One of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter acne medications and creams is benzoyl peroxide. Like most peroxides, benzoyl peroxide can have a bleaching effect on materials it comes into contact with. But does benzoyl peroxide bleach clothes?
Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothes quickly and easily. It can also leave a rust-colored or orange stain on fabrics, depending on the other ingredients in the acne medication. Natural fabrics are more likely to bleach faster than synthetic ones, but all fabric is vulnerable to bleaching.
You don’t have to choose between your wardrobe and your acne medication! There are steps you can take to prevent bleaching and treat stains. This guide will help you protect your clothing from benzoyl peroxide, without sacrificing your skin.
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Bleach Clothes?
Benzoyl peroxide is a strong chemical compound that is frequently an ingredient in acne medication. It kills the bacteria that cause acne in your skin, but at the same time, it can bleach your hair, skin, or clothing.
The oils in your skin can transfer benzoyl peroxide from the surface of your skin onto your clothing easily. Even a small amount of benzoyl peroxide can have a mild bleaching effect on your clothes.
How much it bleaches your clothes depends on how strong the concentration of benzoyl peroxide is, how long it sits on the fabric, and how delicate the fabric is. The longer it sits, the more it will bleach. It will also have a harsher effect on more delicate fabrics.
Beyond acne medication, one of benzoyl peroxide’s primary uses is as a bleaching agent. If you get it on your clothing, it can and will bleach the fabric. The more contact it has, and the longer it sits on the fabric, the stronger the bleaching effect will be.
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Damage Fabric?The most damage that benzoyl peroxide does to fabric is to bleach or discolor it. It will not damage the fibers or weaken the garment. But it will remove any dye in the fabric, and can leave orange-colored stains behind.
Natural fibers are more likely to bleach with benzoyl peroxide than synthetic fibers. Cotton and linen, in particular, are susceptible to benzoyl peroxide staining. Polyester and nylon are less likely to take as much damage from the medication.
The concentration of benzoyl peroxide has an impact on how much the garment stains, too. A higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide will stain faster and discolor more than a low concentration. However, the concentration in a standard acne medicine isn’t enough to burn through the fibers of most clothes.
Can You Remove Benzoyl Peroxide Stains?
Once benzoyl peroxide has bleached your clothing, the bleaching effect is permanent. However, the rust-colored or orange stain the benzoyl peroxide leaves behind is treatable. The faster you treat the stain, the better it will come off.
Not every acne medication with benzoyl peroxide will stain as well as bleach. The other ingredients and your skin chemistry can impact whether or not the medication stains fabric. The stain may not show up if the bleaching is too severe or the fabric is a reddish color, to begin with.
Benzoyl peroxide won’t bleach white linens or clothing, but the rusty stains will show up clearly. As soon as you notice one, you should soak the stained item in cold water and treat the stain. How you treat the stain depends on whether or not you’re concerned about bleaching.
How to Get Benzoyl Peroxide Stains Out of Clothes
There are two primary ways to get benzoyl peroxide out of clothes: oxygen-based bleach or dish soap and a white vinegar mixture. You should only use bleach on white linens or clothing, but the dish soap method will work on colored fabrics too. Neither method will work well on leather, wool, or silk.
Regardless of the fabric type, the first step is to remove any remaining benzoyl peroxide or medication on the fabric. Scrape it off the surface instead of scrubbing; you want to lift it off without grinding any more benzoyl peroxide into the fibers.
For the oxygen-based bleach method, soak the stained item in cold water with a small amount of bleach mixed in. Make sure the item is submerged in the water for at least four hours. You can leave it as long as overnight.
After soaking, check to see if the stain has disappeared. If there is still staining, you can repeat the soaking process in a fresh bleach solution. Or, you can rinse the garment thoroughly and try the dish soap solution. Do not wash the item until the stain is gone, or you risk setting it in permanently.
