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Is It Okay To Bleach Items With a Logo On Them?

By Dr. Laundry April 22, 2015

Q: I have just noticed a stain on two items of my clothing. One is a white polo shirt and the other a normal t-shirt material. I’ve tried using a stain remover, soaking it and pre treating it but no joy. My next thought was bleach. Will it be okay to bleach both items if they have a logo on them?

 

A: Do you have any idea what the stains are?  If there’s any chance they are food stains with both greasy and colored components, then you need to break up the grease before you’ll be able to get out the colored part of the stain.   An important thing to remember with greasy food stains is that it’s best to NOT rinse them first before pretreating.  Instead, if there’s excess stain material, you can gently scrape it away with a plastic knife.  With greasy food stains, start by pretreating first with a little liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes).  Apply a few drops to the stains and gently rub it in to the fabric.  Wait 5 minutes, then rinse with a little warm water.  This breaks up the oil, making it easier to get the stains off.  Now you can pretreat the stain again before machine washing.  What you use depends on the item.  From what you described, it sounds like your shirts may be bleachable, but you need to go back and check the care label to make sure the shirts don’t contain any spandex to be sure.  Spandex (along with wool, silk, mohair, leather, and non-fast colors) is on the do-not-bleach list.

 

You also said the shirts have logos on them.  If they are printed on (like a graphic tee) then it’s very likely the logo is colorfast to bleach. If the logo is embroidered, it depends on what type of thread was used to make the logo.  We do have a test to check for colorfastness to bleach:  add 1+1/2 teaspoons Clorox Regular-Bleach to 1/4 cup water and apply a drop of the solution to a hidden part of the item; wait 1 minute and then blot dry; no color change means the item can be safely bleached.  The problem for you with this is that there is probably no hidden area for you to test since the logo is on the front of the shirt.  So it may actually be better to skip the test (but I still wanted you to know about it) and try bleaching the shirt if you are ready to take the chance that the colors may fade a little (blues, blacks, and browns are at greater risk of shifting color).

Back to your shirts.  Let’s say you’ve done the liquid detergent pretreatment step and you’re ready to continue.  You’ve checked the care label and you know the fabric content.

If there’s no spandex and you either know the logo is colorfast or you are ready to take your chances, then pretreat the stained area with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.  I don’t know if you are familiar with that product but you can find it in the laundry aisle at the grocery store.  It’s got the same great sodium hypochlorite active as our regular bleach but at a lower level that is safe to apply directly to fabric.  Apply a little of the gel directly to the stain and gently rub it in using the soft scrubber tip on the pen.  Now, wash the shirt immediately in the hottest water recommended using detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Air dry and check for success.

If your shirt does contain a little spandex (even a small amount), then for the second pretreat step use a little liquid Clorox2®.  Apply a little directly to the stain and rub it in.  Wait 5 minutes, then wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and more Clorox2®.  Air dry and check for success.

If you aren’t quite ready to take your chances on the color of the logo with bleach, then you may want to pretreat with the bleach pen and then wash with detergent by itself.  Depending on how old the shirt is and how you’ve been washing it, you may end up with a very clean spot where you pretreated with the pen.  That’s why following up with a detergent and bleach wash is a good idea.

 

I hope this helps.  Please let me know if you have any other questions, and I’d love to hear how it turns out.  Thanks for writing!