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How to Wash a Black and White Shirt

Separate lights and darks right? Discover the secret of how to wash black and white clothes including a white shirt with black stripes without ruining them.

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I have a black & white shirt, and when I washed it, the black bled into the white. So now instead of having a black & white shirt, I have a black and dingy white shirt. Is there anything I can do to return the white to its normal color without bleaching the black?


I have seen so many dark color/white stripe items that end up with this problem. Our marketing folks like the “looks” of these for commercials and print ads, but there is such a range of quality in the dying that one really ends up rolling the dice when you buy one of these garments. When these dark colors are 100% cotton, they are notorious for bleeding for a few washes, and that’s why it’s good to wash them separately until they stop bleeding.

The other problem is deciding what load you add items with both white and other colors to. As long as you know they don’t bleed, you can put them with light colors. If you put them in the dark load, the white parts can pick up dye from the other dark items in the load. That actually could be what happened to your shirt.

As far as how to fix the problem now, Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach can be used to remove dye transfer as long as the colored portions are colorfast to bleach.

I would try the following:

Start with the simple Bleachability Test on any colored portion in a hidden part of the shirt.

  • Add 2 tsp. Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach to 1/4 cup water
  • Apply a drop on a hidden color section like the inside seam, hemline or cuff. Wait 1 minute and then blot with a towel. No color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item.
  • Next, if the black part of the shirt is bleach-safe, wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent and ⅓ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach. That could be enough to get rid of the dye transfer, but if it’s not (and the black dye is colorfast) you could try soaking for 5 minutes in a bleach and water solution made with ¼ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach per gallon of water.
  • If the black color is not bleach-safe, then you can try a color remover product like RIT available at craft and hardware stores.

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