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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Red Wine Stains on Light Blue Shirt: Your Questions

By Dr. Laundry August 28, 2008

Q: My husband spilled red wine down the front of a pastel blue golf shirt. Unfortunately we didn’t pretreat the stain. The wine stain stayed there for a few hours. Later we tried to pretreat the stain and wash it, but it didn’t work. The stain was still noticeable. My sister said to use bleach, but I am afraid the stain part will turn white. Do you have any suggestions? This is my husband’s favorite shirt. Help!

A: Your instincts were right; pretreat the stain ASAP, especially with red wine. Next time, try some club soda poured from the back of the stain and absorbed onto a towel. This keeps the stain from being driven into the fabric and helps “bubble” it off the shirt.

A lot of colors can be safely bleached. You want to be sure do the simple Bleachability Test on the colored shirt in a hidden part of the item (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).

  • If the shirt can be bleached, then dampen the stained area with cool water.
  • If you have our Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel, apply the product, use the scrubber end to rub the product into the stain; wait 3–5 minutes then wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1
  • If the color is not bleachable, then I would pretreat the dampened spots with 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.