For the dish soap and vinegar method, you’ll also need a soft toothbrush. Mix some dish soap and distilled white vinegar in warm water. You should have a ratio of one teaspoon of soap and a quarter cup of vinegar for every cup of water. Use the toothbrush to rub the solution gently into the stain.
Once the stain is saturated, let it sit in the solution for at least five minutes. Then rinse it and check to see if the stain is gone. Repeat as necessary, and wash the item normally when the rust color is gone.
How to Avoid Benzoyl Peroxide Stains
Because benzoyl peroxide stains and bleaches so easily, the best way to get stains out of your clothing is to avoid them altogether. This is especially important for fibers like leather, wool, and silk that are difficult to treat for benzoyl peroxide stains without damaging the fibers.
Benzoyl peroxide transfers from skin to fabric easily. Sweat, oils from your skin, and other moisture can help the compound soak into the fabric of your clothing in a very short amount of time. The best way to keep this from happening is to avoid contact with treated skin and your clothing.
When you use products with benzoyl peroxide, let them dry thoroughly before you put them on clothing. Even if the treated part of your skin isn’t covered (such as your face), it could leave behind some benzoyl peroxide if it brushes on the fabric as you get dressed.
One way to minimize contact is to only use benzoyl peroxide products at night. Once your skin has dried thoroughly, you can wear white pajamas and use white towels and sheets. This will minimize the bleaching effect. It’s also easier to bleach out benzoyl peroxide stains from white linens.
Sweat is another factor that increases the likelihood that benzoyl peroxide will damage your clothes. Avoid using it in the warmer months or before you exercise. If you use it on your face, be mindful of touching your face with your clothing during the day, especially if you’re sweating.
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Bleach Towels?
Like any other textile, towels are susceptible to benzoyl peroxide bleaching and staining. The loops in terrycloth fiber or microfiber towels can absorb the chemical just as easily as other fibers.
If you can get the acne medication washed off quickly, the towel’s texture can help prevent staining. When the benzoyl peroxide sits on the top of the loops and isn’t soaked into the fabric’s weave, it will minimize any staining.
However, if the medication soaks in, those same loops will make it harder to remove stains. Using white towels will help avoid ruining towels by bleaching them, but white towels are still susceptible to stains.
Benzoyl peroxide is just as harsh on your skin as it is on your fibers, so dermatologists recommend only using it as a spot treatment. You should be able to comfortably let any benzoyl peroxide medication or lotion air-dry on your skin without using a towel to dry it off.
It’s also important to note that benzoyl peroxide on one fabric can easily transfer to another when it is still wet. If you stain a towel—or any linen or garment—with benzoyl peroxide, treat the stain and wash it separately from other textiles. That way, you don’t accidentally spread the stain to more items.
Does Benzoyl Peroxide Bleach Skin?
The same properties that allow benzoyl peroxide to bleach fabric also allow it to bleach your skin and hair. Your skin and hair are stronger than most fibers, so it takes more exposure to get the same impact.
Unless you have an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide, you may not see any bleaching for a while. However, if you habitually treat the same area with benzoyl peroxide, it can start to lighten over time.
This will happen to your hair fibers faster than your skin. The structure of your eyebrows and head hair are similar to many other animal fibers, including fibers like wool. The benzoyl peroxide will work faster on those hair fibers than on your skin cells.
It is safe to use as directed, but it’s important to know the possibility of staining. Your clothes and bed linens are much more likely to get a benzoyl peroxide stain or bleach problem than your skin. However, anything that damages fabric could also potentially hurt your body.
Benzoyl peroxide can be a great way to treat your acne, but it’s a terrible way to treat your clothes. Strong chemicals like benzoyl peroxide can quickly and easily damage your clothing or leave it stained. The best way to prevent benzoyl peroxide bleaching and staining is to avoid coming into contact with it.
When that’s not possible, the next best thing is to let the benzoyl peroxide dry thoroughly and treat stains as soon as possible.
Have you ever treated a benzoyl peroxide stain? What are your tips for washing out that rust-colored stain? Tell us about it in the comment section!