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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Cleaning Delicate Items with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry January 27, 2009

Q. Last winter we had a leak in our ceiling and the water damaged a needle point I had hanging on the wall. The water left a stain, and I was wondering how I might remove it without damaging the needlepoint further?

A. It’s a little difficult to recommend a path forward without some more detailed information like the background fiber/color as well as the needlepoint fiber/color. In addition, what is the water stain covering?

Some yarns/colors are very sensitive to any cleaning product so recommending any bleach, which probably would lighten the water stain, may also lighten/destroy the needlepoint color. You could try doing the quick Bleachability Test:

  • Add 2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to 1/4 cup water
  • Apply a drop on a hidden area like an inside seam or hemline for each color/area
  • Wait 1 minute, then blot with towel.

No color change will mean that it’s probably safe to use bleach on the item.

Any color change could also show you the amount of change in color that will occur if you proceed with the bleach usage. A similar approach could be used to evaluate any other product you might consider using, like laundry or dishwasher detergent (make sure they are colorless to avoid leaving any color behind) or a color safe, oxygen bleach (like our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster — use the Free and Clear version). You probably will want to use a Q-tip to dab a diluted solution on the problem area. This should be followed by several clear water rinses, using the Q-Tips.