Does Fragrance Oil Stain Clothes? (And How To Remove)

Fully dressed and ready to head out the door, you unwrap that new bottle of spicy fresh Dior Sauvage, set to spritz yourself all over. Only you stop to wonder – does fragrance oil stain? 

Fragrance oil does stain your clothes. As most colognes and perfumes are alcohol-based, they can leave a spot of oily residue on your clothes, especially if the fragrance is sprayed directly on the fabric. Some fragrances also contain dyes, which can also stain your clothes. 

To combat fragrance oil stains on clothes, it’s best to spray directly onto the skin before getting dressed. However, if you find yourself with an oil stain, you can take measures to get the stain out, and they’re pretty easy. We’ll go over how you can get these stains out of different types of fabric below, as well as discuss what is in most fragrances that typically cause them to stain.

How Do Fragrance Oils Stain?

The scent of a fragrance is made by combining several different fragrance oils. A fresh fragrance, for example, can contain bergamot oil and lemon oil, and these oils can lead to a stain on your clothes.

When you apply your fragrance, you usually want to spritz your skin. However, your clothes are much better at holding the actual scent, so one spray on your clothes will last much longer than one spray on your skin.

While it may smell pleasant, fragrance oils often leave an unpleasant stain on our clothes and even the furniture if we don’t watch where we’re spritzing. 

But why is this? There are several reasons.

They Contain Dyes

Many fragrances contain dyes to change the scent’s color and alter its aroma. When you mist yourself with your favorite cologne, the dyes in the cologne can stain your clothes. 

Just think about it – any richly colored full concentration scent would likely stain a plain white tee or light piece of fabric. 

Take, for example, the ink-dark luxurious scent of Kilian Pure Oud. Its liquid is dark because the oud used is an aromatic resin made from a mold that grows in infected wood from Southeast Asian Aquilaria trees. Fragrances with dark liquids, like oud fragrances as well as dyes, have a good chance of staining your clothes. 

What about clear-colored scents with no dye? Even with uncolored scents, a residue is left behind. Try not to spray your clothes directly when applying to avoid staining.   

They Are Alcohol Or Oil-Based

Furthermore, most fragrances are also alcohol-based, meaning that they usually include a grain alcohol called ethanol to amp up the scent’s potency and keep it smelling strong. This can create an oily-looking stain on your clothes when sprayed. 

If you don’t have an alcohol-based fragrance, perhaps you favor an oil-based scent. Unsurprisingly, these kinds of scents, usually in the form of roll-on applicators, can stain your clothes too. 

Many people with sensitive skin go for oil-based scents because it’s a highly concentrated version of an eau de parfum spray, just without the alcohol. In addition, only a small touch or two gets the job done (versus a few sprays from a bottle). 

I don’t have to tell you that each perfume and cologne is unique. Ingredients are sourced differently, and each fragrance has different levels of fragrant oil, so while one cologne may not seem to stain, another may stain a spot or two if you spray too close. 

So whether your collection consists of fragrances with dyes and alcohol or oil-based scents, all types have a good chance at staining your clothes if you’re not careful. 

You probably don’t want that, so what can you do? You can learn how to get those pesky stains out by yourself! 

Let’s see how you can do that at home.

How To Remove Fragrance Oil Staines

Your wardrobe likely consists of multiple fabric types, from your typical wearables like cotton, polyester, and wool to less common leather, silk, or suede. Let’s go over how to get a fragrance stain out of each type of fabric.

Wearable Fabric – Hand Removal

Wearable fabric includes fabrics like cotton, polyester, nylon, spandex, and wool. Try first to remove the stain by hand, but if that doesn’t work, you can toss it into the wash too. 

How to Remove a Stain By Hand:

To remove a stain by hand, you’ll need paper towels, a bowl, glycerin, water, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol.  

  1. Get the stain wet by dabbing the center of the stain with water, making sure not to rub the stain but use a light dabbing motion instead, working from the center out. Try to do this when the stain is fresh if you can to prevent it from spreading and setting into the fabric. 
  1. If you are trying to remove a stain that isn’t fresh, you may need to make a detergent solution, as gently dabbing the fabric may not be enough to dissipate the stain. Depending on how big it is, use teaspoons or tablespoons. 

