If you’re in your laundry room and a bit of bleach splashes onto your black jeans, don’t panic! No matter how hopeless it seems, you can fix those colorless whitened splotches most of the time. You just have to learn how to get bleach out of clothing.
The easiest way to get bleach out of clothes is to use common household products such as rubbing alcohol, baking soda, and vinegar to reverse the discoloring effects. Dyeing the garment or following certain washing methods can also remove the stain. If all else fails, repurposing the garment or mending it with sewing techniques can hide the bleach stain.
In this article, you will find nine methods for removing or hiding a bleach stain. You will also learn how bleach works. Finally, you will get some tips for how to avoid bleach stains in your clothes.
Can You Remove Bleach Stains From Clothes?
You can usually remove or conceal a bleach stain in clothes. This depends on the type of material and the color of the garment.
The most popular household bleach today is chlorine bleach. This kind contains sodium hypochlorite, which oxidizes dye particles by dissolving the bonds between them. This makes the cloth colorless.
Household bleach also turns soil and stain particles colorless and loosens their hold to make them easy to wash away. For this reason, and because bleach does a great job brightening whites, you may like to use it in the wash.
As a safety note, household cleaners such as chlorine bleach can create dangerous gases when mixed with other chemicals. You should never combine it with ammonia, for example.
Also, you should work in a well-ventilated area any time you use strong chemicals. Make sure you wear rubber gloves and avoid getting any bleach on your skin, too.
Of course, using bleach on purpose to brighten your laundry is the positive side! What happens when you accidentally bleach part of your clothing? Can you remove bleach stains from your clothes?
Once the bleach has essentially erased the color out of a section of your garment, you can attempt several methods to either re-color the whitened area or cover it up.
How to Get Bleach Stains Out of Clothes: Nine Methods
You can fix bleach stains in your clothes using several easy methods and household products you probably already own.
Technically, bleach doesn’t stain cloth–it removes the color of any dyes, dirt, or oils in the material, like a damp erasing across a chalkboard! Your job is to find a way to fill in that space.
You can do that using one of these nine easy methods.
Baking SodaBaking soda won’t remove bleach stains, but it will keep them from getting any worse. Making bleach inactive will also allow you to re-color the bleached area. This method is important because you don’t want to accidentally mix bleach with another product as you try to fix the white spot!
Baking soda, sodium thiosulfate, and hydrogen peroxide all work in different ways to neutralize the bleach. However, a product like sodium thiosulfate costs more and isn’t as easy to find. Since baking soda is the cheapest and most accessible of these products, let’s look at how to use baking soda to neutralize bleach stain.
- First, rinse the spotted garment thoroughly in cold water.
- Mix up a paste of baking soda and water. For a small stain, about 1/4 cup of baking soda and a couple of tablespoons of water should work.
- Use a cotton swab or cotton wool ball to apply the paste to the bleached area.
- Let the garment sit for a couple of hours or until the paste dries and becomes crumbly.
- Rinse away the paste.
Your garment might still contain a white stain after this method, but at least it won’t spread and grow larger!
You can use any clear drinking alcohol such as vodka to leach color back into a bleached area in your clothes. As a note of caution, this method works best on materials like cotton dyed with a water-soluble coloring, but it can prove effective on synthetic, dye-fast materials like polyester as well.
- Use a neutralizer such as baking soda to make sure the bleach is no longer active.
- Use a cotton swab or a clean rag to rub the alcohol over the stained area, using a circling motion to cross from the stained area into the dyed area. This should pull the color back into the bleached area.
- When the white spot is fully colored, rinse the area with cold water.
- Wash the garment as you usually would get rid of any odd smells.
Actually, as a fun fact, vodka also works as a solvent to help remove wine stains and grass stains, too!
Rubbing AlcoholRubbing alcohol also transfers color from a “good” area of your clothing and into the spotted area. Plus, it costs a lot less! If you accidentally splashed just a tiny bit of bleach onto your clothes, this method is by far the quickest and cheapest you can try.
As a word of caution, though, any kind of alcohol can damage the material, especially synthetics like polyester. For this reason, you should use it as a stain remover only for small areas and only as necessary.
- First, use the baking soda method to neutralize the spotted area. Rinse the garment thoroughly.
