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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Color Transfer

By Dr. Laundry September 19, 2011

Q:  Something in the wash load faded onto white clothes and partially white clothes.  How can I get rid of the unwanted color?  Do I need to do something different if the fabric says “use non chlorine bleach”?

A:  What you describe sounds like dye transfer and you should be able to restore any bleachable items with a bleach soaking solution.  Start by figuring out if any of the partially white items are safely bleachable (even if they are labeled “only non-chlorine bleach”).  First, check the care label and eliminate any items that include wool, silk, mohair, spandex, and leather–these should never be bleached.  For the remaining items, check for colorfastness to bleach with this simple bleachability test: dilute 2 teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach in ¼ cup water; apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the each item (like a hem, cuff, collar, or inside seam); wait 1 minute then blot dry. No color change means the item can be safely bleached.  For the white items, and any partially colored items that passed the bleachability test, try soaking them in a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach diluted in 1 gallon cool water for up to 5 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.  Air dry the items, and check for success (it’s important to keep the items out of the dryer so the heat doesn’t set any remaining dye).  Hopefully the fugitive color will be gone, but if it is lighter, then repeat the bleach soak again.  However, if the bleach soak leaves the dye transfer color unchanged, then you may need to try Rit® Color Remover, which can usually be found at drug and hardware stores. 

Has anyone had success removing dye transfer?