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Bleaching Clothes that Became Discolored in the Wash

By Dr. Laundry November 8, 2013

I had a red garment ruin all my light colors.  How do I get rid of these pink stains?

 

When dye transfer is the problem, items that can be safely laundered with Clorox® Regular-Bleach can usually be restored with a bleach soaking solution. Some colored items actually are safely bleachable—it depends on which dye was used and how it was applied. Check your items by figuring out which ones are safely bleachable. First, check the care labels and be sure you don’t bleach any items made of wool, silk, mohair, spandex, and leather. With spandex (the care label may also say “Lycra” or “Elastane”) even a small percentage should not be bleached, so it’s very important to check. 

Next, check the colored items for colorfastness to bleach with this simple bleachability test: add 1 ½ teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach to ¼ cup water; apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the each item (like a hem, cuff, collar, or inside seam); wait 1 minute then blot dry; no color change from the original color means the item can be safely bleached. For the items that pass, try soaking them in a solution of 3 tablespoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach diluted in 1 gallon cool water. The color may come off right away, or it may take a few minutes—just be sure to limit the soak time to no more than 5 minutes. Rinse the items thoroughly and allow them to air dry. It’s important to keep the items out of the dryer so the heat doesn’t set the dye! 

Hopefully the pink color will be gone, but if it is lighter, then repeat the bleach soak again. However, if the bleach soak leaves the pink color unchanged, then you can try using RIT color remover, which is available from craft, drug and hardware stores. Experiment with dilute solutions—you need it just strong enough to strip the pink color but not so strong that it strips the original item color, as well. RIT is also appropriate for items that contain spandex or are not colorfast to bleach.