How to remove wax from skin and clothes

Cleaning experts explain how to remove wax from skin, your clothes and anywhere else after a sticky spill

Cropped Image Of Hand Holding wooden spatula with pink Hair Removal Wax dripping of it on a light blue background
(Image credit: Future/Getty)

You already know it’s easy to use wax for removing unwanted body hair. Well, turns out it’s also really easy to drip and spill it all over the place. Whoops. But if you’re like most of us, there are a few important things you don’t know yet—like how to remove wax from skin without ripping off hair you actually planned on keeping. 

If a hair removal incident left your clothes covered in splotches of hot wax, you may also be frantically trying to figure out where to start the clean-up process. 

By this point, you’re probably secretly wishing you opted for at-home laser hair removal instead. But for now, you’re left to deal with a gooey mess.

Luckily, the cleaning experts have you covered. Here’s what they say about how to remove wax from skin and clothes. 

How to remove wax from skin (without pulling out your hair)

Waxing is a great hair removal option for dark skin and light skin, for whether you're looking to remove facial hair, smooth the legs or stomach or want to remove pubic hair without shaving—but if you drop it in the wrong place, it can cause havoc and maybe some bald strips you weren’t planning on...Don’t panic! Just try this simple technique for how to remove wax from skin without also ripping off body hair.

Gently wipe off the wax using an oil-based product

“In order to remove wax from the skin, you’ll need an oil-based product,” says Jodie Hamilton, cleaning expert at Amazing Services (opens in new tab). This will help to soften and break down the wax so it slides right off your skin. “You can use mineral oil, massage oil, olive oil, petroleum jelly, or even makeup remover with an oil base. Use a cotton pad to apply the oil to the wax, and gently rub the skin until the wax is removed.”

If you have dry or sensitive skin you could even use popular skincare oils like argan oil, marula oil or tamanu oil.

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of cleaning company ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba (opens in new tab), recommends massaging the area with a cotton pad soaked in slightly warm extra-virgin olive oil. “This technique not only removes the wax, but it leaves your skin moisturized,” she says.

How to get wax out of clothes and fabric

The trick to getting wax off of your clothes is to gently lift the wax off the surface of the fabric. Whatever you do, don’t rub it in—this will only make things worse.

As Adriana Aziz advises, “Never rub the wax into the fabric while washing or it may become permanent.” The deeper the wax gets into the fibers, the harder it is to remove.

Instead of reaching for a scrubbing brush, try one of two main tactics: Harden the wax and scrape off the pieces, or melt the wax and gently lift off the residue.

Let’s walk through each technique step by step, then we’ll touch on laundering tips to ensure your clothes stay stain-free.

Option one—Step one: Freeze the wax and pick off the pieces

“Ice can be used to help the wax harden and settle, making it easier to remove,” says Catherine. “Place a bag of ice on the wax stain and leave it in place for about 10 minutes. Afterward, simply peel the wax off.” 

If peeling proves difficult, try snapping larger pieces into smaller chunks and scraping off the residue with a butter knife or spatula.

“If you still see a spot or two of wax, put the garment in the freezer for about half an hour,” suggests Adriana Aziz, operations manager at MaidForYou (opens in new tab). This should harden the remaining bits, making them easier to scrape off.

This is the preferred method for heat-sensitive fibers like nylon, acetate, and acrylic which will scorch if you try the next method.

Option two—Step one: Melt off remaining wax using an iron and paper

“Another solution would be to iron the wax out,” notes Alex Varela, general manager at Dallas Maids (opens in new tab). The trick is to cover the stained garment with a layer of paper that will act like a sponge to lift off the gooey wax. You’ll also want to go slow and steady, using low heat without steam.

“Just place a brown paper bag on top of the stain,” Alex explains. “On top of that, place a dish towel. As you iron, the heat will soften the wax which will stick to the brown paper bag.”

Step two: Treat the fabric with a stain remover before laundering

After you manage to get the wax chunks off, Diana says to “spray the area with a stain remover and toss in the washer at the recommended fabric settings.” 

Alternatively, you can spritz on a stain remover and hand-wash delicate items with mild soap and water. This step can ensure your clothes come out of the laundry without any discolored spots. 

For dry-clean-only garments, “Wax can be removed from fabric with a dry cleaning solvent like perchloroethylene or carbon tetrachloride,” according to Adriana. 

Start with a spot test to ensure it doesn’t damage the fabric. Adriana recommends being careful with silk, rayon, and polyester knits as these may not hold up well to strong chemicals. When you’re done successfully blotting away the stained spots, “rinse the area well to remove any cleaner residue.”

Can wax stain or damage your clothes if you don’t clean it off?

It can be tempting to put off the damage control until tomorrow. But by that time, unfortunately, it’ll be too late to save your favorite PJs.

As Diana points out, “Wax stains contain oils and dyes that can permanently damage clothing.”

Depending on the type of hair removal product you’re using, the spill could leave your clothes with anything from oily spots of discoloration to stubborn, dark stains.

“If a wax stain is left untreated, it will seep into the fabric of your clothing and solidify,“ explains Catherine Burns of Fantastic Cleaners (opens in new tab). “I recommend taking immediate care if you see wax stains on your clothes. That way, the wax will come off much more easily.”

Wax drips and spills can be stressful, but if you act quickly and work patiently, you can get yourself out of that sticky situation.

If you've been put off by waxing after an incident though, you could always try alternative hair removal options like laser hair removal, at home ipl or shaving—however be aware that this can cause ingrown hairs in some areas.

But our advice is to go on with your waxing routine—whether that's on your face, legs, arms or a bikini or brazilian wax. Feel free to act like it never happened—we won’t tell a soul!

My Imperfect Life thanks Jodie Hamilton of Amazing Services, Diana Rodriguez-Zaba of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, Catherine Burns of Fantastic Cleaners, Adriana Aziz of MaidForYou, and Alex Varela of Dallas Maids for their time and expertise.

Aleesha is deputy editor for My Imperfect Life, where she heads up the beauty, fashion and eCommerce pages. Previously she was shopping writer for woman&home and gained an AOP awards nomination after working on their news team. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. When she’s not testing new products, Aleesha spends her time soaking up the newest bestsellers and Netflix releases, learning about different wines, attempting new languages and travelling as much as she can.