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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Wood Stain on Clothing

By Dr. Laundry March 5, 2012

Q:  I laid my clothes over the back of a wooden chair and the wood stain came off onto my clothes. One of the articles of clothing is a white t-shirt and the other is a striped cotton button-down dress. How do I get the wood stain out of my clothes?

A:  My first question is:  was the chair freshly stained?  Considering the stain that would make sense, but that would also be a problem since the dye in a wood stain is pretty concentrated and not likely to come out.  But if a little bit of the finish on an older chair rubbed off, then you could try pre-treating the stain on the white cotton shirt with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.  Rub a little of the gel into the stain, and then wash immediately in warm water using detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Air dry and check for success.  Hopefully the stain will be gone but if it is lighter, repeat the treatment.  You could also try this if the chair was freshly stained, but I’m not sure if it would be as effective since the stain would have been able to absorb into the cellulose (cotton is similar to wood, after all) rather than just sit on top of the fabric.  It’s still worth a try!

For the striped button-down dress, if the stain is on the white part of the dress, you could try using the bleach pen as described above as long as the stripes are colorfast to bleach.  That’s because you would likely need the follow-up wash with detergent and bleach to get this type of stain all the way out.  To test for colorfastness, apply a drop of a solution of 2 teaspoons bleach added to 1/4 cup water to a hidden part of the dress.  Wait 1 minute and then blot dry–no color change means you can safely wash the dress with bleach.  If the stain is on the colored part of the dress, don’t use the bleach pen–it is intended only for white items–but instead try pretreating with liquid Clorox2®.  Without seeing the items or knowing whether or not they picked up fresh stain, it’s difficult to advise the best way to proceed, but hopefully this is enough information for you to get started.  Also, seeing what works for the white cotton t-shirt will be useful information to guide you in how you proceed with the striped dress. 

Has anyone else had this happen to them and had success in removing the stain?