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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Pink Clothes from a Red Towel in the Laundry: Your Questions

By Dr. Laundry September 4, 2008

Q: Help! I washed my son’s clothes with a towel that bled red dye all through the load. My son is 20 and he had boxer shorts and t-shirts in the load. Some of the t-shirts have some designs on them. I have left the load in soak overnight and tried peroxide and club soda but the load is still very pink. Is there any way to remove this dye? It contained some of his favorite shirts.

A: I hate when this happens and pink underwear is the result. You did the right things after the “accident” by trying to soak out the color and using a mild bleach like peroxide.

To have a better chance at 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 boxers and t-shirts can stand to be bleached.

  • Just do the simple Bleachability Test on any colored portion in a hidden part of the shorts/shirts (2 tsp 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, I would presoaking/applying Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster. (Apply; rub in; wait ~5 minutes; then wash immediately with detergent and recommended amount of Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster.)
  • 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.