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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Stained Work Pants and Jeans

By Dr. Laundry December 21, 2011

Q:  I have a job where I get dirty. I wear jeans and Dickies® work pants. They get really dirty. I can’t get the stains off them with just detergent. And when it comes to bleach, I’ve only used it on whites. Don’t know if I can use it on my work pants. I have grey, tan, dark blue and black work pants not including my blue jeans.

A: Your blue jeans may be able to be safely bleached, with some slight fading over time.  There’s a really good chance your Dickies® work pants can be safely bleached, but you will need to check first with a simple bleachability test (check your blue jeans, too).  Add 2 teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach to 1/4 cup water and apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the work pants like the inside hem.  Wait 1 minute and then blot dry.  No color change means the pants can be safely bleached.  Assuming they pass, wash them in hot water using detergent + 3/4 cup bleach.  Air drying takes longer, but will preserve the dark blue and black colors, since the heat from the dryer can contribute to fading.

If the pants don’t pass the bleach test (or you don’t want faded blue jeans), then I would use powdered Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster as a pre-soak.  This works really well to combat heavy soil.  To do this, add a scoop of the powder to 2 gallons of very hot water and stir to dissolve.  Fully submerge the pants for up to 8 hours or overnight.  In the morning, drain the soaking solution, and then wash the pants in hot water with detergent and more Clorox2®.  Again, air dry and check for success.

Something else to consider is whether or not the heavy soil you need to remove includes an oily component. In that case, you might end up with incomplete stain removal, and so adding in a pre-treating step following the pre-soak would be helpful. Apply a little liquid Clorox2® directly to any stains, wait 3-5 minutes, and then wash.  Really dirty clothes do take a lot of work to get clean, but pre-soaking and pre-treating work well to improve results.

Does anyone else have work related stains that are difficult to remove?