How to Remove Dye Stains From Clothes

How to Remove Dye Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins - 9 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether you find that all your white underwear is now pink (thanks to that rogue red sock) or your favorite striped sweater no longer has crisp lines, dye bleeding is always a headache. But the offending dye can usually be removed from washable fabrics if you take quick action. The basic process works on all white, colored, or washable print fabrics (don't use them for dye-bleeding on silk, leather, or wool).

To avoid fabric dye bleeding, sort and wash all new clothes with similar colors several times in cold water. Hand-wash brightly colored delicates by hand separately. It takes several washings before unstable dyes wash out; some may not bleed at first but then will after a few washes.

If the dye stain isn't removed by using one of the following techniques, you may want to consider buying a commercial color-run remover for the affected garment. You can also try rewashing the item separately using a color catcher sheet.

Warning

If you plan to wash a dry-clean-only item, wet a cotton swab, and rub it across an inside seam or hem. If there's color on the cotton swab, you'll have dye stain problems.


How to Remove Dye Stains From Clothes
Detergent Oxygen-based bleach, regular detergent
Water Temperature Varies by fabric and stain
Cycle Type Varies by fabric and stain
Special Treatments Soaking may be required
Items for removing dye bleeding stains

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Sink or washtub

Materials

  • Oxygen bleach, preferably powdered
  • Water
  • Laundry detergent

Instructions

Before You Begin

Don't confuse oxygen bleach with chlorine bleach in this process; they are completely different products. Don't use chlorine bleach, which can remove desired colors and damage fabrics. You'll get the best results if you use a powdered formula of oxygen-based bleach rather than a liquid because the former is more stable. Don't dry items with color bleeding in a hot dryer or the process will set the unwanted color.

  1. Check the Entire Load for Stains

    Find the bleeding culprit, and pull it out of the washer. Set it aside for washing later with similar colors. Carefully check each remaining piece of laundry for discoloration or stains. Any pieces without signs of unwanted color can go into the dryer or on a clothesline.

    A woman checking laundry for stains
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu  
  2. Rewash the Affected Clothes

    Confirm that the item that bled color is out of the wash load. Rewash all the stained clothes using an oxygen bleach (brands include OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OXO Brite) in addition to your regular laundry detergent.

    Tip

    Oxygen bleach is safe to use in both high-efficiency front-load and top-load washers as well as standard washers. It's effective at any water temperature; however, if your water is very cold, dissolve the powder in one quart of very warm water before using.

    Someone adding oxygen bleach to the wash cycle
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu  
  3. Inspect the Clothes Again

    After rewashing, check each piece of clothing again for traces of dye. Any items that still have unwanted color must be soaked and washed again. Clothes that came out with the undesired color completely gone can go in the dryer, or, to play it safe, air-dry until you're sure they're back to normal.

    A woman inspecting laundry
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu  

How to Soak Dye-Stained Clothing

  1. Soak the Stained Items

    Mix a solution of oxygen bleach and cool water in a washtub or sink, following the product instructions. Submerge the stained items, and allow them to soak for at least eight hours.

    Someone adding oxygen bleach to a sink of water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu  
  2. Check and Soak Again, If Needed

    Check the clothes again for unwanted dye. If the stains are gone, wash the items as usual. If the stains remain, mix a fresh batch of the oxygen bleach and water solution, and soak for another eight hours. Then, check again, and wash or repeat the soaking process as needed. You may need to do so several times, but it's the best way to get rid of the dye without damaging the fabric.

    Laundry soaking in a sink of water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu  

If the dye stain is still not gone after using these techniques, you may want to consider buying a commercial color run remover product for the affected garment. You can also try rewashing the item separately using a color catcher sheet.