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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

White Items with Colored Writing

By Dr. Laundry May 17, 2011

Q:  How do I bleach a mostly white shirt that has colored writing on the breast and back?

A:  How the writing is applied to the shirt is important to determine how comfortable you may be bleaching the shirt.  The two most common application methods are either screen print or embroidery; let us take a look at them separately.

Typically screen prints can be safely bleached without damaging the print.  Simply wash the shirt with detergent and ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach in warm water using a regular cycle.  If your washer has a “max extract” setting, do not select this setting as it can cause permanent creases to set into the printed area.  Air dry the shirt – keeping it out of a hot dryer is absolutely the best way to preserve the appearance of a screen print.

With embroidered writing, the situation becomes more complicated since it is impossible to test for bleachability on a “hidden area”.  However, if the embroidery thread is polyester, there is a good chance that it will be bleach-fast.  Unfortunately, you will not know until you try.  If you decide bleaching the shirt is important enough to chance faded writing, follow our “for best results” instructions, which delays the addition of the bleach as follows:  dilute ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach in 1 quart water and add to the washer 5 minutes after the cycle has begun agitating.

If you decide against bleaching the entire shirt, try applying Clorox® Bleach Pen® Gel to any specific stains you are trying to remove.  Another option is an overnight pre-soak with powdered Clorox2® Stain Fighter & Color Booster:  dissolve 1 scoop or 1 pack in 2 gallons water and fully submerge the shirt for up to 8 hours.  Drain the soaking solution, and then wash the shirt in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and Clorox2®.