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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Black Dye from Whites

By Dr. Laundry May 27, 2009

Q. My daughter at college just called: she washed a black sweater with all of her whites and now, of course, all of her whites are blackish grey. A few of the items can be bleached but I really don’t know what to tell her to do. I’m not even sure that bleaching will take care of the problem. She did not dry the items.

A. I do find that most white items can be bleached. For concerns about whether these items can safely be bleached, I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden 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.

Want to proceed? I would do a quick liquid bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in gallon of cool water for 5 minutes), then wash immediately in the hottest water recommended on the garment care label using detergent and 3/4 of a cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. It might require multiple treatments to get the desired result.

If you can’t bleach the items, then try several washes in the hottest water recommended on the care labels using detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster, or even a short 1/2 hour presoak in the oxygen bleach before the wash. It might require multiple treatments to get the desired result. Also repeated washing usually will very slowly remove a small amount of dye each time.