It’s always amazing how one small piece of red clothing can bleed enough dye in one wash cycle to ruin the rest of the load. Except it doesn’t have to be ruined. As long as any items that picked up the color are made of bleach-safe fabrics and colorfast to bleach, you can use a bleach and water solution to restore them.
Begin by checking care labels to make sure an item is made of fibers that can be safely bleached. Fabrics made of cotton, linen, polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic are all bleach-safe.
Fabrics that are NOT bleach safe include wool, silk, mohair, leather and spandex.
Next, if any items that picked up the pink color were another color to begin with (this doesn’t just happen to white items), confirm those items are colorfast to bleach with the bleachability test.
- Add 2 teaspoons of Clorox® Bleach to ¼ cup water.
- Apply a drop to a hidden part of the item, like the inside hem or cuff.
- Wait one minute, then rinse and blot dry.
- If you see the original color where you applied the test drop, the item can be safely treated with bleach.
If the bleach and water solution leaves the pink dye that transferred unchanged, then you can try a reducing bleach instead. These are sold as “color remover” products and are usually available at hardware, fabric and craft stores.
Once you’ve identified which garments you can safely treat, you’re ready to start.
Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach
Liquid measuring cup
Large plastic spoon
Large white towel
Add 1 gallon water to the plastic dishpan
Use cold tap water and measure so you know you have 1 gallon (16 cups).
Add ¼ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach
Measure the bleach and add it to the water in the dishpan. Stir with the spoon to mix (be sure to wear gloves).
Add the item
Fully submerge the item in the bleach and water solution for up to 5 minutes. Use the spoon to swirl the item around in the bleach solution and make sure it goes in completely.
Check your progress
Use the spoon to pull the garment out of the solution to see if the color is coming off. The color may come off right away, or it could take a few minutes.
Rinse the item
After 5 minutes, pour off the soaking solution and thoroughly rinse the item with cool tap water.
You can speed up air drying by rolling the item in the towel and squeezing. This pulls a lot of moisture out of the item. You can then lay it flat to dry, or if it’s not too heavy while wet, hang it to air dry.Tip
If the pink color is lighter after 5 minutes of soaking, don’t continue soaking for more than 5 minutes. Instead, rinse the item and then repeat the treatment again. It’s always better when working with a bleach and water solution to repeat a treatment instead of trying a stronger solution or a longer contact time.
Frequently asked questions
- Why can’t I just run a regular load with bleach to remove the pink color?
Because in most cases it isn’t strong enough! Dye that accidentally transfers to fabric needs a stronger-than-usual bleach and water solution to get the color off.
- Can I use the bleach and water solution to restore a white item with spandex?
Unfortunately no, spandex cannot be treated with bleach. You can always try a reducing bleach instead. These are sold as “color remover” products and are usually available at hardware, fabric, and craft stores.
- Can I bleach clothes in my deep-fill washing machine instead of a dishpan?
Yes, but your clothes washer uses more water so you will need to add more bleach. If you select the extra-small wash setting, the washer will probably add 12 gallons of water, so you will need 3 cups of bleach. Remember to set a timer and advance the washer dial after 5 minutes so the machine drains, spins and rinses the items at the correct time.
- Is there an easier way to treat multiple garments?
You can treat a lot of items together at one time in a standard deep-fill clothes washer. Just be sure to add more bleach because the clothes washer will fill with more water than you would use in the dishpan.
- Does the bleach and water solution only work on pink or red dyes?
The bleach and water solution will remove many different dye colors that accidentally transfer to other items.