Grab some dishwasher detergent, glycerin, and water and make the solution in a bowl, mixing thoroughly:

  • 1 teaspoon or tablespoon of dishwasher detergent
  • 1 teaspoon or tablespoon of glycerin (can buy this at your local grocery store or pharmacy) 
  • 8 teaspoons or tablespoons of water 
  1. Apply the detergent solution to the oil stain. Apply it only to the stain and not to the surrounding fabric. The soap and glycerin help soften the stain so it can be more easily removed. 
  1. Place a folded paper towel on top of the detergent solution and wait for it to settle into the fabric for 10 minutes. The solution will help lift the stain from your clothes as the paper towel absorbs it. 
  1. After ten minutes, change out the paper towel as necessary, so it can continue to soak up the stain. You may have to repeat this process several times. If the stain is starting to dry, add more detergent solution. 
  1. Next, if you still see part of the stain after several uses of the solution, dip a cotton ball or Qtip into the rubbing alcohol and dab the rubbing alcohol over the affected area. Place a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol on another folded paper towel and place that over the stain, waiting ten minutes. Rubbing alcohol is a little more powerful at pulling out stains than the detergent solution. 
  1. Repeat until the stain has been completely removed, rinsing your clothes with water to remove the detergent and rubbing alcohol, then hang it up to dry. 

Wearable Fabric – Washing Machine

You should try the above step first before going for the washing machine. 

How to Remove a Stain by the Washing Machine: 

To remove a stain by using the washing machine, you’ll need the appliance plus some baking soda. 

  1. Try to remove the fragrance oil stain first by hand
  1. If that doesn’t work, soak your clothes in water and baking soda. Use one part water and one part baking soda and let it soak for about 15 minutes. 
  1. Throw your clothes into the washer and dryer as usual. 

Leather And Suede

To remove a fragrance stain from leather and suede, you’ll need paper towels, a bowl, water, dish soap, a sponge, cornmeal, and a stiff-bristle brush.

  1. Blot excess fragrance using a paper towel or cheesecloth, using a gentle tapping motion. Do not use water as this will damage your suede or leather, and note that while this works well on fresh stains, it may not be as effective with older ones that have already dried. 
  1. Make a water and soap solution. Fill a large bowl halfway with lukewarm water, adding a squirt of liquid dish soap to the water. Swirl the water around with your hands or by shaking the bowl to create some suds. 
  1. Apply the foamy suds to the stain. Scoop up some foam that you created and add the bubbles to a clean sponge. Gently pat the sudsy sponge onto the stain. 
  1. Wipe the stain dry with a paper towel or cloth, gently wiping away the suds from the leather or suede. The stain should be partially or almost completely removed. 
  1. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the stain if it’s still visible, sprinkling enough to cover the stain’s surface lightly. Let the cornmeal sit for 30 minutes. Cornmeal helps lift the stain. 
  1. After the cornmeal has sat on the stain for half an hour, use a dry, stiff-bristled brush to softly rake the cornmeal off of the material. If the stain is still there, add more cornmeal. Repeat until the stain is gone. 

Triacetate And Silk

Triacetate is an artificial fiber that’s often used for soft knitted fabrics and is made of more than 92% acetylated cellulose. You probably already know what silk feels like. 

To remove fragrance from triacetate and silk, you’ll need water, glycerin, vinegar, cloth or paper towels, a sponge, and denatured alcohol.

  1. Flush the stain with water by running water over the stain. Though triacetate and silk aren’t very absorbent, try to really saturate the stained area with water to stop the stain from spreading and setting. 
  1. Apply a few drops of glycerin to the stain, using your finger to dab it on top of the stained area delicately. 
  1. Rinse the stain by running your clothes underwater, rinsing, and wiping the stain with your finger. By now, some of the stain should have been removed. 
  1. If the stain didn’t fully come off, make a vinegar solution. Use a one-to-one ratio of white vinegar and water, then add a small amount to a cloth or sponge and blot at your fabric stain. Start at the center and work outwards. 
  1. If that still didn’t work, apply several drops of denatured alcohol to a sponge or cheesecloth pad. Again, use a dabbing motion to lift the stain. You can buy denatured alcohol at your local supermarket. 
  1. After the stain has been removed, flush your garment with water to remove any of the cleaning agents used, then hang it out to dry. 

Jasper Pieterse

Hi, my name is Jasper and I've been a long time fragrance fan. Ever since 2014, I started to get a huge interest in fragrances and I've had my nose on countless of different fragrances. I'm excited to share my experiences!

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