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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Transferred Dye from Washing Machine

By Dr. Laundry January 22, 2009

Q. About 2 months ago, I bought some black bedding and some black jeans. I always make sure I wash the black items together. However, I suspect that recently these items have bled in the wash and some of the dye is still in my machine’s drum. Since I bought the black items, ALL my clothes have changed color: some have gone a bit dull, all grey items and denim have got a really murky green color to them and all the whites look a bit grey. Do you know what I can do to return my clothes to their former glory?

A. It’s great that you recognize the need to wash those black items separately to keep the dye transfer under control.

I think I have some good news and some not so good news for you. After a couple of months, the large dye transfer occasions should be behind you, but dealing with the described fall-out is going to be more difficult.

Question: do you use Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 on your whites? This could serve two purposes for you. First, if you’re experiencing some “carryover” or residual water in your washer (which passes black dye onto the next load), then doing a white load with Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 after the black clothes should destroy any leftover black dye and start removing the dullness from your whites.

The other colored clothes are much more difficult. If this was the first time they had been “contaminated,” then I would have suggested just rewashing in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster. Unfortunately, after drying, any discoloration is usually set and the new color is pretty permanent. You can try rewashing as I’ve described, or even a short presoak in the oxygen bleach before the wash. Check the garments/colors for bleachability before starting, though: apply a drop of Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster to each color on a hidden area; wait a couple of minutes; then rinse and air dry. No color change means it should be OK to use the product on those colors.