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
  • Estimated Cost: $0-$12

Removing dye stains from a clothing item that bled its dye on a load of laundry is straightforward and will work if you take quick action due to the cleaning power of oxygen bleach. It eliminates stains or, in this case, the dye's chemical bond on the fabric when oxygen is released and mixed with water. Oxygen bleach can be used on all washable white or colored fabrics but never on silk, leather, or wool.

Follow these steps to remove fabric dye stains using a washing machine and performing a deep soak.

Before You Begin

Most importantly, don't confuse oxygen bleach with chlorine bleach. They are completely different products. Chlorine bleach will remove desired colors and damage fabrics.

If trying to decide between liquid or powdered oxygen bleach, both work equally well. However, you might get better results using a powdered formula instead of a liquid form because the powdered form is stable longer. The liquid form begins to degrade the moment it gets bottled. Even unopened, most liquid oxygen bleach only has a shelf life of 6 months. Meanwhile, powdered bleach can last several years.

A set stain will be harder to get out than a fresh one. Skip right to performing a soak on the stained item (instructions below) to start lifting a set-in dye stain. Avoid drying items with color bleeding in a hot dryer. Heat sets stains.

If you plan to wash a dry-clean-only item, do a colorfast test. Wet a cotton swab, and rub it across an inside seam or hem. If dye appears on the cotton swab, the item can bleed and cause dye stains on your other clothing.

Tip

To avoid fabric dye bleeding, sort and wash all new clothes with similar colors several times in cold water. Hand-wash brightly colored delicates separately since it can take several washes before unstable dyes wash out.

How to Remove Dye Stains From Clothes
Stain Type Dye
Detergent Oxygen-based bleach, regular detergent
Water Temperature Varies by fabric and stain
Cycle Type Varies by fabric and stain
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

How to Remove Dye Stains From Clothing

  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 oxygen bleach (brands include OxiClean, Nellie's Oxygen Brightener, and Oxo Brite) in addition to your regular laundry detergent.

    Tip

    Oxygen bleach is safe to use in high-efficiency front-load and top-load washers and standard washers. It's effective at any water temperature; however, if your water is very cold, dissolve the powder in 1 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, recheck each piece of clothing for traces of dye. Any items that still have unwanted color must be soaked and rewashed. 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

    Recheck the clothes 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  

Additional Tips for Handling Dye Stains

Set-in stains may take multiple soaks. But, if the dye stain is still not gone after several times trying these stain removal techniques, consider getting a commercial color run remover product for the affected garment or rewash the item separately using a commercial color catcher sheet.