How to Remove Stains from Swimsuits

how to remove stains from swimsuits

Not everyone has their own swimsuit wardrobe. Most of us only have a handful of swimsuits, and even then we usually have a preferred one. Some people only own one swimsuit, so like it or not, they have to take good care of it. The fewer bathing suits you own, the more you will need to be on your toes with regards to keeping your swimwear clean and ensuring it lasts.

Out of all the problems you could have with failing to take care of your favorite swimsuit (e.g. mold growth, loss of elasticity, foul odors, or thinning of the material), getting a stain on your swimsuit is not a big problem in comparison. However, it’s not a good look, so you’ll want to know how to remove any stain from your swimwear regardless.

If you think you have an idea on how to remove the stains, and your solution is to reach for the bleach or laundry detergent, stop right now. Those chemicals are way too harsh on your bathing suit; even if you remove the stains, you might end up discoloring your swimsuit, which is an even worse problem.

To remove stubborn stains from your swimwear, you must use mild swimsuit detergent that is specifically designed to be gentle on spandex/Lycra fabric. You can also use natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda as natural whiteners and cleaning agents to get rid of some stains. Use these detergents and then hand wash the swimsuit like you normally would, and this should get rid of most stains.

In this article, we will provide tips on how you can remove specific stains using the proper methods so that you do not end up making your problem even worse. We also provide general rinsing tips which can keep stains from setting in, making your more thorough wash later on much more effective.

Swimwear washing basics

You need to walk before you learn how to run. So before we head into the tips on how to remove specific stains, there are some basic swimsuit washing tips that you need to know beforehand which will make the stain removal advice much more effective.

If you already have an idea of what to do, you can still skim through it for a refresher, or just skip straight to the next section on stain removal. Without further ado:

  • Rinse your swimwear immediately after every use. This should be relatively simple, because you were going to rinse yourself off in the showers after going into the water anyway. You don’t even need to take off your swimsuit; just lather the stain with some of the suds from your chlorine removal shampoo and scrub.
  • Hand wash your swimsuit. No, do not machine wash on a cold and gentle cycle. Your swimsuit is very delicate, and only your hands are gentle enough to handle it. Also, even on a cold wash cycle, some machines still use some hot water which can ruin the elasticity of the fabric.
  • Avoid heat. Do not use hot water when hand washing. Do not use a washing machine with automatic temperature controls which might decide to add some hot water into the mix. Do not put your swimsuit into the dryer. Heat can also make some stains set in, especially period stains.
  • Use a mild detergent. Laundry detergent and bleach contain some harsh chemicals that can discolor your swimsuit, arguably a worse outcome than having a stain, so AVOID them. Use detergents specifically formulated for swimsuits. Alternatives are to use natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
  • Never wring or twist your swimwear. If you want to squeeze water out, sandwich your swimsuit between two dry towels, and then press it between your hands or put it on the floor and literally step on it. You can also roll your swimsuit up in a single dry towel to squeeze any excess water out.
  • Always air dry your swimwear. You can hang it up, but this might stretch out the straps over time. The best way is to lay it on a dry towel or drying rack. Make sure it is in a ventilated, shaded location. Do not dry in direct sunlight.

How to deal with stubborn stains

Pre-treat stains

For stains that are very prominent, you should spot-treat it by applying a swimsuit detergent or vinegar on the stained areas. Common places that require attention are: straps, armpit area, ties, and the edges along a bikini top.

Before using a stain remover on your swimsuit, we recommend first testing it on a piece of fabric (e.g. an old T-shirt or something you don’t care about) to see how potent it is. It’s possible that the stain remover also makes the colors bleed.

Soak and wash

Fill a wash basin or soak with cold water. Mix a capful of mild detergent or a couple tablespoons of vinegar. Soak your stained swimwear in this cleaning solution for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards drain the water, rinse off the suds with cold water, making sure to be scrubbing along the way.

For tougher stains, you may have to repeat this soaking process. You can also get a soft-bristled toothbrush and scrub the stains with it as it’s soaking.

How to remove specific stains

Yellow stains

These are usually caused by chlorine, sunscreen, or sweat. Unsightly yellow stains are the most common stains you’ll find on your swimwear. For this, we will use white vinegar.

White vinegar is a natural stain remover and whitener. It even helps remove odors, like the dreaded chlorine or urine smell.

Simply add two tablespoons of white vinegar in a wash basin or sink filled with cold water. Soak the swimwear in it for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards, drain the water, rinse the suds off with cold water, and the stains should be gone.

To prevent this in the future, consider wearing a different kind of sunscreen with less chemicals to reduce the amount of stains that can appear.

Tanning oil stains

If you want to achieve that deep bronze color while tanning, tanning oils are a necessary evil because they’ll get the job done at the expense of staining your swimwear.

Since your swimsuit doesn’t need a tan, you’ll have to wash off the tanning oil stains and dish washing detergent can do the trick.

Squeeze a liberal amount of dish soap on the oil stain, and rub it in gently with your fingers to work it into the fabric. Let it sit overnight.

The next morning, rinse the swimsuit with cold water and check if the stain has been removed. If not, you can repeat this process until it is.

Alcohol stains

The ideal way to remove alcohol stains is to scrub your swimwear with mild detergent in the hottest water it can handle (check the tags). Soaking your swimsuit with mild detergent or vinegar will make this easier. This is also a great way to remove tea and coffee stains.

Chocolate stains

The safest way to remove a chocolate stain is by spot-treating it with vinegar or a swimsuit detergent. Apply it, then follow up with your regular hand washing process.

What NOT to do when removing a stain

Do not wipe or rub the stain

When you first stain your swimwear, your first instinct is probably to quickly wipe off the glob of sunscreen, oil, food, etc. Unfortunately, wiping the source of the stain can cause it to smear or get rubbed in further.

You are doing more harm than good because you are just pushing the substance deeper into the fibers, making your subsequent steps even harder. The best option is to rinse the stain with cold water and mild detergent as soon as possible.

Do not use products with harsh chemicals without first checking the tags

As mentioned, bleach is too harsh, and even laundry detergent may cause your swimsuit to fade. Check the tags on your swimsuit to see its washing instructions. Make sure you are not using products that might ruin your swimsuit.

We recommend specifically using swimsuit detergents that are much softer on the fabric (and often made with natural ingredients) so that you do not degrade your swimsuit. Vinegar and baking soda are also considered “safe” products.

These tips to get rid of stains can also be used on swim bags, which you should also be taking good care of alongside your swimwear.