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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Detergent Dye Stains?

By Dr. Laundry October 2, 2008

Q: My daughter used a purple dye-based laundry detergent. I don’t know the brand. She washed a red sweatshirt, which was 60% cotton, 40% polyester, and the purple dye from the detergent transferred to the sleeve of the sweatshirt. She dried it in the dryer. Is there any way to get this dye out?

A: Wow this is really unusual. Most manufacturers always test the dyes in there laundry products to make sure they will not create these type of problems. For that reason, all are very water soluble and should not stain.

Did your daughter pretreat and leave the detergent on long enough to dry out? That’s about the only explanation I can come up with. It also could create a brightener spot that would appear as a purplish tint on a red colored item.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the sweatshirt can tolerate a mild bleach contact. To check, use our modified Bleachability Test:

  • Apply a drop of Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster on a hidden color section area like inside seam, hemline or cuff;
  • Wait 2–3 minutes, rinse and then blot with towel.
  • If there is no color change, it means it is safe to use the product on the item.
  • Then try a quick pretreatment on the area — apply; rub in gently; wait 5–10 minutes.
  • Then wash in the warmest water recommended on the care label with detergent + Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster.

Check for success as it may require another treatment.