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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Stains from Delicate Items

By Dr. Laundry April 21, 2009

Q. I just finished soaking my daughter’s 33-year-old polyester communion dress in Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster for 8 hours and then laundering it to eliminate dinginess. It hasn’t changed much, if at all. Is there any point in repeating the process? Any other suggestions? I’m afraid to use dishwasher detergent on it as many people online suggest.

A. You didn’t indicate if this communion dress is white or light colored. I’m not sure what “dinginess” you might be trying to remove, spots or overall. The polyester should allow you to be a little more aggressive in your cleaning approach.

Since you already tried an extended presoak with Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster, I wonder if the subsequent wash was hot, as that would be the only additional step that might have helped improve the cleaning. Doing another similar presoak most likely would not change your results. If so, you probably will need to kick your approach up a notch, and consider using liquid bleach.

I also find that a lot of colored items can be bleached. To find out if these items can safely be bleached, I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item.

Want to proceed? I would also consider doing a quick liquid bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in a gallon of cool water for 5 minutes), then washing the item immediately in the hottest water recommended on the garment’s care label using detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. To complete the treatment, consider air drying.