your mission to remove the stains discussed below. You may also swap out the dishwashing liquid soap for liquid laundry detergent.

dark shirt

Other Stain Removers for White Clothing

If the DIY stain remover solutions don't work when getting a stain out of a white shirt, try a few stain removers. There are plenty of stain remover brands on the market to choose from and can get very specific for your stain remover needs.

There are plenty of brands on the market to choose from and can get very specific for your needs. Stain remover brands like Oxyclean are famous for their “stain fighting power”, and have many products to tackle a wide range of stains.

If you are overwhelmed as to where to start, that is a good option. Here are some of our favorite stain removers:


How to Remove Grass, Dirt, and Mud Stains from White Clothes

  • Start by spraying your stain remover solution as discussed above on the grass stains and keep it there for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. More serious earthy grass stains might require some additional ingredients if you first don’t succeed in removing the stain from white clothes.
  • I like to mix a teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent and a cup of baking soda (i.e., sodium bicarbonate) into some hot water or warm water. You can also try vinegar or lemon juice if you don’t have any H₂O₂ on hand. 
  • Apply this new mixture to the grass stain and soak your shirt in hot water or warm water overnight
  • Follow up by washing your shirt in the washing machine the next day, and you should have a clean white shirt without the grass stain with this stain removal method.
washing machine


Removing Wine Stains from White Shirts

Red wine stains are some of the most common types of stains on clothing in general. It’s not that big of a deal on darker-colored shirts. But white shirts can prove to be a real pain. Obviously, white wine isn’t really an issue. But pink or red wine on a white shirt is most certainly a problem. 

Therefore, you need to follow the steps below if you want to be successful in getting that red wine stain out.

  • Gently but firmly blot the red or pink wine stain with a damp cotton cloth or paper towel. The key here, though, is that the cloth must be white. The blotting action serves to absorb the excess wine. Using any other color will likely cause that color to come off on your white shirt, thus making the problem worse. 
  • Next, grab your DIY solution and spray it on the stained area. Follow up by gently agitating the solution into the affected area.
  • If necessary, you can sprinkle on some sodium bicarbonate or pour hydrogen peroxide directly on the stained area. Then, spray your mixture and agitate again.
  • Once on, let it sit for about 15 minutes. After the allotted time has passed, rinse your white shirt with cool water.
  • If you can still see the stain, proceed with mixing one teaspoon of a laundry detergent powder with ¼ cup of sodium bicarbonate or hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the severity of the stain, you may need to soak your shirt anywhere from 15 minutes to overnight.


How to Remove Coffee Stains, Tea, or Fruit Juice

Each one of these spills can cause you some major heartache in trying to get the stains out of your white shirt. But all is not lost. You may still be able to remove these pesky stains and restore your white shirt to its original vibrancy.

  • In a bowl, mix one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice with a teaspoon of castile soap.
  • Then soak your shirt in this solution for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Blot some sodium bicarbonate or hydrogen peroxide directly on the stain and work it in with your fingers.
  • Finish off by washing it all off with cool water. 

If the stain remains, you may need to repeat the above steps a few times to get the stain out completely. But there’s no harm in doing so as long as you are gentle in working the mixture into your shirt.


How to Remove Blood Stains from White Shirt

Now here’s one that many believe to be a death sentence for a white shirt, and understandably so. Blood stains has long stood as a difficult stain to get out of clothing, let alone a white shirt. But I have just the solution to lend a helping hand. 

The key, however, is to treat the blood stain as quickly as possible. As with most other stains, the longer you wait, the more challenging a blood stain is to get out of a white shirt. I’ve found blood to be particularly more difficult, but it’s not impossible.

What you want to do is run cool water under your blood-stained white shirt. But the trick here is to run the water through the opposite side of the spill. So let’s say you had a nose bleed, and it dripped on the front of your shirt. 

You want to run the water from the inside of the shirt and out through the front. Conversely, if you cut yourself on the inside, for example, you’d want to run the water through the front of the shirt. OK, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

With your water running in the proper direction, keep letting the water run for at least 1 to 2 minutes. While this is going on, you want to gently rub on your shirt fabric to help loosen the stain. Grab your handy DIY cleaner and apply it as needed to assist in breaking up the stain.

