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Removing Red Clay Stains

By Dr. Laundry October 14, 2013

While working in my flower bed I got the red clay on my blue and white shorts. How can I get this stain out?


This is tricky because tiny insoluble particles of red clay can work their way into the weave or knit of the fabric, making them very difficult to get out with normal washing. Presoaking is a really great technique for this type of problem, and it actually takes relatively little effort. Start by rinsing the clay-stained area with cool water to remove as much clay as possible. Next, add a scoop of a good powdered detergent to 2 gallons hot tap water and stir to dissolve. I like using a plastic dishpan for this type of soaking, and it should be just the right size for your shorts. Fully submerge the shorts in the soaking solution. Weigh them down with a dishwasher safe dinner plate to keep them submerged, if necessary. Allow them to soak for an hour. You may even be able to increase the soaking time—that depends on the blue part of the shorts. If the color is printed on, or the shorts are a synthetic (like nylon or polyester running shorts) then you can soak the shorts as long as overnight (up to 8 hours). The longer you soak the shorts, the better your results will be—you just have to manage the soaking time carefully to prevent the blue part of the shorts from fading. Once you have completed the soak, drain the soaking solution and rinse the shorts a little. Next, pretreat the stained area with a little liquid Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster—apply a little directly to the stain and rub it in. Wait 3-5 minutes, and then wash the shorts in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and more Clorox2®. Air dry the shorts—you can always repeat a treatment if necessary with a much better chance of eventual success, especially if any residual stain has not been heat-set in a hot dryer.