Adding antifreeze to a car is a necessary step to keep the engine running smoothly. Without antifreeze, water will turn to ice in cold weather, expand and damage engine parts. Unfortunately, many times the antifreeze splatters and spills as it is being poured in leaving a messy stain on clothing. Manufacturers make antifreeze from a combination of chemicals including specific types of alcohol, agents to buffer the chemicals and lastly dye. The various colors of dye which include reds, greens, yellows or blues are added to the mixture in order to identify the type of alcohol used to make the antifreeze. Various antifreeze colors cannot be mixed when adding coolant to an engine so the stains on your clothing from spills and splashes will most likely fall into one of the color groups unless you own more than one vehicle.

As with any type of clothing stain, quick action is one of the keys to success as well as using the right stain removal products. Never attempt to launder fabric stains and throw the garment in a clothes dryer or iron the fabric if the stain is still present because the heat from an iron or clothes dryer will set the stain permanently into the fabric’s fibers.

Treating antifreeze-stains on Clothing

Remove the clothing – hopefully in the privacy of your home.

Grab a bucket or plastic basin

Read the fabric care label to determine the hottest water safe for the particular fabric. Pay attention to the label, if the clothing manufacturer writes warm water only, hot water can damage the fabric.

Lay the stained item across the bucket or basin with the stain facing toward the bottom of the bucket. The wrong side of the stain will face you.

Run the hottest water safe for the fabric from a faucet into a measuring cup or pitcher.

Pour the water from the pitcher or measuring cup onto the wrong side of the stain to flush the antifreeze back out of the fabric from the same direction from which it entered. Flushing a stain from the same side it entered pushes the dyes and chemicals deeper into the fabric making stain removal more difficult.

Cover the antifreeze-stain with liquid laundry detergent. If you do not have laundry detergent, you can substitute liquid dish soap or if you have powdered detergent, add a few tablespoons of detergent to a bowl or cup, slowly pour water into the powder while stirring constantly until the powder dissolves and has a thick consistency. Pour the dissolved powdered detergent onto the antifreeze-stain.

Dip a clean white rag into water and rub the rag over the stain. Begin at the outer edges of the stain and work toward the middle. Only use a white rag because a rag that has been dyed can transfer the color of the dye onto your clothing. Continue to work the detergent into the stain until the detergent is pushed deep into the fibers of the fabric.

Fill a measuring cup or pitcher with water, using the hottest water that is safe for the type of fabric.

Pour the water onto the stained area, pushing the detergent out of the fabric into the bucket or basin.

If the Antifreeze-Stain Remains

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of an oxygenated bleach such as Oxy Clean to a small bowl or cup.

Add water to the Oxy Clean while stirring continuously until the oxygenated bleach becomes a watery paste.

Dip a clean white rag into the Oxy Clean paste and dab it onto the fabric, pushing it into the fibers. Continue to dab on the Oxy Clean until it covers the entire stain – still from the wrong side of the stain.

Let the Oxy Clean remain on the stain for 10 to 15 minutes.

 Fill the washing machine with water, using the hottest water safe for the fabric.

Add 1 to 2 scoops of Oxy clean and ¼ cup of laundry detergent to the washer.

Place the stained clothing in the washer and allow the washing machine to go through a full cycle.

After the washer is off, remove the garment from the washer. Closely look at it to determine if the antifreeze-stain has been completely removed. If the antifreeze-stain is gone, hang the item to dry or throw it in a clothes dryer as you normally would.

After Washing

If the antifreeze-stain is still on the fabric or if it appears to be lighter, begin the stain removal process a second time beginning with the first steps working down to the Oxy Clean and washing the garment in a washing machine. This process can be repeated several times as long as you can see the antifreeze-stain progressively lighten with each attempt.


You will have a more successful outcome if you address and treat the antifreeze-stains as soon as a spill or splash occurs. Waiting will typically result in a permanent stain because the dyes antifreeze manufacturers use are permanent dyes.

Never apply heat from an iron or from a clothes dryer to stained clothing regardless of the type of stain because the heat does set the stain.

If the clothing care labels state the fabric can only be dry cleaned, do not attempt to clean the item with laundry detergent or Oxy Clean because the liquid can ruin the fabric.

If you get an antifreeze-stain on a dry clean only item, take it to the dry cleaners immediately and tell them it is an antifreeze-stain. The stain removal success will depend on the type of fabric and if you’ve gotten it to the dry cleaners fast enough.


Always use care when filling a car with antifreeze especially if you have pets. Pets are attracted to the sweet smell and taste, which many times can have fatal consequences. If you’ve spilled or splashed antifreeze on your hands while adding it to your car, wash your hands thoroughly before interacting with your pet or before eating or putting your hands near your mouth. Antifreeze can have the same consequences for humans.