I found that pouring this solution directly on the stain instead of spraying it seems to be a bit more effective. Let the solution mixture sit on the stain for at least 15 minutes. Once the allotted time has passed, run cool water over the solution to remove it and any blood particles.

You’ll likely need to repeat the above steps a few times, especially if the bloodstain has been on your white shirt for more than a few days. I’d like to point out that I had success using an old soft bristled brush with my DIY solution.

I gently scrubbed the bloodstain and ran it under cool water to great success. Just approach the brushing technique with caution if your white shirt is made of a delicate fabric. Too much pressure could loosen the fibers of your favorite white shirt and leave an unsightly blemish.


Removing Tomato/Fruit Sauce Stains on White Clothes

Here’s another nasty substance that can spell certain doom for white shirts if not treated in a timely manner. Once again, if you can get to the stain quickly, you stand a better chance of successful removal. 

  • Using the DIY solution, spray it directly on a clean cloth or rag and work the rag into your white shirt fabric using your fingers. Next, run cold water through your shirt while you keep the cloth or rag pressed firmly against the other side of your shirt. 
  • Keep using your fingers against this area, using your rag as resistance on the opposite side. Continue this series of actions to remove both the solution and the fruit sauce. 

I found this to work particularly well with flavored applesauce. You know, the kinds that come in strawberry flavor or the like and have artificial colors added to them? They tend to leave wicked stains — almost as badly as tomato sauce. But the DIY spray seems to work moderately well here.

Tomato sauce is a different story, although it shares the same ending as the fruit sauce.

  • To remove tomato sauce stains, employ the directions discussed for fruit sauce. Only instead of stopping at rinsing out the stain, you want to apply a mixture of ¼ cup of sodium bicarbonate or hydrogen peroxide directly onto the grease stains.
  • Let this mixture sit on the stain overnight and return to it the following day. Follow up by running the stain under cold water just as you did with the fruit sauce technique. You should be left with a clean, white shirt without the stains.


Removing Chocolate Stains

The dreaded chocolate. As tasty as it is, chocolate can be a bear to get out of clothing once it’s had time to settle in. And of course, things aren’t any easier when you spill chocolate on a light shirt. 

  • The first thing you want to do is try to remove as much excess chocolate as you possibly can. Use your DIY solution or another all-purpose cleaning solution and apply either directly over the stain. I found that working the solution into the fabric seems to help lift more chocolate residue.
  • After you are confident that you’ve removed as much chocolate as you can using this method, it’s time to switch over to sodium bicarbonate. You will once again need ¼ of a cup of the stuff or straight 3% hydrogen peroxide.
  • Now, let your stained shirt soak in it overnight. The next day, run the affected area underneath cold water to remove any leftover chocolate particles. You will likely need to return to the steps above and repeat them if the chocolate has had time to settle into your white shirt.

But with enough attempts on stubborn stains, you should have success in removing the chocolate stain for good. If this continues to be a problem for you, consider switching to white chocolate. Or wear brown shirts.

In all seriousness, chocolate serves as a formidable foe when it comes to white shirts. But these steps should help you attack the problem and eliminate any remaining residue.


Removing Makeup Stains from White Clothes

All right, it’s time to cover makeup removal from white shirts. As you are likely well aware, makeup has a knack for penetrating the tiny fibers that make up clothing. As such, it’s one of the more difficult stains to remove.

Difficult, but not impossible.

So let’s start with what you’ll need to effectively remove stains from makeup from your white clothes.

First, mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent and one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate with cold water in a small bowl. You want to add just enough cold water to make a paste.

Fortunately, this solution is a breeze to whip and doesn’t cost much. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to mess up. If you add too much water the first time around, simply add more laundry detergent and sodium bicarbonate to get the paste the right consistency.

Once you have everything mixed and ready to go, dab a cloth or rag into the mixture and use the rag to work the solution into your white shirt. You should start to see makeup coming off of the shirt. But if the stain is particularly difficult to remove, try the following.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide with two teaspoons of baking soda. Apply the mixture directly on the makeup stain and let it soak in overnight. The following day, rinse the solution out and run your shirt through the wash.


