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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Ruined Whites?

By Dr. Laundry February 24, 2012

Q: A few white items were washed in a color load and turned blue. Some of the items were all white and others had colored patterns. I did not put them in the dryer.  Currently, I’m soaking them in 1 cup white distilled vinegar and detergent.  If this doesn’t work, what else can I do?

A:  That’s too bad about the blue dye transfer.  The good news is that you should be able to restore any bleachable items with a bleach soaking solution!

Start by figuring out if any of the white or colored items can be safely bleached (even if they are labeled “only non-chlorine bleach”).  First, check the care label and eliminate any items that include wool, silk, mohair, spandex, and leather – these fabrics should never be bleached.  For the colored part of the remaining partially colored items, check for colorfastness to bleach with this simple bleachability test:


  • Dilute 2 teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach in ¼ cup water

  • Apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the each item (like a hem, cuff, collar, or inside seam)

  • Wait 1 minute then blot dry

  • No color change means the item can be safely bleached. 


For the white items, and any partially colored items that passed the bleachability test, try soaking them in a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach diluted in 1 gallon cool water for up to 5 minutes, then rinse them thoroughly.  Air dry the items, and check for success (it’s important to keep the items out of the dryer so the heat doesn’t set any remaining dye). 

Hopefully the fugitive blue color will be gone, but if it is lighter, then repeat the bleach soak again.  However, if the bleach soak leaves the dye transfer color unchanged then you may need to try RIT® Color Remover, which can usually be found at drug and hardware stores.