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How To Remove Breast Milk Stains from Clothes

Medically Reviewed by Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
No need to change your whole wardrobe! Get breast milk stains out with these 6 simple steps.

Is your breast milk dripping like a leaky faucet at all hours without consideration for your whereabouts or wardrobe? Are you wondering if your milk is going to cause stains and worried about how you’re going to get them out of your clothes?

When getting my baby clothes out of storage for my second baby, I was surprised to find prominent yellow stains on them that weren’t there when I put them in the tote.

I was disappointed, but I was adamant to get them out, because we didn’t have the money to buy a whole new wardrobe. But why did these stains appear after the fact, and how was I going to remove them?

We’ll discuss why breast milk leaves such prominent stains, the best products for removal, how you can avoid breast milk stains, and the six simple steps for removing even the toughest of breast milk stains.

Why Does Breast Milk Leave Such Prominent Stains?

As you’ll soon find out, breast milk just keeps on giving. You’ll find these prominent yellow stains on your baby’s clothes, burp cloths, and blankets from your baby spitting up breast milk.

Breast milk stains, much like blood, feces, and dairy products are known as protein-based stains. They are caused by animal-based products or secretions.

Protein stains need to be treated promptly, kept away from heat, and require enzymes to break them down (1).


If not treated properly, these milk proteins can cause stains that appear months to even years later, especially if you store your baby’s clothes in an airtight plastic container.

Which Cleaning Products are Safe to Use?

It seems like there are a billion different stain remover products on the market, but how do you know which one is safe to use on your clothes, nursing attire and more importantly, your baby’s clothes?

Whether you go for a natural or synthetic option is a personal choice, but no matter what, you should look for a product with the fewest allergens and irritants as possible when using them on your baby’s clothes.

You’ll want to choose the mildest product possible that gets the job done, but you’ll also need a detergent and stain remover with enzymes in order to break down those stubborn proteins in breast milk. Enzymes will attack the stains by digesting the proteins (2).


Do not use cleaners with enzymes on wool or silk, as it could potentially ruin the garment.

Can I Use Bleach?

Oxygen color-safe bleach can also be effective in removing protein-based stains, such as breast milk, but it could cause some serious health concerns, especially when used around children. Bleach contains harsh chemicals that can irritate the nose, eyes, and skin, and can even cause respiratory issues and skin burns (3).

Because of these risks, it’s probably best to just avoid bleach when removing stains from your baby’s clothes.

How Can I Avoid Breast Milk Stains?

To avoid dealing with breast milk stains in the future, try out some of these tips:

  • Clean up accidents immediately.
  • Wear nursing pads.
  • Place an old blanket, towel, or t-shirt you don’t care about over your nursing pillow.
  • Store your baby’s clothes in a container with good airflow.
  • Use cold water at all stages of the stain removal to prevent the stain from setting.

6 Simple Steps to Removing Breast Milk Stains

Ready to get rid of those stubborn stains? Roll up your sleeves, put on some gloves and follow these 6 simple steps for removing even the toughest of breast milk stains.

1. Rinse the Breast Milk Off ASAP.

Rinsing the breast milk off as soon as you can will give your clothing the best possible chance at fighting off that stain. Soak your garment in cold water to prevent the stain from setting.

It may not be a bad idea to carry an extra wet bag in your diaper bag so you can rinse your clothes off while you’re out and about.

2. Spray With Stain Remover of Choice.

Pretreating is the key to stain removal. After you’ve rinsed your clothing item, spray the stained area with a natural or synthetic stain remover of your choice.

Natural Stain Removers

If you want to limit your family’s exposure to harsh chemicals, then you’ll probably want to use one of these natural stain removers:

  • Buncha Farmers Stain Stick: This all-natural, environmentally-friendly stain remover is made with saponified coconut oil and borax. The stick can be rubbed directly on the stain or you can make a spray by grating the stick into some water.
  • Lemon juice: One-hundred percent real lemon juice is a great option for white clothing, as it has a natural bleaching action due to its acetic acid.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is an effective bleach alternative that works well even on the toughest of stains. Plus, it’s safe for the environment.

Synthetic Stain Removers

If you’re not overly concerned about chemicals and just want something convenient and effective, then one of these synthetic stain removers may work well for you:

  • Fels Naptha Laundry Bar: Fels Naptha is stain removal magic, according to some parents. It’s not only an inexpensive way to pretreat stains, but it also has several other uses around the house like treating mildew, cleaning your carpets and making handmade soap.
  • Medela Soap: This is usually used for bottles and pump parts, but it’s also great for nursing clothes.
  • Biz: This stain fighter is loaded with enzymes, so it’s sure to remove quite the variety. It can be used as a pre-treatment or even added to the wash cycle.
  • OxiClean Baby Stain Remover: OxiClean has earned a good reputation for getting stains out.
  • Dawn Dish Soap: A squirt of Dawn can do just as good of a job as your typical stain remover.

3. Scrub the Area.

Gently scrub the stained area with an old sponge or a soft-bristled brush, like a toothbrush. I like to keep old toothbrushes just for this purpose, but you could also buy a pack at your local dollar store.

4. Let it Soak.

After you’ve pre-treated and scrubbed the stained area, let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes or as directed on the stain remover bottle before throwing it in the wash. With most stain removal products, you could even just throw the item in the hamper and wash it a day or two later.

However, you would not want to do this with any soap product, as it will most likely leave grease stains.

5. Wash Like Normal.

Be sure to use a baby-friendly detergent when washing any baby items. Remember to choose a detergent with enzymes in order to break down the breast milk stain and avoid ones with fabric softeners, dyes, and perfumes.

With protein-based stains like breast milk, it’s best to avoid heat at every stage of removal, so be sure to machine wash the garment on cold or cool, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Dry in the Sun.

The sun acts as a natural bleacher, so lay your clothes outside to dry if you can. If you live in a colder climate and this isn’t an option, then simply let your clothes sit at the window for a few hours to a day after drying them.

If your clothing has colors and prints on it, you may want to limit the time in the sun or turn them inside out while drying to avoid fading.

If you plan on throwing your garments in the dryer, be sure to check for any remnants of the stain firs. You’ll want to avoid heat and rework the stain if it’s still there, otherwise it will set in.

Bye-Bye Breast Milk Stains!

Breast milk stains can create quite a headache for moms. These protein-based stains can be difficult to remove as they require direct action and enzymes.

But don’t give up on those hand-me-downs quite yet. Even the toughest of breast milk stains can be removed by following the steps above.

Before you know it, those yellow-spit-up stains will be gone, and your clothes will be looking good as new!

Headshot of Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Medically Reviewed by

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN is an oncology nurse navigator and freelance medical writer. Mary has 4 years of experience as an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps. including emergency/trauma, post-anesthesia, and deployment medicine.