- Soak a cotton ball, Q-tip, or clean white rag in rubbing alcohol.
- Wipe this over and around the white spot, pulling color into the bleached area.
- Once you have filled in the spot, rinse the affected section, and wash your garment in the washing machine as usual!
Dish SoapIf you’re doing laundry and get a little crazy with the bleach or dyeing your hair and some bleach splatters onto your shirt, you can try the dish soap method to catch those white splotches right away.
Now, normally you can’t wash bleach stains out of clothes. But you can use diluted dishwashing soap to lift the bleach out of the stained area successfully, especially for a small stain. This technique works for upholstery and carpets as well as clothing!
This method also works to remove bleach stains from clothes without baking soda.
- Mix one tablespoon of dish soap with two cups of cool water. (Unless you plan to use this method on a carpet. In that case, you will need a hotter temperature).
- Use either a clean white rag or a cotton ball soaked in this solution to dab at the white spot. For this method, you don’t want to rub across the stain, as this could spread the white space out even further!
- Let the solution soak into the whitened area for about five minutes.
- Soak a clean white cloth in plain cold water. Blot the stained area thoroughly.
- Use a dry white cloth to blot the area until it dries.
- If you used this method on clothes, go ahead and wash them in your washing machine as usual. If you treated a whitened area on a carpet, you would need to vacuum the affected area once the carpet dries to fix the texture of the carpet fibers.
Fabric MarkerYou can use a fabric marker pen to color in bleach stains, just like working on a coloring book page! You will need to find a marker that exactly matches the color of your clothes, though. For that reason, this method may work best on black clothes.
- Find a permanent fabric marker that matches the color of your garment.
- Before you can apply the fabric marker, make sure you use the baking soda method to neutralize the bleach. You should also wash your garment in a regular washing machine cycle before you dye it.
- Read the instructions on the marker’s package. For example, some fabric markers work on natural fabrics like cotton but not on synthetic materials like polyester. Make sure the marker will work on your garment.
- Finally, follow the instructions on the marker package to wash and set the color into the cloth. Most fabric markers require heat-setting in a dryer to make sure the color remains permanent.
Fabric DyeIf you have a large bleach stain, you may want to consider using fabric dye. You can use dye to cover up bleached areas in several ways. For example, if you have a light-colored skirt that has been damaged by bleach, you could try tie-dying the skirt to reinvent it in a fun new way!
If you just want to return your clothing to its original color, though, you will need to select a fabric dye in the correct color. You will also need to choose a water-soluble dye for most natural materials or a disperse dye for synthetic fabrics. Make sure you read the instructions on the packet before you begin because some dyes require special techniques like using boiling water.
- Use the baking soda method to neutralize the stained area.
- Protect your workspace with newspaper, so you don’t accidentally color your carpet or kitchen table.
- Unless the dye package instructs otherwise, mix one teaspoon of dye powder, one teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of water in a disposable plastic cup.
- Use a toothbrush or small paintbrush to apply the mixture thoroughly to the white spot.
- Let it dry, and then rinse out any remaining dye.
- Finally, wash the garment as usual.
You could also re-dye the whole garment by creating a dye bath in a large pot or bowl. This method might work better if the whole garment has discolored splatters, as it would take a long time to treat each splotch individually.
VinegarDistilled white vinegar does a great job lifting away bleach residue to mitigate stains, and it also works better than anything else to repair white clothes turned yellow.
To remove bleach stains from clothes using white vinegar, follow these steps:
- Make sure you use a neutralizing agent like baking soda or sodium thiosulfate first because you should never directly mix bleach and vinegar.
- Mix one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with two cups of cool water.
- Use a clean white cloth or cotton ball soaked in this vinegar solution to blot the stained area. White vinegar should lift the bleach, making the stain much less obvious.
- Use a dry cloth to soak up the moisture. Keep blotting until the smell fades.
- After the garment dries, make sure you rinse the fabric and then wash it well to avoid degrading the fibers and weakening the material.
How to Cover Up Bleach Stains
If removing the stain didn’t work, or if you prefer a more creative method, you can always try covering up the affected area! If you like crafting, you could embroider a cute design over the damaged part of your clothing. Or whip out your sewing machine and sew on a fancy appliqued design!
