Skip to content
Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Your Questions

By Dr. Laundry July 14, 2006

Wow, it’s been another very busy couple of weeks! This time I was helping to shoot some new Clorox® Anywhere Hard Surface ™ daily sanitizing spray commercials.  It is another innovative product that’s great for busy consumers. I told you earlier that I have been shooting some commercials for a new Clorox laundry care product coming out this month. It will be on stores any day now (if not already), and I’ll be blogging about it very soon. I’m extremely excited about what we call the Unexpected Bleach; our team has been working on it for the past several years and we are anxious to see how you’ll like it.

I have received several reader questions recently. Thought I’d take the time to address one of them today.

Pascal asked me to how to remove stains caused by one color of the item that has bled onto a lighter colored part of the item. This problem happens a lot more frequently than you think and can show up in several different ways. The root cause is what we call dye bleeding or transfer.  This problem is most common with dark colored cotton items and is due to the type of dye used to color the item.  The dyes are not “set” in the fibers and want to migrate when they become wet. This is why those brilliant, new towels appear to ”fade” after repeated washing or if you don’t wash all the items in a set together some look a little more brighter than those that are washed more frequently   You’re actually washing away a small amount of dye with each wash.

So how else might you see this problem besides from pre-treating a stain?

Sometimes simply spilling a drink on the surface is enough to activate the process

Washing mixed darks and lights in the same load can create the problem

Leaving dark colors sitting in the washer after the wash cycle has been completed

How to fix it?

Well, this is a bit of a tough one since dye stains can be difficult or impossible to remove. As always it is best to launder immediately or re-launder as soon as you recognize the problem.  If it has dried it probably is too late to salvage. Sorry. If you want to give a go then try these approaches: If possible, use a bleach to help remove the dye.  Make sure it is bleachable (use the bleachability test). If white or colorfast then either try quickly soaking in a dilute bleach solution (1/4 cup in gallon cool water for 10-15 minutes) or wash in cool water detergent + ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  You might also try the Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel on the affected spots and then re-wash.  If it is not bleachable, try Liquid Clorox2® for Colors rubbed on affected area and then re-wash.  A word of warning – I haven’t been very successful at totally removing in a single application.  

How to prevent it:

Some manufacturers simply don’t make their colors colorfast, which creates a problem if you accidentally get the item wet. That’s why it’s important to read the fabric care labels when you are considering the original purchase.

Always carefully sort and wash dark colors separately.  Remember they are going to bleed and it’s best if they do that with similar colors.

Always wash in cool water to minimize the bleeding

Quickly remove from the washer and get the drying process started

 Let me know how that works out…

On a side note, you may or may not have seen the Today Show on NBC Tuesday morning – but it covered a topic close to my heart: summer stubborn stain removal. While the expert featured, Elizabeth Mayhew, always provides great information, on Tuesday she did perpetuate one of the biggest bleach myths – bleach wears down fabrics. It’s just not true, not true not true!.

I know I’ve touched on this before and wished she had read my July 7th post on this subject. When bleach is used properly (diluted before it goes in the washer), it does not wear down fabrics. In our exhaustive lab testing throughout the years, we’ve found that there’s no difference between items washed 50 times with detergent alone or detergent plus Clorox® Regular-Bleach. We’ve got the study results to prove it…so I’ll keep harping on this until the myth is busted.  Sorry Elizabeth…but for me the quickest and best way to clean those stained summer whites is with Clorox® Regular-Bleach..

Keep your questions coming in!