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Black dye on white dress shirt. What do I do ?

By Dr. Laundry May 22, 2016

Q: Black dye on white dress shirt says not to use bleach or hot water . What do I do ? Already tried Clorox stain remover didn’t work   A: Thanks for sending the care instructions, which might be taking it a little too easy on the white shirt.  White cotton items really benefit from washing with detergent and Clorox® Regular-Bleach to keep them clean, white and bright.  I would start by checking the care label again, this time for fiber content.  If this information wasn’t included with the care instructions, it will be in a separate location on the shirt (probably the side seam).   Ideally the shirt is 100% cotton or a poly/cotton blend.  However, these days there’s a good chance the shirt also includes some spandex (also called Lycra or sometimes elastane) to give it a tiny bit of stretch.  If that’s the case, then you can’t use Clorox® Regular-Bleach or Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel because you should always avoid bleaching spandex, as well as wool, silk, mohair, and leather.  The shirt is still not necessarily labeled correctly—you should be able to use a color-safe peroxide based bleach such as liquid Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.  It’s great for pretreating—just apply a little directly to the dye stain and rub it in.  Wait 10 minutes (use a timer–do not let it dry out on the fabric), and then wash in hot water using detergent and more Clorox2®.  Air dry and check for success.  Depending on the type of dye you may have to repeat this to get the stain all the way out.  It also will help if the shirt has been kept out of a hot dryer.   Of course I am still hoping when you check the care label you will find that the shirt is all cotton or cotton/polyester.  If that’s the case, you should be able to pretreat the stain with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.  This product has the same sodium hypochlorite bleach active as our regular bleach, but at a lower level that is safe to apply to directly to white bleach-safe fabric.  Use the soft scrubber tip to rub the gel into the stain and then immediately wash the shirt in hot water using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Air dry and check for success—if the dye is super concentrated you may need multiple treatments to get the stain out all the way.   It’s always interesting to me the way white shirts are labeled.  They really need to be washed in hot water to be kept clean.  If this means a shirt will shrink, then the shirt was poorly made.  And sometimes clothing manufacturers make one overly cautious label they use for all the different colors in a garment line, including white ones.  Since you have a shirt that is otherwise ruined, it certainly won’t hurt to try hot water, and if there’s no spandex, Clorox® Regular-Bleach!  Good luck, and let me know how it turns out.   –Dr. Laundry