Stain removal is always tricky, but getting rid of sunscreen stains is particularly tough. On the cans or bottles of many sunscreens, you'll find a note warning that the product could stain fabric. But 19 of the dozens of sunscreens we tested for their ability to protect against the sun's ultraviolet rays didn’t mention staining at all.

To see whether these sunscreens would stain fabric, we smeared black and white cotton and polyester swatches with each product. We let the swatches sit for about 24 hours, then washed them with detergent in cold water. After they air-dried, we washed them again.

Only two of the sunscreens, CeraVe Face Lotion SPF 30 and Kiss My Face Baby’s First Kiss SPF 50, came out of the wash stain-free. (Unfortunately, these products were not among our recommended sunscreens.)

Ingrid Johnson, a professor in the textile development and marketing department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, says that you can't wash sunscreen stains out very easily. She suggests sprinkling baby powder or corn starch on the stain, which might absorb the sunscreen. Once the powder turns damp, you can brush it off—and maybe the stain along with it.  


Editor's Note: This article was adapted from the July 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.