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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Your Questions: Washing Red Sweatshirts

By Dr. Laundry June 17, 2008

Q: My daughter has a white sweatshirt with red sewn-on embroidered letters. She wore her sweatshirt while working at a car wash fundraiser and now the sweatshirt is pretty dirty. Any suggestions on the best way to wash the sweatshirt?

A: It is not clear from your description what the composition of the sweatshirt or red letters is. This has a big impact on how I would proceed. Also it would be helpful to know what the soil(s) on the sweatshirt are likely composed of.

So here are some general approaches you might try:

  • Are the red letters bleach-safe? If they are bleach-safe, you have a lot more options and probably have a much better chance of getting the item “clean.” If possible, do the quick Bleachability/colorfast test on a hidden part of the red letters (2 tsp Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden color section area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item. If they are bleach fast, I would recommend using the Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel on the significant dirt spots (apply and use the scrubber tip to penetrate/loosen the soil; wait 1–2 minutes) before washing in the hottest water recommended on the care label.
  • If the letters are not bleach safe, then hopefully it is color safe and is not going to “bleed” during laundering. You may need to consider a pre-treat or presoak to improve your removal. If pre-treating, using a good liquid detergent or Stain & Soil Remover (Liquid Tide, Shout, Zout, Spray’n Wash) or for presoaking I would do this with a good powdered detergent or color safe bleach (Tide or Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster) following label directions and soaking for at least 1 hour.

I am assuming the dirt is mostly road dirt/grime and not greasy dirt. These dirts are mostly fine particulate which is why the soaking and hot water washing is recommended. If there is grease involved, then you will benefit from the pre-treating before the hot water wash.