For those of you who like a simpler method, here are instructions for how to apply a simple fabric patch to cover up a stained area:
- Choose a fabric that closely matches your garment, or select a bold contrasting color if you want the patch to stand out!
- Measure the stained area. You will want to cut out a fabric square one inch larger than the dimensions of the stain.
- Use an iron or your fingers to fold over a quarter-inch hem on all four sides of the square.
- Pin the square to your garment with the folded over edges on the inside.
- Select sewing thread that matches the patch.
- Use a slip stitch to sew around the edge of the patch, securing it to your garment.
- Knot the thread and clip the loose ends.
Repurpose Your Clothes to Remove Bleach Stains
This final method may seem like a bit of a stretch, but if you had a big bleach disaster, you may need to consider repurposing the damaged garment entirely. You can cut away the damaged areas and remake what remains into something new and exciting!
You can find all sorts of ideas for repurposing clothing on Pinterest or Youtube. For example, you can turn a dress shirt into an apron. You can turn jeans into handbags, a braided rug, or even a wreath for your front door!
T-shirts offer all kinds of repurposing solutions, from quilts to throw pillows to braided dog chews!
Depending on your craftiness and the amount of time you want to dedicate to this project, you can find quick no-sew options for repurposing or completely re-sew the garment into another kind of clothing, like a baby outfit.
How to Remove Bleach Stains from Dark Clothes
Out of the nine methods described above, the best way to remove bleach stains on dark clothes is to use one of the alcohols described earlier. This will spread the color back into the bleached spot. This method works especially well to get rid of small white spots on black clothes.
Remember that you can use rubbing alcohol or vodka or tequila for this method. Also, make sure you rub from outside the spot and then back into it to carry the color into the whitened space.
You can try this to get bleach out of navy blue clothes, black sweatpants, or a black shirt!
If you have large bleach stains on dark fabric, your best bet is probably to neutralize the bleached area and then use fabric dye to paint in the whitened space.
How to Fix Bleach Stains on White Garments
The best way to fix bleach stains on white garments is to use the vinegar method.
Sometimes cleaning products may discolor light-colored garments, turning them yellow, orange, or pink. This happens a lot with synthetic fibers because bleach simply removes the color from the fabric, leaving the original yellow synthetic fibers behind.
To fix discolored clothing, use the vinegar method described earlier. Alternatively, if the entire garment has been discolored, you may want to soak it in a basin or bucket filled with cold water, two tablespoons of laundry detergent, and two tablespoons of vinegar.
Allow the garment to sit overnight, then rinse the spot thoroughly.
As a pro tip, you can also toss a half cup of distilled vinegar in with a load of white clothes to brighten them naturally. It also does a great job clearing up mold, mildew, or stinky smells.
How to Avoid Bleach Stains
Of course, the best way to get rid of bleach stains is to avoid any mishaps in the first place! This could prove harder than you might expect because bleach shows up in many different products.
Here are a few possible causes for discolored spots in your clothes and towels:
- Face wash products like Clearasil that contain benzoyl peroxide
- Whitening toothpaste or other tooth-whitening products
- Corrosive household cleaners like toilet bowl cleaner, drain cleaners, and oven cleaners
- Hair bleach
- And, of course, a cleaning product like the Clorox you use around the house can also cause stains!
It typically takes only seconds for bleach to remove the color from the fabric it touches. If you notice this happening, immediately rinse the fabric and then employ the dish soap method and see if you can mitigate any damage before it gets worse!
Moving with care around bleach also makes a big difference. For example, while doing laundry, you could wear old clothes, put your hair up, and wear gloves as protective measures.
If you need to bleach your hair before dyeing it, consider removing the shower curtain, bathroom rug, and bath towels before you begin to avoid any dangerous splatter.
While bleach permanently removes the color from fabric, you can use several methods to fix these whitened spots in your clothing. For example, baking soda will neutralize the bleach stain, preventing it from spreading through your garment. Using the alcohol method will transfer color from an unaffected area into the whitened spot, re-coloring the stain.
You can also use dish soap, fabric markers, fabric dyes, or creative sewing techniques to rescue your discolored clothing!
Have you ever successfully fixed a bleached area in your clothes? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!