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Vacation Rentals… The Dreaded Sun-Block Stains


It’s that time of year where the sun comes out (even here in Denmark), guests arrive, they slap on the sun block and lo and behold – They stain our towels and bedding.
It happens to us all. It comes with the territory.

The culprit ingredient is avobenzone. When avobenzone mixes with minerals found in the water in certain parts of the country, it could lead to brown, rust-like stains. The severity of the problem depends on the fiber content of your garment – synthetics hold the stain more than cotton ornatural fibers – and the hardness of your water.

I found some possible answers and have put them at the bottom of the page.

I was looking through community Homeaway and saw a thread on this very subject where owners had shared their possible solutions (sic) for this very problem.

What do you use to get the stains out of your linens?

 The thread started like this…

I just have the worst time with yellowed sun block staining on my white towels and sheets.  Does anyone have any solution that works effectively?  I use a ton of Shout on the stains, Oxyclean and detergent but I lose at least a set of sheets and a towel or two every booking during the beach season.  Also, not sure if it is pimple medication or the sun block that bleaches any color cotton fabric but I’ve lost a couple of nice blankets too.  Help!

  • Was posted somewhere that mix of regular hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and blue concentrated Dawn dish liquid gets almost any stain out. You cannot keep the mixed solution obviously because hydrogen peroxide is not stable. but you can mix and apply right away. I do not remember the proportions (you can search on the internet) , but I did about 1/2 cup peroxide, couple of tablespoons of baking soda and a teaspoon or two of Dawn. You may want to rub it in and let sit. I got pretty oily stains out of kitchen potholders.

    • I am going to give your concoction a try, I am desperate to not have to wash 3 times.

      I have 6 rentals and do all the towels myself….So doing multiple times is so time consuming.


  • “Pimple Medication” is a bleach, and will bleach coloured linens.  The only solution is to have only white linens–as is almost universal in the hotel industry.

    “Sun block” has an oil base, will stain almost any fabric, and we have has zero success trying to remove sun block stains. The only solution that we can think of is “Naugahyde” type upholstery, where it is suitable.


    You can’t win.


    P.S. Our VR is a one bedroom condo.  In 2011, I kept a separate record of purchases to replace damaged linens.  It came to a few cents over a thousand dollars for that one year.

    Edit: over the Summer, we will try the above recipe.

  • I too would like a solution to tanning lotions and self-tanning lotions.  Luckily my guests only stay an average of 4 nights, so most are not here long enough to cause a problem.

    That said…I just had guests leave and the white sheets were stained with blood and ink.  The blood is pretty easy to remove with cold water.  The ink was tricky and I tried everything, and nothing worked – bleach, Resolve, Didi Seven and then I tried hairspray and Dawn dish soap.  The hairspray worked! I had that tidbit stored away and had never tried it before.  Yeah!!!

    • how do you use hairspray on ink stain?

      • Since nothing else worked, I sprayed the ink stain with hairspray and it immediately started to disappear.  I then added a few drops of Dawn and waited about 30 minutes and the ink stain was gone.  I then washed the bed-sheet in the washer.  This was likely ink from a marker and not a ballpoint pen due to the size of the stain.

        I’m happy and the bed-sheet is happy!

  • Try Lestoil for oil based stains, it smells terrible but it gets out most stains. The smell will go away in about an hour or so. The bleach marks from acne treatments are a lost cause. I leave a “special” basket of wash clothes for make-up removal and acne treatments.

  • To remove blood, the best product is something called Haemo-Sol which is specifically formulated for cleaning surgical instruments.  The problem is that it is sold in a five pound bucket for about thirty-five dollars.

    If you have a friend who works in the right environment, he/she may be able to liberate a small quantity for you.

  • Curious to hear if anyone has tried Whink? Some reviewers mention success with sunblock stain removal on laundry. Last year I tried De-Solve It (not sure if the name is exactly right) but it was not completely effective and left a lingering smell. It did work great on clothes that had yellowing due to oily skin but it took multiple applications and again, the smell. I have a stack of ruined towels from last year to be donated to the local animal shelter, that and cutting up for rags is about all they are good for now.

  • Well I do put the information in the arrival instructions about the chemicals in Sun Screens now and how they yellow our towels and sheets.

    I provide brown washcloths and a card that reads “Sunscreen and makeup” on it for a hint.

    I use Oxi spray, Oxi powered, laundry soap, and bleach.  And can wash them up to 3 times.
    I had not heard of the peroxide, but will try that too.

    • Shampoo for oily stains, hydrogen peroxide for blood. Don’t know about the others.

  • If it’s an oil based stain them maybe the appropriate bottle from this kit STAIN REMOVAL KIT « Mötsenböcker’s LIFT OFF ®

    I put one of these kits in every one of my units.  It’s the best thing ever!  I’ve gotten ball point pen scribbles out of dining room chair cushions, blood out of EVERYTING, spaghetti sauce stains out of throw pillows, etc, etc.  I would think the oil based stain remover bottle would be the one to use for sunblock.

  • I have a problem with make up on my face cloths. We do supply make up remover pads and very inexpensive face clothes – but I would still like to be able to salvage them. I think it must be mascara because it’s black. Any suggestions for that to piggy back on this post?  I also have some towels that have a few orange stains here and there, not big. I have NO idea what that’s from. Any insight?

    • I use dark washcloths to help with the mascara stains.
      The yellow/orange is from one of the chemicals from the sunscreens.   Once washed with out treatment, you will have to really go for the big help, lots of bleach and oxi if they are white.

      Here’s what I found when search for a definitive answer


Steps for removing sunscreen stains

If iron content in water is not an issue: pretreat the stain with a heavy duty liquid detergent or make a paste with powder detergent/water and let this set on fabric at least 30 minutes or overnight.Then launder as usual. Check clothing before drying. If stain remains, repeat.

If the water has a high iron content, use a water softener . Be sure to wash and rinse clothing in warm water treated with a water softener.

High heat and chlorine bleach can make the problem worse if there is iron in the water.

If stain is still present, launder with a commercial rust remover. Commercial rust removers are for use only on white or colorfast fabrics.

If the garment is dry clean only, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

Hope that helps. What works for you? Leave your tips in the comments section below.