Sunscreen is essential when you are heading out into the sun, even if you are just using a low SPF to build a tan. The problem with sunscreen is that it tends to get everywhere, no matter how careful you are once it has been applied.
You might not mind if the sunscreen gets onto your towel or your swimsuit, but if it gets onto your car interior, it could stain.
How do you remove sunscreen from a car interior? There are a few methods you can use to remove sunscreen from a car interior. The options include soapy water, vinegar, baking soda, or just using a microfiber cloth. The oils in sunscreen can cause long-lasting stains, so you need to treat the stains as they happen.
We’ve covered all you need to know about how best to remove sunscreen from your car interior, so keep reading!
Can Sunscreen Stain Car Interiors
It is worth removing any residue sunscreen from your car interior, as it is a substance that can stain. The reason that sunscreen stains car interiors is because it is an oily substance, and oil can be really difficult to lift off of different materials.
Most sunscreens also contain an ingredient called avobenzone, which absorbs ultraviolet light to help protect the skin, but this chemical is known to react with iron found in water, and if this happens, a rust-colored stain can be left behind.
When removing sunscreen from a car interior, you need to use something that will break down and absorb the oil, to ensure no stain is left behind. Some sunscreens are also waterproof, so you will need something a little stronger to break it down!
Methods To Remove Sunscreen From Car Interiors
Below are the best methods to remove sunscreen from car interiors, and some advice on which method to use for the different areas of your car interior:
White vinegar is an effective cleaning product in many situations, and when it comes to sunscreen, it can break up the oil found in sunscreen and remove it from your car’s interior. White vinegar is easy to come by and affordable, and it won’t leave behind an odor in your car.
Here is how to remove sunscreen using white vinegar:
- Spray or apply some white vinegar onto the sunscreen stain in the car interior. Spray enough to wet the area and cover the stain, but do not soak it too much.
- If the interior is leather, then immediately wipe it away using a microfiber towel. If the interior is non-leather, leave the vinegar to soak for a few minutes.
- If non-leather, use a non-abrasive brush to scrub the vinegar and oil away gently and then wipe it away with a clean towel.
Best used for: Vinegar is best used for cleaning sunscreen off of your car seats. Just keep in mind that you cannot leave the vinegar to sit too long on leather seats, as it could destroy the protective layer, and you should not scrub away at leather seats.
You can use vinegar to remove sunscreen on car carpets too, and if the sunscreen has got onto any fabric or leather areas of your steering wheel.
Baking soda is another common pantry item that can be used for so many cleaning purposes. You can use baking soda to soak up the sunscreen and oils in the interior of your car, to remove any stains. It is best used when the sunscreen has just come into contact with your car, and not for an older stain.
Here is how to use baking soda to remove a stain from your car interior:
- Use a paper towel or a microfiber towel to blot it as much of the sunscreen as you can. Make sure the towel is clean so that you do not add more dirt to the stain.
- Once you have blotted as much of the sunscreen as possible, pour a generous amount of baking soda directly onto the stain, covering it completely.
- Leave the baking soda to sit on the stain for up to 15 minutes. This allows it enough time to soak up the oils and the other chemicals in the sunscreen.
- After 15 minutes, use a handheld vacuum to remove the baking soda from the surface. The stain should have disappeared. If not, repeat the above steps.
Baking soda can be used for older stains, but you will then have to make a paste using baking soda and white vinegar, to help lift up the stain and remove it from the surface. This paste can be left to sit on the stain for 5 minutes before being removed.
Best used for: Baking soda is best used for non-leather fabrics and car carpets. It removes sunscreen that has freshly stained the interior. Try not to use baking soda on leather, as it can be quite abrasive and ruin the top surface of the leather.
Soapy water is most of our go-to solutions for stains and mess, but you do need to be careful when using soapy water to remove sunscreen stains.
You will first have to look at the ingredient list of the sunscreen. If it contains avobenzone, then soapy water might not be a good idea, as this chemical reacts with iron in water and can cause a rust-colored stain.
Soapy water can be fine to use on non-fabric surfaces, such as in crevices, on handles, and on dashboards.
Here is how to use soapy water to remove sunscreen:
- Use a wet towel or tissue to remove any sunscreen residue from the surface, this just helps make the soapy water more effective. Blot the sunscreen instead of wiping it, which might spread the stain more.
- Mix some warm water with some dish soap in a bowl, mixing it together to foam it slightly.
- Use a clean sponge or a clean cloth to pick up some of the foam and soapy water, and then gently scrub it into the sunscreen stain. Put some pressure on the stain, but not enough to damage the surface.
- Once the stain has started to lift, wipe the surface clean using a dry tissue or clean towel.
- You may have to repeat this process again for tougher stains.
Best used for: Soapy water is best used to remove stains on hard surfaces in the car. If sunscreen gets onto the dashboard, steering well or the doors, soapy water will work fine. It is best to try the other methods for fabric seats.
Microfiber towels can be helpful to remove sunscreen that has just appeared in your car interior. If the sunscreen has not had time to set in and do much damage, then an absorbent microfiber towel (check out this pack on Amazon) can be just what you need to lift the product.
Here is the simple process of using a microfiber towel to remove a sunscreen stain:
- If the stain has not sunk into the surface yet and is still new, use a clean microfiber cloth to dab at the surface.
- Make sure to dab at the surface and not rub the stain, as this could actually spread it more and cause it to sink in further.
- After blotting the sunscreen for some time, it should have lifted from the surface. Wetting the microfiber cloth slightly can help lift it more.
- If the sunscreen is not lifting, try using some white vinegar or baking soda to break up the oils, before blotting it again.
Best used for: You can use a microfiber towel for any area of the car interior where the sunscreen has just appeared on the surface. It can work for leather and non-leather seats, plastic surfaces, crevices, and all other areas.
Above you will find various methods to use to remove sunscreen from a car interior, but make sure to check that the method you are wanting to use is fine for the material/fabric where the sunscreen stain is.
Non-leather and leather car seats need to be treated differently, to not ruin the fabric, and removing sunscreen from hard surfaces in the car does not require as much work as removing it from fabric.
In future, place a towel down on the seat when getting into your car with sunscreen on, to prevent any more stains from appearing!
If we didn’t answer all your questions here, take a look at this video tutorial from OCDetailing on YouTube.
Here are a few more questions that might pop into mind when removing sunscreen from a car interior:
How do you remove a sunscreen stain from clothes?
Sunscreen can cause oil stains on clothes. To remove it, you can use warm water and dish soap to blot away the stain, working from the outside of the stain in. Once this is done, rinse the area with cold water.
After this, place the clothes into the washing machine and use a stain removal detergent and wash as normal.
Why do sunscreen stains turn yellow?
Even clear or white sunscreens can cause a yellow stain. This is because the avobenzone in sunscreen reacts with iron in water, and causes a yellow or brown stain. Not all sunscreens contain this chemical, so check to see whether the one you use does.
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