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How to Get Red Dye Out of Clothes

Have you ever opened up your washer to discover that your whole load of laundry has taken on a rosy hue, like a pink-tinged Barbie world? If so, you know how tricky it is to get red dye out of clothes. Fortunately, you can learn how to budge red dye transfer from your clothes in a few simple steps!

One of the best ways to get red dye out of clothes is to blot with a solvent such as vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide. Commercial products like oxygenated bleach and RIT Color Remover can also work in some circumstances. Popular home remedies include mixing vinegar with dish soap and lemon juice with citric acid powder to remove the dye.

In this article, you will learn what makes red dye stains so difficult. You will discover eleven simple ways to remove a red dye stain from clothes. Finally, you will find tips on how to prevent red dye transfer in the future!

How to Get Red Dye Out of Clothes

What is Red Dye Transfer?

Red dye transfer happens when the dye particles in a garment break free and cling to another item in the wash. Red dye does not bleed any more than any other color, but it seems like it does for two reasons.

First, some clothing manufacturers tend to oversaturate clothing with vivid colors like red. This makes them look nicer on the rack and tempts more people into buying them. Unfortunately, adding more dye than the fabric can hold onto means that excess dye will quickly leak away into the washing machine the first time you wash the red garment!

Second, many red clothes use a cheap dye called direct dye. More specifically, Diazol Basic Red or Direct Red 80. Direct dye does not bond with the fabric fibers on a molecular level like other commercial dyes such as fiber-reactive dyes.

So, how does red dye transfer happen? When you place an oversaturated red garment containing cheap direct dye into your washing machine, the heat and friction of the swirling water cause thousands of tiny dye particles to break away from the garment and go swirling through the machine. Once the water contains lots of red dye, any garment that touches it can quickly acquire a red stain!

The good news is that you can easily find solvents that can dissolve this red dye and remove it from any other clothing it touches. Natural products with high acidity, such as vinegar and lemon juice, will do the trick, as will strong solvents like rubbing alcohol!

How to Get Red Dye Out of Clothes: 11 Methods

How to remove red dye from clothes

Getting red dye stains out of clothes often requires a bit of elbow grease. Still, the only products you need are common household supplies you probably already have at hand, like vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Most red dye stains caused by direct dye or over-dyeing of a garment will dissolve when a strong solvent like ammonia, alcohol, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide soaks the cloth.

1. Vinegar

VinegarVinegar contains acetic acid, which can easily break down direct dye into molecules that will rinse away from the fabric.

  1. Fill a clean bucket most of the way up with cold water. If you have multiple dye-stained garments to treat, consider scrubbing out your bathtub well and using that instead.
  2. Measure in one cup of distilled white vinegar for every gallon of water used.
  3. Gently lower your clothing into this solution and swish it about to make sure it gets all the way soaked.
  4. Let the clothes soak for fifteen minutes.
  5. Take the garments out one at a time to rinse under running water. This should remove both the vinegar and any remaining dye particles that will slough away.
  6. Examine the garments carefully to make sure the dye is gone. Then wash them in your washing machine using cold water and your normal detergent.
  7. Do not put the clothes in the dryer. Hang them up to air dry and then check them once more to make no staining remains.

The only downside to this method is that it works best on natural fabric like cotton or linen. It may not remove the red dye as effectively from polyester clothing.

2. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing AlcoholRubbing alcohol also acts as an effective solvent to break down the particles in direct dye stains. This application works best on smallish stains, allowing you to spot-treat issues quickly as you see them.

  1. Start by placing a white rag beneath the stained portion of the garment.
  2. Dip a sponge or cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and use it to blot the stain, getting it thoroughly damp.
  3. Next, get a clean, soft brush, such as a paintbrush. Dip the brush in the rubbing alcohol.
  4. Now use stiff, short brush strokes over every section of the stain. This technique, called “tamping,” should begin to force the dye onto the white rag buffer you placed behind the stain.
  5. Continue until you start to see the stain lightening.
  6. Rinse the stain under running water and then check once more to see if any red dye remains.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen PeroxideHydrogen peroxide can treat red dye transfer in clothes in an interesting way. It oxidizes the part of the dye that creates color, compounds called melanins. In fact, it works a lot like bleach!