Lipstick Stain Removal

Along the same lines as makeup, lipstick can also give you some trouble if you don’t know how to properly address it. You’ll need your trust DIY spray for this one, so grab it and let’s get to work on this stained area. 

lipstick stain
  • To start, gently wipe the stain using a damp cloth, rag, or paper towel.
  • Once you feel you have removed as much excess lipstick as you can, spray on your DIY solution and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
  • After 5 minutes pass, start working the solution into the stain using your damp cloth. You should get all or most of the stained area out of your shirt.
  • If some of the stain remains, mix ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide with two teaspoons of baking soda in a small bowl and apply the mixture directly on the stain and let it soak in overnight.
  • The following day, rinse out the solution with cool water.

You should have a clean white shirt that is free of any signs of lipstick. If you can still see traces of lipstick, repeat the steps above until you’re satisfied with the results.


Removing Deodorant Staining from Clothes

While we’re on the subject of personal care products, deodorant can also cause sweat stains on your clothing. This is due to the ingredients found within, such as aluminum. They can actually alter the color of your sweat, which is why many people are switching to deodorants with natural ingredients.

If traditional products can change the color of sweat, what else might they be doing? But that is perhaps another topic for another day. Today, we want to focus on getting stains out of your shirts. And if your deodorant product produced a stained area, you need to know what steps to take to eliminate it.

First, gather up the following ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of concentrated cleaner
  • ½ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of water

Combine and mix the above ingredients in a small bowl and apply the solution directly to the deodorant stain. Work it into the stain with your fingers or a soft bristled brush. Once you have it worked in well, allow the mixture to sit for about two hours.

Then, toss your stained shirt in the wash and clean it using a cold cycle. The stain should be gone and your shirt good as new. 


Removing Sweat Stains from Shirts

Rounding out the stains is sweat stains. As discussed above, many deodorants available on the market today can cause your sweat to appear as yellow stains. This leads to staining on your clothes, most notably white clothes.

deodorant stains on dress shirt

  • Once again, you will need to make the same paste as with the deodorant removal.
  • When ready, apply the solution directly to the sweat stain and work it in with your finger or a soft bristled brush. Once you’re confident that you have it worked into the stain, let it sit for about two hours.
  • Then, throw your shirt in the washing machine and run a cold wash cycle. You should have a bright, clean white shirt upon completion.

white dress shirt for men


Thanks to these handy tips, I’m confident that you will have the upper hand over a variety of stains. Remember, one pass-through usually isn’t enough to eliminate stains completely. Rather, you often need to repeat the stain removal directions two or three times before you see results. 

This is especially true if the stain has had plenty of time to settle into your shirt. But don’t give up; continue working the steps as they relate to your stain, and you should be able to restore your shirt to its original glory. Check out our other helpful guides like how to fold your dress shirt for travel.


Frequently asked questions about how to get stains out of white shirts

How do I get stains out of white clothes?

To remove stains out of white clothes, start by treating the stain as soon as possible. Apply a mixture of baking soda and hot water or warm water or a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water or hot water directly to the stained area, then let it sit for about 15 minutes. Gently scrub the area with a soft brush before laundering as usual with a detergent and a bit of bleach or a laundry booster designed for whites. For persistent stains, soaking the garment in a solution of oxygen-based bleach and warm water overnight can help.

What is the best stain remover for white shirts?

The best stain remover for white clothes is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, which effectively tackles various stains without damaging the fabric. It works well on tough stains like wine, coffee, and sweat. Another excellent option is Shout Advanced Gel, known for its precision application and strong stain-lifting power. For natural solutions, a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap can also be very effective.

How do you get white out stains out of clothes?

To remove white-out stains from clothes, start by scraping off any excess white-out with a dull knife. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to a cotton ball and gently dab the stain, being careful to test on an inconspicuous area first to avoid fabric damage. Rinse the area with cold water and launder the garment as usual. Repeat the process if necessary until the stain is completely removed.

How do you get a stain out of a white shirt without stain remover?

To remove a stain from a white shirt without stain remover, start by blotting the stained area gently with cold water. Apply a small amount of liquid dish soap or laundry detergent directly to the stain and rub it in gently. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse with cold water. If the stain persists, soak the shirt in a mixture of white vinegar and water (1:2 ratio) for 30 minutes before washing as usual.

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