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The Best Life-Saving Stain Removers for your Dance Costume Disasters

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By Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

It is the day before your child’s dance recital or competition and you do one last check of their costume only to realize they have gotten red lipstick in a noticeable area during rehearsals. Or perhaps when they were sipping their water it accidentally dripped onto an applique and you put the costume away not realizing it was wet only to get it out and see the color from the embellishment transferred to the lycra!

To get a stain out of a dance costume in a hurry you can try hair spray, hand sanitizer, or micellar water. If you have more time some products you can try are Fels-Naptha, Grandma’s Secret Stain remover, or a combination of dawn washing detergent, vinegar, and baking soda – depending on the stain!

There are so many reasons a dance costume can get stained or dirty even when you try to take the best care you can for them.

But what can you do or try to get the stains out – especially if they need to wear them for a performance?

Well, we have heard on the grapevine some tried and tested products and techniques that other dance parents have used in the past and have put them all together here so that you can choose which solution will work best for your situation!

WARNING: All costumes are different and are made from different materials using different We just ask that you try them on an inconspicuous piece of the material first because the cleaners being used are trying to get the mark out, but if depending on the material it could be too strong and take the color out as well!

Also note this article contains affiliate links, which means if you choose to purchase a product we receive a small commission which helps us to maintain and create more helpful resources on this website!


The following suggestions are for when you find yourself on the spot. You are already at the performance venue or your child is about to go on stage – what can you do to try to remove the stain??

1. Hair Spray

For a stain that suddenly appears while you are at the performance venue, you really are not going to have too many options or solutions. But since you are a dance parent you are going to have a tried and tested solution on you – hair spray!!

Hairspray contains alcohol which is the active ingredient in it which we are going to hope gets your stain out. So a lot of parents out there claim that the cheaper the hairspray you use the better as they are more likely to contain more alcohol.

Put tissues or paper towels on the material behind the stain, spray the stain and then gently blot with a tissue or paper towel from both the front and back.

The hairspray will dry quickly and so you may have to spray several times to get it wet enough to work.

If you have time – check this method on an area of the costume that is inconspicuous or can’t be seen. The hairspray should dry out of most materials quickly but if you are having a bad day you don’t want to make it even worse by your material and costume being the exception.

Using hairspary can also work to get out marks on tights!

2. Hand Sanitizer

Again the active ingredient we are hoping will remove the mark from your costume or tights in hand sanitizer is the alcohol.

The main difference when you are on the spot is that hand sanitizer because of its water content will take longer to dry and so if you do not have the time – I would try the hairspray first.

But in saying that you may find the hand sanitizer works better as being wetter it is able to penetrate the stain and you are able to work it into the stain getting more of it out of the material. You may also find the concentration of alcohol is higher in the hand sanitizer and so it works better as well.

So this might be the solution for you if you have some time to allow the stain to dry after working it in and rinsing or blotting it out!

3. Micellar Water Make Up Remover

I was tying up my daughter’s ballet ribbons after doing her make-up for her recital and forgot that I had tested the lipstick on the back of my hand earlier. So of course, I ended up getting the lipstick onto her tights – a bright red mark!

So I thought for a moment about what I had on hand and thought if makeup remover gets makeup off the face, why not out of tights?

And so I squirted some onto a cotton makeup remover pad (a cotton ball or tissue would work too) and gently dabbed and blotted my daughter’s leg and within a few seconds, the stain was gone.

There was a small wet patch from the product but that dried within a few minutes! Personally, I like using the Garnier’s cleansing water for waterproof makeup pictured here!

4. Stain Removal Pen

So these should really be in the emergency case of any dance parent, so if you do not have one on you – be sure to ask around as you may find another parent happy and willing to share the one they brought with them with you!

I have found that most pens like these won’t for example easily remove foundation from the material – and unless you have blotted out the excess first – the pens as they are not wet enough may actually spread it.

But they can come in handy for most stains and are worth a try when you are desperate. Also, this particular brand has been found to be gentler on the fibers of material than most others!


The following solutions to getting out stains on your dance costumes are for when you have a little more time – that may be a week or it might be you need the costume the next day.

So we have included some solutions using cleaners you may already have at home, some that you can quickly pick up at the grocery store and other products you may have time to order online or find in a specialty hobby store.

1. Fels-Naptha Soap

For a stain where you can wash the costume area with water and soap, there were a lot of dance parents who said they haven’t found another solution better than Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar & Stain Remover.

You can buy this product in most US grocery stores very cheaply and many parents of boy dancers love it to clean their sons leotards and dance belts.

There are a variety of methods and ways of using a bar of laundry soap to clean a stain on a costume whether it is spot cleaning, cleaning the whole costume or making a paste with water and some grated soap. But I have heard that creating a bit of a lather with the soap first before applying really helps!

