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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Transferred Dye from Clothes

By Dr. Laundry January 29, 2009

Q. How can I remove dye from one shirt that was transferred from another? I’m not sure what to do because the stained shirt is not white.

A. I probably don’t have very good news for you since the items aren’t white and they probably have been dried in the dryer, which sets the dye on the new fabric.

I do 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:

• Add 2 tspn Clorox® Regular-Bleach to 1/4 cup water
• Apply a drop on a hidden area like an inside seam or hemline for each color/area
• Wait 1 minute, then blot with towel

No color change will mean that it’s probably safe to use bleach on the item.

Any color change could also show you the amount of change in color that will occur if you proceed with the liquid bleach usage.

Want to proceed? I would do a quick liquid bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach in one gallon of cool water for 5 minutes), then wash immediately in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label using detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach. It might require multiple treatments to get the desired result.

If you can’t bleach the item, try several washes in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster, or even a short 30 minute presoak in the oxygen bleach before the wash. It might require multiple treatments to get the desired result. Also, repeated washing usually will very slowly remove a small amount of dye each time.