The only tricky thing about using hydrogen peroxide is that it could also take some of the original dye out of your garments. Make sure you try a spot test on a hidden inner seam of the clothes first to see if the peroxide will damage the garment or not. Hydrogen peroxide should not harm any colorfast garment, but if you have some oversaturated garments or any garments dyed with direct or all-purpose dye, it will bleach them.

  1. Hold your stained garment stretched out over a sink.
  2. Pour about ¼ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide directly through the stain.
  3. Let the damp stain sit for thirty minutes.
  4. Now, soak a clean white rag in the peroxide and use it to blot the stain.
  5. Once a lot of the red has transferred to the rag, hold the garment stretched out over the sink again.
  6. This time, run water straight through the stained fabric to carry the red dye away.

4. Baking Soda

Baking sodaBaking soda acts as a gentle, abrasive, whitening agent on clothing and can provide a non-chemical, all-natural way to get red dye stains out of your clothes.

This method works best on very small stains and may not work as immediately as using a more powerful solvent. But on the other hand, baking soda will not damage your clothes like some of the strong chemical techniques!

  1. In a disposable cup, stir together ¼ a cup of baking soda and enough water to make a thick paste, usually about one to two tablespoons.
  2. Use your fingers or a spoon to spread the paste over the stain.
  3. Let this sit for an hour, or even overnight.
  4. Finally, launder your clothes in a cold-water cycle of the washing machine. Do not put them in the dryer, though–hang them up to air dry.

5. Chlorine Bleach

If you find red dye stains on white clothing, towels, or bedsheets, you will want to consider using chlorine bleach to remove the spots. Chlorine bleach is the most aggressive cleaning method you can use. It does come with some risks, as this type of bleach can eat through fabric fibers and weaken the cloth.

You should never use chlorine bleach on black or colored clothing. Also, make sure you work in a safe, well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in the fumes.

  1. The easiest way to bleach white clothes with red dye stains is to use your washing machine.
  2. Start by loading the stained clothes into the machine and setting it to a hot wash cycle.
  3. Add a soak before the main wash.
  4. Measure ¼ cup of bleach into a quart of water. Once the machine fills up for the soak, add the diluted bleach to the washing machine basin. You do not want to pour straight bleach onto dry fabric, which could harm the material.
  5. Let the clothes soak in the bleach water for at least ten minutes.
  6. Finally, add the normal detergent and finish your load of laundry as usual.

6. Ammonia

AmmoniaAmmonia can also remove most red dye stains from clothing. This chemical agent acts much like bleach but is generally much safer, so long as you do not mix it with any other cleaning product.

  1. Make a 50/50 solution of ammonia and water. For a tiny red-dye stain, you can mix up a small amount in a disposable cup and use a sponge to dab at the stain. For larger stains, fill up a bucket for a soak.
  2. Lower the clothing into the solution and let it sit for twenty minutes.
  3. Wear gloves or use tongs to transfer the wet clothing to rinse it in a sink.
  4. Check to see if the stain remains. If so, try this home remedy using ammonia: mix up a new bucket containing a teaspoon of Dawn dish soap, a tablespoon of ammonia, and a quart of water.
  5. Submerge the stained area into that solution for thirty minutes.
  6. Then rinse and inspect again.

The ammonia and dish soap home remedy works especially well on acrylic or polyester clothes with red dye stains!

7. Oxygen Bleach

BleachOxygen bleach contains hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. It can lift all kinds of stains without damaging most colorfast clothing, meaning that you do not have to only use it on white clothes!

You can follow the directions on the bleach bottle to add this product to your washing machine. Or, to more directly treat stains, you can follow these steps:

  1. Mix up one-eighth of a cup of oxygen bleach with two cups of cool water.
  2. Dip a clean sponge into this solution and use it to blot the stained area.
  3. Let the damp stain rest for thirty minutes.
  4. Use a clean white rag to blot again, using bleach and water. This time, you should see red dye coming off onto the rag. Repeat this motion until you do not see red on the garment.
  5. Launder the garment as usual without rinsing out the bleach.

8. Vinegar and Dish Soap

One of the most popular home remedies for stain removal of all kinds in clothing is to mix up vinegar and dish soap.