I have also heard some dance parents like to put a thin damp cloth over the soap when creating the lather and applying it to protect delicate materials.

2. Anodex Ink & Stain Remover

Amodex Ink and Stain Remover is a product that has been featured on shows like Martha Stewart and Good Morning America – it is also recommended by sharpies to help get out permanent marker stains!

There were a few dance parents that I spoke to that recommended this product saying it got everything out for them. They also liked it because it was non-toxic.

3. Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover

Grandma’s secret spot remover comes in two strengths. The spray bottle seems to have a formula that is weaker than the gel drops.

I know of parents who have gotten red lipstick easily off costumes using this stuff. But beware – I have also heard horror stories where because it is so strong it has taken the color out of the material.

So I would say this one is a good one to try especially on white material, but to always use the product on an inner seam of hem for example to make sure it is the right product for your costume!

4. Dawn

Dawn dishwashing detergent found in the kitchen of many homes is a general go-to for many dance parents.

Either by putting a drop onto the stain directly or diluting it with water and working it in before rinsing out the soap- many parents swear this simple solution works.

If you do try it – be patient with the drying time. Don’t use a hairdryer to speed up the process as this will most likely set the stain and make it almost impossible to remove if this simple method does not work.

5. Dawn, with vinegar and baking soda

This is similar to the previous suggestion only instead of diluting the dawn with water, you would dilute the dishwashing liquid with vinegar before applying it to the stain. You next cover the area with baking soda and work it all gently into the stain before rinsing the area with water.

This is supposed to work through the reaction of the vinegar to the baking soda which will foam and clean the material of the stain. Baking soda is also great for absorbing oily stains.

I have found that baking soda in the past has discolored materials if I have left it on for too long – thinking the longer I left it the more it was working – but this theory ended up ruining the item. So make sure you check this method on the material where it will not be noticed first!

6. Oxy Clean or Similar Stain Removal Laundry Staple

Why not have a look at what you have in your laundry first. Do you have an Oxy Clean gel stick like this one that you can try? Follow the directions on the stick or use it like you do on your clothes normally.

Or do you have their powder instead? – Make it into a paste with water and spot clean the costume stains.

Read the directions for using these types of cleaners as they give you tips on the best ways to use them for the best results.

8. Carbonna Stain Devels Formula for Make Up, Dirt & Grass

Carbonna makes a variety of stain removers and so for your particular stain you may need something else – but if you are trying to get makeup out of a costume you can try their formula specifically made for makeup!

They also have different products for food, blood, and dairy, and oil and motor stains.

Buying all their products may not be as budget-friendly as buying just the one as suggested above, but each is made to specifically break down the molecules of particular stains and when we are talking about an expensive, custom made costume – a custom solution may be what you are after!

9. Salt and Water

My two daughters alongside their dance lessons also do gymnastics and we have all these pretty lycra leotards that are made from materials that shine and shimmer – from the same mateirals you would use for a dance costume.

We have bought some recently from a local business who hand makes them and we were told to keep the glitter and shine on the leotards to clean them in warm water with salt rather than a more abrasive cleaning product.

So if your stain is something a little less likely to need something stronger such as a juice stain for example, and you are worried about the integrity of the material – this might be a great option for you!

10. Toothbrush

A regular unused toothbrush is a great tool for helping you work in the product into your stain. Because it is small you can control where you are scrubbing and also the intensity so you don’t damage the material.

Some parents also swore by using an electric toothbrush as whether using the laundry bar or dawn method or even some of the stain removers, some parents would mention that to help get the cleaning product with water really into the material they would use an electric toothbrush.

This in theory does sound like a great method to use, especially if you are needing to spot clean, as long as you do not overdo it!

Intense scrubbing could cause piling and for delicate materials to rip or tear or even discolor.

Test your material in an inconspicuous place first if you think your stain will really need some heavy-duty working to see how your material reacts.


1. Peroxide

Anything that says peroxide in the label or title should not be used on your costume unless it is white otherwise you will bleach the color!

2. Bleach

If you are unaware of what bleach is or does it basically releases checmicals that changes the molecules of a material to reflect no color which then looks white to the eye. You do not want to use this on your costume unless it is already white and even then some materials will not take to bleach well either.

One caveat on the bleach is a color safe bleach such as Chlorox2 for colors – though I would still test this out on your material somewhere inconspicuously first!


I know you were possibly wanting just one solution that works for everything and so I will tell you that the two most people agreed on were Grandma’s Secret and the Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap. These are the two I would definitely try to start with depending on the location and type of stain!

Good Luck and I hope these suggestions have been helpful!

You can also let me know how you went in so many ways – using the link to the contact form at the bottom of the site, in the Dance Parent 101 Private Facebook group, tagging me in your post on social media @danceparent101 I would love to include your experience in an article!