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Removing Stains From a Shirt

By Dr. Laundry March 16, 2015

Q: I have a white Mammoth Mountain shirt with a nasty stain around the belly button area on the shirt.  I have tried Shout, Clorox 2 Color safe bleach and OxyClean and the stain still won’t come out.  My last option is Pure old Clorox Bleach.  I do not want to ruin the design on the back.  Can you tell me how I can get the best result of Bleach without ruining the back of the shirt?

 

A: Do you have any idea what type of stain it is?  I’m always curious about this.  There are only a few stains that Clorox® Regular-Bleach doesn’t work on (e.g. rust, which shouldn’t be bleached at all) but I really doubt that’s it.  I think you could try a couple of different techniques with bleach.  Before you do, however, check the care label to make sure the shirt doesn’t have any spandex (also called Lycra or Elastane), even a small amount.  Spandex (along with wool, silk, mohair, leather and non-fast colors) should never be washed with Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  As far as non-fast colors go, it sounds like the design is printed on the back of the shirt.  This type of color application usually involves pigments that are bleach-fast, so I would expect that you can safely bleach the shirt.  Here are some different options that you can try:

 

1.       Machine wash in hot water using detergent and ½ cup Clorox Regular-Bleach.  If you have a standard deep-fill top loading washer, add the bleach and the detergent to the empty washer while it is filling with water.  When the machine is about half full with water, add your shirt and let the cycle run to completion.  Let the shirt air dry.  Or, if you have an HE washer, use the dispenser to add the bleach.

2.       Use a bleach soaking solution.  Add ¼ cup Clorox Regular-Bleach to 1 gallon cool water.  Fully submerge the shirt for up to 5 minutes in the soaking solution (weigh it down with a dishwasher-safe dinner plate to help keep it all the way under).  After 5 minutes, drain the soaking solution and then run the shirt through a machine wash using detergent and ½ cup Clorox Regular-Bleach.  This is a great technique for tough stains that will be washed in an HE washer.

3.       Use Clorox Bleach Pen Gel for pretreating.  This product has the same sodium hypochlorite active as our regular bleach, but at a lower concentration that is safe to apply directly to white, bleachable fabrics.  One thing you never want to do with Clorox Regular-bleach is to use it full strength on anything; it should always be diluted first!  The bleach pen makes this easy and convenient.  Just apply the gel directly to the stained area and rub in using the soft scrubber tip.  Immediately wash the shirt in the hot water using detergent and ½ cup Clorox Regular-Bleach.  Let the shirt air dry.

 

It may be that a simple machine wash with bleach will do the trick, especially if you use hot water, and you may want to start with that.  If the stain is very stubborn (or if you have already tumble dried the shirt in a hot dryer), then presoaking with bleach or pretreating with the bleach pen may be necessary.

 

I’ve been to Mammoth, but mostly in the summer for hiking and fishing.  I really hope you can get the stain out of your shirt–let me know how it turns out!

 

–Dr. Laundry