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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Whitening Discolored Whites

By Dr. Laundry June 24, 2011

Q:  My son washed his new work uniform in warm water, which consists of black pants (80% poly / 20% cotton) and a white shirt (85% poly / 15% cotton) with a blue embroidery logo. Now the shirt has dye stains all over it from the pants and is less than white. Are there any options for getting the stains out and whitening? The embroidery is colorfast. The label does say “Do Not Bleach.”

A:  It is good the shirt is a polyester/cotton blend, because this fabric is generally safe for bleaching.  To restore the shirt, I would try a bleach pre-soak:  dilute ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach in 1 gallon of water.  Fully submerge the shirt for up to 5 minutes.  You may notice the color coming off immediately, or it may take the full amount of time.  Next, drain and thoroughly rinse the shirt, allowing the shirt to air dry.  Hopefully this will work, but if it does not, try RIT color remover, which you can find at most drug stores.  Just be sure to follow the package instructions carefully.

I would expect that the logo is embroidered with polyester thread, and should not be altered by either of these treatments.  That said, there is still the possibility that there could be a color change.  However, I think it is worth taking the chance to restore the shirt given that the alternative is to throw the shirt away – and I am sure your son has other plans for the money he is earning!  Of course, the silver lining is that he now has firsthand experience with the importance of sorting laundry into like-color groups for washing.

Have your kids had any laundry mishaps?