You’ve got stains? We’ve got answers.
No matter how fun the sex was, cleaning up after having a romp in the sack can be a real drag. There is nothing more annoying than a giant semen stain in the center of your mattress, or period blood splattered over your sheets like a crime scene. What in the heck are you supposed to do about these stains? How do you wash them? What products do you use? And, crucially, is treating a poop stain different than a semen stain?
These are questions I’m often asked as a sex educator and coach. I know a lot about cleaning sex toys, but I know very little about cleaning sex stains. So, I rounded up a few cleaning experts to get you the skinny on post-coital cleanup.
The first thing to know is that semen is a protein stain.
There are other ingredients in there, but protein is the trickiest bit to clean. If semen has landed on something that can’t be easily thrown in the washing machine—such as a couch cushion or a futon—then you can treat it by hand. “Protein stains are best treated with something like Clorox Urine Remover,” Mary Gagliardi, aka Clorox’s cleaning expert Dr. Laundry, says. “It contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a great way to get rid of protein-based stains on many types of fabrics. First, blot up as much as possible, then spray the stain(s), wait three minutes, and blot up with a damp cloth.”
One more important thing to note (especially if your sheets are shared with other people) is to be wary of bleach when cleaning up cum. Joshua Miller, director of technical training of Rainbow International, a professional restoration and cleaning services company, warns that bleach can set a protein stain like semen into sheets and upholstery. In other words, that stain is sticking around forever now.
After you’re finished having sex, you may want to wash your sheets. However, there are a few things you should know before sticking them in the washing machine. Gagliardi says to wash your cotton or poly blend sheets and bedding in hot water, which won’t harm them. Vaginal fluid and semen are pretty easy stains to remove from those fabrics, and the hotter the water, the better it cleans your sheets.
For satin and silk sheets, you’ll have to clean them differently.
“Don’t agitate the stain,” Gagliardi advises. “Use cool water to rinse any stains first, pretreat if you need, and then hand wash using at least two gallons of warm or hot water with detergent.”
Believe it or not, you don’t want to use too much detergent. “Check the ingredient list and make sure it has enzymes and an optical whitener in addition to the cleaning agents,” Gagliardi says. “Make sure you add the right amount. Using too much can cause over-sudsing, which cushions the load and reduces cleaning performance.”
If you’re engaging in anal play, you’re likely going to come in contact with poop. It happens. You’re dealing with the hole that poop comes out of. Get over it and move on, so you can enjoy yourself.
That being said, there are things to consider when it comes to cleaning up sheets that have fecal matter on them. “First, rinse away excess solids with cool water,” Gagliardi tells us. “Then, wash white bleach-safe fabrics with the hottest water recommended on the care label, plus a half cup of bleach. After it’s done, air dry, and check it out.”
But remember, semen and bleach don’t mix! If there is semen mixed with the fecal matter, bleach is a no-go.
Sometimes sex comes along with a little spotting, or perhaps you simply enjoy period sex. While period sex is normal and healthy, it can do a number on your sheets. It’s best to use a rattier, older set of sheets if you have your period, or throw an old towel underneath the location where you’re having sex.
Alas, you can’t always prepare for surprises. Blood happens sometimes, especially in cases where not enough foreplay took place. It’s important to first rinse the blood stain with cold water to get as much of the blood out as possible, and then add a stain remover, such as OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder. Then let it sit. “Wait 10 minutes, and then rinse in cool water,” Gagliardi says. “If the stain is fresh, repeat the process again, and then finally wash the item in warm water using detergent.”
If you happen to get period blood on your walls, here’s one of my tried-and-true tricks: A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It removes blood stains from wallpaper, painted walls, and drywall like a charm.
Having sex without lube is like having a Moscow Mule without ginger beer—not as good and probably uncomfortable.
When the lube spills, or it drips on the sheets from your hands or body, you’ll want to tailor the cleanup to the ingredients in the lube. Water-based and oil-based lubes are pretty straightforward. “For most oil- and water-based lubricant stains, you can go about your normal laundering process,” Miller says. “Similar to cleaning bodily fluid stains, try blotting the soiled area with a damp white cotton towel using a mixture of cold water and an enzyme detergent.”
When it comes to silicone lube, things are a little more complicated but removal is totally doable. Before you wash your sheets, you’ll want to pretreat the area. “It’s recommended to pre-treat the area on dry fabric with a general stain remover, such as Shout,” Miller tells SELF. “You can then apply an enzyme detergent, or even Dawn dish soap, onto the stain.”
Lubricant should be cleaned up quickly from fabrics. If you let a lube stain set, it will likely stay put no matter how much you wash it, Miller says.
For the times when stains leak through your sheets, there are a few options for cleanup. You can use a damp cotton towel dipped in an “enzyme detergent or with a DIY stain removal paste made by combining cold water, dish detergent, baking soda, and over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide,” Miller says. (Always carefully read labels before mixing chemical ingredients at home.) He advises that you work from the outer edges of the stain inward. “Blot the area with the paste and the stain should begin to disappear,” he says. A pro tip: Get a mattress protector. You simply pull it off every few weeks or months months and toss it in the washing machine.
Whatever your sex mess might be, there is a way around it. Just pay attention to the type of stain you’re dealing with and have patience with the cleanup.