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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Bleach Stain on Shoes

By Dr. Laundry November 21, 2011

Q:  How do you remove a Clorox® Regular Bleach stain out of shoes?

A:  This sounds like quite a problem because stains caused by undiluted bleach are unfortunately not reversible.  The trick is to try to keep the shoes wearable by either camouflaging the spot or bleaching the rest of the shoes so they are at least uniform in color.  This assumes the shoes are cotton canvas—if they are leather, that material (along with wool, silk, mohair, and spandex) should never be bleached and additional bleach treatments will just damage them more.  For cotton shoes, here are some different approaches for you to try.

To camouflage a white spot on colored shoes, find a felt pen that matches the shoe color and use it to fill in the spot.  It helps to take the shoes to the store to match the color—the staff will probably let you experiment, and then be sure to keep the pen on hand for touch ups in the future.  This works very well with black Sharpie permanent markers on black items, so hopefully you can match the color.

You can also try to strip the remaining color on the shoes with Clorox® Ultimate Care Bleach, a thickened bleach product with a lower hypochlorite active level that’s safe to apply directly to bleachable fabric.  Working on a white towel, remove the shoelaces from the shoes and set them aside.  Then, apply Clorox® Ultimate Care Bleach directly to the entire canvas surface of the shoes, and rub in with a soft brush for 5 -10 minutes (note that this is a longer contact time than what’s typically recommend for pre-treating with this product).  Next, wash the shoes, with the towel, in hot water and detergent in your clothes washer on a short cycle—this works particularly well in a front loading HE washer.  Allow the shoes to air dry completely, and repeat the treatment if necessary.