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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Dye Transfer

By Dr. Laundry February 1, 2012

Q:  How do you get a pink color out of clothes that bled from a darker garment when it was accidently put in with lights?

A:  What you describe sounds like dye transfer and you should be able to restore any bleachable items with a bleach soaking solution. 

Start by figuring out if any of the partially white items are safely bleachable (even if they are labeled “only non-chlorine bleach”).  First, check the care labels and eliminate any items that include wool, silk, mohair, spandex, and leather – these should never be bleached.  For the colored parts of the remaining items, check for colorfastness to bleach with this simple bleachability test: dilute 2 teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach in 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 means the item can be safely bleached. 

For the white items, and any partially colored items that passed the bleachability test, try soaking them in a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach diluted in 1 gallon cool water for up to 5 minutes, then rinse them thoroughly.  Air dry the items, and check for success (it’s important to keep the items out of the dryer so the heat doesn’t set any remaining dye). 

Hopefully the fugitive 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 may need to try RITÒ Color Remover, which can usually be found at drug and hardware stores.