Zinc oxide acts as the starring ingredient in many diaper rash creams and works as a barrier against sun exposure in certain sunscreens. In these products, the zinc included is a white powder that can stain fabrics. When it's coupled with the oil bases used in skincare products, the substance and possible stains are difficult to remove, especially from bedding, upholstery and carpets. The key is to work the stain from various angles, removing the excess and then drying up and eliminating the oil before tackling the remaining stain.
Upholstery, Rugs and Non-Machine Washable Fabrics
Scrape the excess zinc cream off of the fabric with a butter knife and an old credit card or piece of paper, using the knife to push the cream onto the other surface. This prevents the cream from smearing into the surrounding unstained fabric.
Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch over the area liberally, until you can't see the zinc or fabric. Let this sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours, and then vacuum it off. Do not use a brush or any other method that causes friction.
Wet a lint-free white cloth with unflavored vodka. Starting from the center of the stain, dab outward until you reach the edge. Do not rub or scrub the mark because this can spread the remaining zinc. Work until the stain is no longer visible.
Apply baking soda or cornstarch again while the fabric is still wet. Let it sit until dry, at least three hours, and then vacuum it off.
Inspect the stain. If it's still visible, treat it with vodka and baking soda again. If this doesn't work, dilute grease-fighting dish detergent with cold water. Dab the stain until it lifts, and then dry it with baking soda. Dish-washing detergent can fade the color of many fabrics; only attempt this if nothing else works and after testing the detergent in an inconspicuous area.
Bedding and Other Machine Washable Fabrics
Scrape off the excess zinc and apply baking soda to the affected area. Let it sit for 24 hours, and then brush it off with your hand.
Treat the stain with diluted laundry detergent or a stain treatment spray. Spray both sides of the fabric for the best results. Work the treatment into the fabric, but only over the stain. Let this sit for at least four hours, or overnight.
Wash the fabric according to the item's tag with laundry detergent and all-fabric oxygen bleach. Let the fabric air dry. If the stain is still present once dry, treat and wash the fabric again. Do not heat-dry the item until you're sure that you've eliminated the stain.