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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Bleeding Colors: Your Questions

By Dr. Laundry August 13, 2008

Q: My wife has a shirt that is red with white trim. I did not see the shirt and I started a load of reds. I filled the tub with warm water and Clorox® Stain Remover & Color Booster powder. I put the clothes in to soak. Big mistake on my part.

When I went to wash and pulled the clothes out of the washer, the shirt was red with pink trim. How do I get the shirt back to the original way, red and white trim?

A: I hate when a good intentioned deed goes bad. Unfortunately, I probably don’t have much good news for you. New dark colors are notorious for bleeding for a few washes and should always be washed/soaked with similar dark colors. That’s why I always recommend sorting at least whites, lights and darks to avoid the problem in the future. Plus, the extra time soaking just allows more of that unstable dye to bleed off and be available to deposit on other items.

I would try the following:
To have a better chance at red dye removal you will need to kick it up a notch on the bleach scale to liquid bleach like Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. So we need to know if the lighter colored items can stand to be bleached.

Just do the simple Bleachability Test on any colored portion in a hidden part of the shirts (2 tsp liquid Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden color section area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel;; no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item).

Then follow the recommended presoak procedure (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in gallon of warm water for 5–10 minutes before laundering). Wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1

If the colors are not bleachable, then I would presoaking/applying Liquid Clorox2® for Colors Color Safe Bleach (Apply; rub in; wait ~ 5 minutes; then wash immediately with detergent and recommended amount of Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster in the warmest wash water recommended on the care label.

Check for success and retreat if needed BEFORE drying

Also remember that washing in hotter water will SLOWLY remove additional dye over time; this will usually be barely perceptible wash to wash.