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How to Get a Stain Out of a White Shirt | Our Smudge Removal 101

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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.

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 a stain out of a white shirt. 

OK, first things first. Not all stains are the same. As such, not every technique will yield the same results for removing your stain. 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.

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, one part dishwashing liquid soap, and water. Feel free to use your favorite essential oil to help give the mixture a pleasant aroma.  

Once you have combined all of the components, pour some of the contents into a small spray bottle. 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.

dark shirt

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


Grass, Dirt, and Mud

Start by spraying your handy DIY solution discussed above on the contaminated area and keep it there for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. 

More serious earthy stains might require some additional ingredients if you first don’t succeed in removing the stain. I like to mix a teaspoon of laundry detergent and a cup of baking soda into some water. You can also try vinegar if you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide on hand. 

Apply this new mixture and soak your shirt in warm water overnight. Follow up by washing in the washing machine the next day, and you should have a clean white shirt.


Wine (Pink or 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 wine stain out. Gently but firmly blot the red or pink wine stain with a damp cotton cloth. 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 stain. Follow up by gently agitating the solution into the affected area.

If necessary, you can sprinkle on some baking soda or pour hydrogen peroxide directly on the stain. 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 cold water. If you can still see the stain, proceed with mixing one teaspoon of a laundry powder with ¼ cup of baking soda or hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the severity of the stain, you may need to soak your shirt anywhere from 15 minutes to overnight.


Tea, Coffee, 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 white vinegar with a teaspoon of castile soap. Then soak your shirt in this solution for approximately 30 minutes. Blot some baking soda or hydrogen peroxide directly on the stain and work it in with your fingers. Finish off by washing it all off with cold water. 

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.



Now here’s one that many believe to be a death sentence for white shirts, and understandably so. Blood 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 your bloody shirt as quickly as possible. As with most other stains, the longer you wait, the more challenging blood 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 cold 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 the hydrogen peroxide 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 cold 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 toothbrush with my DIY solution.

I gently scrubbed the bloodstain and ran it under cold water to great success. Just approach the brush 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.


Tomato/Fruit Sauce

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 baking soda or hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain.

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. 



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 white 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 baking soda. You will once again need ¼ of a cup of the stuff or straight 3% hydrogen peroxide. 

Now, let your stained white 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, 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.



All right, ladies (and guys, if that’s your thing), 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 makeup from your white shirt. First, mix one teaspoon of laundry detergent and one teaspoon of baking soda 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 detergent and baking soda 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.



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. 

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 lipstick stain out of your white 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 lipstick stain and let it soak in overnight. The following day, rinse out the solution with cold 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.

deodorant stains on dress shirt


While we’re on the subject of personal care products, deodorant can also cause staining to occur in 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 white shirts. And if your deodorant product produced staining, 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 brush. Once you have it worked in well, allow the mixture to sit for about two hours.

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



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

Once again, you will need to mix the following ingredients in a small bowl:

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

When ready, apply the solution directly to the sweat stain and work it in with your finger or a soft-bristled toothbrush. 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

In Closing

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.



1. How do you get stains out of a white shirt fast?

Good Housekeeping suggests wiping the discoloration with isopropyl alcohol. Lay a paper towel beneath the fabric to prevent it from soaking. The discoloration should start dissolving within a few minutes.

2. Can toothpaste remove stains?

Plaque on teeth is removed by toothpaste, which is moderately abrasive. Walls and shoes can also be cleaned with the same abrasive action. For tiny things, you can use toothpaste and an old toothbrush.

3. Can old stains be removed from clothes?

Yes, it can be removed. With a little liquid dishwashing detergent (wash-up liquid), hand washes the discolored area. Put a few drops of detergent on the discoloration and gently massage it in. Let it soak for 5 minutes before rinsing.

4. Does vinegar clean stains?

Distilled white vinegar is a laundry miracle worker. It is less costly and gentler on textiles than chlorine bleach and fabric softeners. White vinegar may also be used to whiten and brighten clothing in addition to removing sweat stains and odors.

5. Is lemon juice good for removing stains?

Lemons are excellent natural stain removers for textiles, ceramics, and even plastic. Lemon juice can be used as an alternative to bleach.