Don't Let Your Wardrobe Suffer: These 7 Personal Care Products Can Ruin Your Clothes

Disappointed woman holding stained clothes


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Woman Cleaning Stained Shirt in Bathroom Sink

Dress to Impress

Unbeknownst to many people, certain household or personal care products can ruin clothes by causing discoloration, staining, or weakening of the fibers. Some personal care products like hair dye, insect repellent, and sunscreen can permanently stain clothes by leaving unsightly marks, while other products such as acne medication, hairspray, and even toothpaste can leave stains or discoloration that can make your outfits look worn out. Read on to find out which common household products may be culprits, and what you can do to try and remove the stains. 

Related: Are You Making These Laundry Mistakes?

A housewife doing laundry, washing and hanging shirts on clothesline at home

Products Containing Alcohol

Alcohol-based products such as hand sanitizer, perfume, and rubbing alcohol can stain your clothes by stripping the dye and leaving behind faint marks or stains. If you accidentally spill an alcohol-based product on clothing, it's important to act quickly. Blot the stain with a clean, dry cloth to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Then rinse the stain under cold water and apply a stain remover such as Shout or use a Tide pen to lighten the affected area. 

Let the stain remover sit for a few minutes before washing the garment in the washing machine on a cold cycle; avoid using hot water or a dryer, as this can set the stain permanently. If the stain persists, consider taking the garment to a professional cleaner for treatment.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Money on Laundry

Shopping basket with body care and beauty products over white

Products Containing Acid

Products containing acid — such as lemon juice, vinegar, and certain cleaning solutions — can stain and ruin clothes due to their corrosive nature. Since acid has a low pH level, it can weaken and damage the fibers in fabric, resulting in discoloration, yellowing, or even holes. Common household products that may contain acidic substances include sunscreen, certain skin care products, hand sanitizer, lotions, deodorant, and tanning products. (A bummer, we know). 

Related: Cleaning Myths That Will Ruin Your Things

A woman compares two white shirts before and after washing. The girl is holding one blouse, clean and ironed, and the other, dirty with coffee stains

Hair Dye

Since hair dyes typically contain strong pigments, they can permanently stain or ruin clothes if they're transferred onto fabric. If you accidentally get hair dye on your favorite T-shirt, it's important to act quickly to prevent the stain from setting in. Start by blotting the stain gently with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any excess dye. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the stain, as this can spread the dye further into the fabric. 

Rinse the affected area under cold water to remove as much of the dye as possible before using a soft-bristled brush to try and scrub the stain gently. Finally, throw it in the wash on a cold cycle and keep your fingers crossed; stains caused by hair dye can be tough to fully remove. 

For more great cleaning tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Brushing Teeth


Certain brands of toothpaste — particularly those that contain whitening agents such as silica, hydrogen peroxide, or activated charcoal — can pose a threat to your wardrobe and lead to gradual discoloration, staining, or complete loss of color upon contact. A solution? Throw on your outfit after brushing your teeth to avoid the risk of toothpaste damage altogether. 

Different hair care products and towel on shelving unit in bathroom
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Alkaline-Based Products

Certain personal care products — such as shampoos, conditioners, bath gels, shaving cream, and soaps — may contain alkaline substances that can permanently stain clothing. Some cleaning agents or disinfectants that carry ammonia can also cause discoloration due to the oxidizing agents they carry. To prevent damage to your favorite clothes, it's best to wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty while cleaning the house.

A young woman does a home teeth whitening procedure. Whitening tray with gel
Aleksandr Rybalko/istockphoto

Products Containing Bleach

Though bleach is a strong chemical that can remove stains and brighten whites in clothing, it can also be harmful to certain fabrics and cause damage to your clothes. Teeth whitening kits, acne medications, certain moisturizers, and hair lightening products are some personal care products that may contain bleach or similar whitening agents, which can accidentally get on clothing during use and cause discoloration or bleaching of fabrics.

Mother applying insect repellent onto girl's leg in park, closeup
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Insect Repellent Containing Deet

Insect repellents that contain the chemical substance DEET can pose a risk to certain fabrics — especially those made of synthetic fibers such as spandex or Lycra. DEET is a strong solvent that can dissolve the plasticizers used to create the elasticity in these fabrics, causing them to melt or become distorted. If you get repellent on your clothes, treat the stain with a prewash stain remover before laundering in hot water.