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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Bled Dye from White Cotton Terrycloth Robe

By Dr. Laundry January 25, 2017

Q: I washed plaid cotton blend (navy blue and white) with white cotton terrycloth robe. Now have pale blue blotches on robe. Thx for any help you can give me?
—April

UPDATE:
Hi Dr. Laundry,

I tried your remedy for my blue splotched bathrobe. Worked perfectly, didn’t have to repeat. I’ve used Clorox products for nearly 5 decades, ESPECIALLY the bleach. I’m a retired registered nurse and it’s still the best, safest product available. I recently moved to an apartment without a dishwasher, and my trusty Clorox stays right on the kitchen counter for adding to dish water and mopping.

Sincerely,
April

A: Hi April,

You can definitely blame the blue plaid fabric for the dye transfer you see on the white robe! You would think that a blue and white plaid item wouldn’t lose any blue color in the wash because it would be nice if the white part of the plaid shirt stayed white! It sounds like you may need to handwash the plaid shirt a few times in warm water with a little detergent to get any more excess blue dye off before machine washing the shirt with other items in the future.

I do have a technique for using Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to remove dye transfer from white and colorfast fabrics that could be adapted to restore a bathrobe. You want to be careful because a bathrobe is large, bulky and highly absorbent, making it a little cumbersome to work with. You also should double-check the care label to make sure there’s no spandex (always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather and spandex). I wouldn’t expect that with a bathrobe but it’s still important to confirm the fiber content.

The basic technique is to submerge the item with the dye transfer in a solution of 3 tablespoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 added to 1 gallon water for up to 5 minutes. A gallon of the bleach and water solution is probably not enough for a bathrobe; 9 tablespoons of bleach added to 3 gallons of water is likely enough, and you should also work in a 5 gallon bucket to make sure you can easily move the bathrobe around in the solution. Here’s what you can try:

  1. Measure 3 gallons of water in a very large plastic container like a 5 gallon bucket. Ideally the plastic container will fit inside a laundry sink that is next to your clothes washer. Otherwise, set the plastic container in the bathtub.
  2. Add 9 tablespoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to the water and stir to mix with a large plastic spoon (cooking size). Note that 9 tablespoons = ½ cup + 1 tablespoon, which may be faster to measure.
  3. Carefully submerge the bathrobe into the bleach and water solution, agitating it a little and lifting it in and out of the bleach and water solution. The color may come off right away (typical) or it may take a little longer. It’s also good to wear gloves for projects like this.
  4. After 5 minutes (or sooner if the color comes off right away) pour off the bleach and water solution into the sink (or bathtub), keeping the bathrobe in the container.
  5. Pay attention to whether any bleach and water solution gets onto the bottom of the plastic container. If it does, rinse or wipe it off with another white towel so you don’t accidentally get the solution onto other surfaces as you move the plastic container to your clothes washer.
  6. Transfer the bathrobe (and any other towels you used) to your clothes washer and run a short wash cycle (I use “Quick Wash” on my washer) to rinse the bathrobe.
  7. If the color is gone, then you can tumble dry the bathrobe.

If the color is lighter, then you can repeat the treatment to get the dye all the way off. If the bleach treatment leaves the color unchanged (or if the robe actually has a little spandex) then you can try RIT Color Remover, which can be found at drug, craft and hardware stores. Follow the package directions, including all the safe use guidelines.

Another consideration (because your item is large and bulky), is to expect that some of the bleach and water solution may drip onto your clothes as you are working, so wear old clothes like you would if you were painting a room. If you have a cloth shower curtain, be sure to drape it over the shower curtain rod so it is out of the way.

Please let me know if you have any other questions, and how it turns out. Thanks for writing!

—Dr. Laundry