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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing dye transferred from color blend cotton shirt to a white cotton terry bathrobe

By Dr. Laundry January 25, 2017

Q: I washed a navy blue & white plaid cotton blend shirt with a white cotton terry cloth robe. Now have pale blue blotches on robe. Help! —April

A: You can definitely blame the color blended 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 need to hand wash 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.

Removing Dye Transfer from White & Colorfast Fabrics
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 — here’s the ingredients you will likely need:

  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. Wait 5 minutes and drain.
    • 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. Run a short rinse cycle.
    • 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.

Additional Notes

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.

Because your item is large and bulky, it is to be expected 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

UPDATE:
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 bottle lives right on the kitchen counter for adding to dish water and mopping. Thank you again!

Sincerely, April R.N, B.S.N.