Sunscreen, Sand, and Salt: A Guide to Removing Tough Beach Stains

A group of friends enjoying a sunny day at the beach, with a smiling woman in the foreground and a guitar in the background.

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There’s nothing better than a day spent at the beach. From quality time with family to the relaxing sound of the wind and waves, there are a multitude of reasons why millions of people flock to the beach every spring and summer. Whether you’re spending an afternoon or a full week at the beach, some prep work will likely go into your excursion. The beach can wreak havoc on delicate fabric, but with some preventative measures (and fast action in case stains occur) you don’t have to worry about ruining your clothes during your beach vacation. This blog will cover the importance of prompt and proper stain removal to preserve fabric quality and keep your trip stress-free.

Understanding Beach-Related Stains

Many things at the beach can cause stains, including sunscreen. While sunscreen is important to protect your skin and prevent sunburns, the oils in sunscreen can cause discoloration on clothes. Different sunscreen brands can affect clothes differently, so be sure to read product labels in case this is a concern for you.

Sand is also an issue. Sand, albeit perfect for building sandcastles, is made up of gritty particles that can embed in fabric fibers and even ruin particularly delicate fabrics. Salt, found in ocean salt water, crystallizes as it dries, leaving stubborn white marks. Not only can these marks stain clothes but they can damage the fabric over time, leaving certain garments tough instead of soft and pliable. As these are all natural elements, they can be particularly difficult to remove. The best way to tackle beach stains is to take quick action, treating the stain before it has a chance to set.

General Tips for Handling Beach Stains

If you’re at the beach, in a hotel room or a vacation rental, you might not have access to your usual suite of cleaning supplies. However, there are a few things you can do to handle beach stains quickly. Act fast and treat clothes as soon as you can rather than allowing them to sit. Don’t use hot water on stained clothes, as this can set stains and make them even harder to remove.

Test cleaning methods on an inconspicuous area first, especially if you’re trying out a new product or treating a very delicate fabric. If you can, bring along some basic laundry supplies such as a mild detergent, baking soda, white vinegar, a soft brush, your favorite stain remover, and clean cloths for blotting away stains and debris. If you forget to bring these with you, locate the nearest home goods or grocery store, since most stores will have these supplies. It might feel like extra work to stain-treat clothes while on vacation, but by giving your clothes prompt attention, you’ll be more likely to return them to pristine condition.

Removing Sunscreen Stains

Sunscreen is one of the most difficult products to remove from clothes since the oils can quickly set in all fabric varieties. However, by following these steps, you will likely be able to remove the sunscreen stain without damaging the garment:

  • Step 1: Blot the stain: Use a clean cloth to blot away any excess sunscreen without rubbing it in. Do this gently and avoid pressing any excess sunscreen directly into the affected garment.
  • Step 2: Apply baking soda or cornstarch. Sprinkle the product of your choice over the stain to absorb the oil and let it sit for up to 15 minutes. If it’s a particularly large stain, let the baking soda or cornstarch sit for closer to 30 minutes.
  • Step 3: Pre-treat with dish soap. Dish soap is an excellent all-purpose cleaner that can help remove stains. Apply a small amount of dish soap directly to the stain and, using a small, soft brush, work it gently all over the stain.
  • Step 4: Rinse with cold water: Next, rinse the affected garment under cold running water. Work from the back of the stain to the front, using your fingers to gently work at the stain.
  • Step 5: Wash clothes as usual. Wash the piece according to the manufacturer’s label. Use a mild detergent for this and avoid using bleach or any other harsh cleaning agent.

While this method is effective at treating most stains, there is an alternative method that can work for very tough or multiple sunscreen stains. You can use a commercial stain remover designed specifically for oil-based stains. Follow the product instructions if you opt for this method and consider trying it only after utilizing baking soda/cornstarch.

Removing Sand Stains

Sand isn’t just irritating to the skin. It can also damage your clothes, especially after long hours spent on the beach. If you find that your clothes have accumulated a lot of sand or stains from sitting on the beach, try this method:

  • Step 1: Shake and remove excess sand: Shake the fabric outdoors and, using a soft brush, remove as much sand as possible. Do this gently and avoid beating the garment against any hard surface to remove the sand.
  • Step 2: Soak in cold water: After the sand has been removed, soak the fabric in a basin of cold water. This will help loosen any remaining sand particles and allow them to float away from the fabric.
  • Step 3: Use a vacuum cleaner: Very stubborn sand particles might set into the clothing and refuse to come out, even after soaking in cold water. You can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to lift away the sand without causing further damage to the affected garment.
  • Step 4: Pre-treat stains: If you notice that the sand has caused any discoloration in the fabric, pre-treat the area with a stain remover before moving on. You can do a pre-treatment by mixing equal parts water and vinegar and letting the garment soak in the mixture.
  • Step 5: Wash and inspect: After allowing the clothes to soak, do a quick inspection. Wash the fabric as described on the care label and inspect for any remaining particles or stains before allowing it to dry.

If this method isn’t successful at removing stains from sand, you can try a different pre-treatment or use a specialized stain remover product. Always read the product label carefully before using a commercial stain remover.

Removing Salt Stains

Salt stains can also be difficult to remove. If you get salt stains on your clothes, remove them and treat them quickly using the method highlighted below:

  • Step 1: Brush off salt crystals: Remove any remaining salt crystals by brushing at them with a soft-bristled brush. Take care not to push the crystals into the affected fabric.
  • Step 2: Soak in vinegar solution: Create a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts cold water. Soak the stained area in this mixture for up to 30 minutes.
  • Step 3: Blot with a clean cloth: Take a clean cloth and blot the area gently. This serves to lift the stain and neutralize the salt so pre-treatments will be more effective.
  • Step 4: Pre-treat with detergent: Apply a small amount of liquid detergent to the stain and gently work it in. Allow it to sit for up to 30 minutes.
  • Step 5: Rinse and wash: Rinse the affected garment according to the care instructions on the label. If there are no care instructions printed, use cold water.

Alternatively, you can use a commercial salt stain remover or a paste made from baking soda and water to treat and remove salt stains. Just apply the product of your choice to the stain and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before washing.

Special Considerations for Delicate Fabrics

Some fabrics might require special care and consideration to avoid additional damage. For silk and wool, be sure to use only fabric-specific cleaners and avoid rough scrubbing, while swimwear should be rinsed out immediately and hand-washed with a gentle detergent. For any stained clothes that are bright or made of dark fabric, test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area so you’ll be sure to avoid color fading.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Beach-Related Stains

While you can’t always prevent stains, taking a few simple steps ahead of your beach trip can help protect your clothes. Use protective covers when possible, placing towels or other covers on surfaces to prevent direct contact with sand or sunscreen. It can also help to rinse off at the beach before you get back to your home or rental. This removes excess sand and salt. Also, select stain-resistant fabrics when you can, such as certain synthetics.

Trust OXXO to Help Handle Beach-Stained Garments

You don’t have to fear stains when you treat them effectively and utilize some simple preventative measures. By using the right methods for different stains and fabrics, you can keep your clothes in fighting shape even after a day of fun in the sun. For all your cleaning needs, OXXO Cleaners That Care is here. Our expert dry cleaning services can restore your beach-stained garments to pristine condition and help you stay stress-free all summer long.

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