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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Your Questions: Dye Transfers

By Dr. Laundry May 2, 2008

Q: Dear Dr. Landry, I found your website very informative, and seek your help. I carefully washed the laundry with pastel colors and my husband’s brand new and favorite t-shirt came out with light blue stains caused by bleeding. I soaked it in Oxy Clean, Clorox for Colors, Borax and Lestoil to no avail. What do dry cleaners do? I appreciate any suggestions.

A: Dye transfer can be difficult to remove as noted by the variety of products you have used. The issue is you basically dyed the spot blue and then probably dried it which set the color. You don’t say what color the t-shirt area was before it became blue. If it was white, I would recommend a couple of thoughts:


  • Consider Clorox Bleach Pen Gel on the blue area. If unsure, do the Bleachability Test before proceeding (see the label or the link on my blog on the left). Simply apply the product; rub with the scrubber; wait a couple of minutes then wash in hottest water recommended for item using detergent + 3/4 cup Clorox Regular-Bleach. Check for success before drying as you may have to repeat the treatment.

  • Consider a short soak using 1/4 cup Clorox Regular-Bleach in a gallon of cool water for 5-10 minutes then wash in hottest water recommended for item using detergent + 3/4 cup Clorox Regular-Bleach. Check for success before drying as you may have to repeat the treatment.

  • Another great product is our Clorox UltimateCare Bleach. It’s thick creamy texture is gentle enough to pour directly on white clothes; so you could pour on, rub into the blue area then wash as above. Check for success before drying as you may have to repeat the treatment.


Dry cleaners use solvents for their cleaning; this may not be appropriate for a cotton t-shirt. Usually, if it is cotton, the dye will slowly be removed with each subsequent washing. You can accelerate this by washing in hotter water.