  1. Find a clean spray bottle and use a funnel to pour in one cup of distilled white vinegar.
  2. Next, measure in ¼ cup of Dawn dish soap.
  3. Screw on the top and give the bottle a good shake to mix up the two ingredients.
  4. Spread out the stained garment with a bath towel or piece of thick cardboard beneath it.
  5. Spray the stain thoroughly with your vinegar/dish soap solution.
  6. Let the damp stain sit for an hour.
  7. Finally, rinse the stain under cool running water.

9. Lemon Juice and Citric Acid Powder

Another popular home remedy for getting red dye out of white clothes is to combine lemon juice and citric acid powder. Just like with vinegar, the acid in this combination can break up the dye molecules and allow you to rinse them away.

As a note of caution, you probably only want to try this technique on white clothes, as the acid could bleach the original dye out of colorful garments!

  1. Boil two cups of water and measure in two tablespoons of citric acid powder.
  2. Let the water cool and then add ¼ cup of lemon juice. The juice does not contain as much acid as the powder, but it will add a pleasant smell!
  3. Dip a clean sponge or white rag into this cleaning agent and blot the red stain.
  4. Repeat this motion until you see red dye transferring onto your sponge.
  5. Rinse the stain under cool running water.

10. Nail Polish Remover

Nail Polish RemoverNail polish remover contains a strong solvent called acetone that can quickly dissolve many types of stains and remove them from your clothes. You need to handle this with care, though, as it can damage some types of cloth. Always try a spot test before pouring a lot of acetone onto a piece of clothing!

  1. Soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and scrub it lightly over the stain.
  2. Let the nail polish soak in for a minute or two.
  3. Next, use a clean rag to blot the stain. If the method works, you will instantly see the red dye on the rag.
  4. Keep using new corners of the rag to blot the stain until all the red disappears.
  5. Rinse the stained area immediately to get the acetone out of the fabric.

11. RIT Color Remover

Rit 60 1 Oz Powder Color RemoverIn extreme cases, such as accidentally turning a whole load of laundry red, you may want to purchase a commercial product like RIT Color Remover. Commercial dye removers can easily handle removing direct dye or all-purpose dye stains. They may not work as well on polyester or synthetic garments as cotton.
  1. Make sure you prewash the stained garment before beginning this method but do not dry it.
  2. Fill a large stock pot two-thirds full of water and bring it to a simmer on your stove.
  3. Add the color remover powder according to the directions on the packet.
  4. Place the damp garment into the pot.
  5. Stir gently for ten minutes.
  6. Rinse the garment in warm water, and then in cool water.

How to Get Red Stains Out Of:

Now that you know the most effective ways to get red dye out of clothes, check out these tips on how to remove red dye under difficult circumstances.

White Clothes

The easiest way to get red dye out of white clothes is to use the chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach method. You can also use lemon juice and citric acid powder if you want an all-natural solution.

The great thing about getting stains out of white clothes is that you can go ahead and bleach out all the color without worrying about damaging the original dye!

Clothes After Washing

If you notice red dye stains in clothes after washing, the most important thing you can do is to treat the stain right away. Sort the load of laundry and set aside any red clothes so they do not keep leaking dye onto the other garments.

Next, use any of the solvents mentioned in this article, such as alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar, to blot at the stains in the damp clothes. Once you no longer see the stain, rinse that section of the garment under running water.

Clothes that Have Been Dried

The best way to get red dye stains out of clothes that have been dried is to treat them with bleach. Use chlorine bleach for all-white clothes and oxygen bleach for colored clothing.

You can also try the home remedy of mixing ammonia, dish soap, and water to treat dried-in red dye stains.

How to Prevent Red Dye Stains

The best way to prevent red dye stains is to wash red clothing separately for the first few times. If you have the time, washing a new red garment by hand the first time works even better. This way, you can immediately see if any red dye seeps away into the water, and you’ll know if you need to keep the garment apart from the rest of your laundry or not.

You can also:

  • Wash your colorful clothing in cold water. Hot water may cause more dye leakage.
  • Run small loads of laundry to reduce the amount of friction on over-dyed clothes, cutting down on dye seepage.
  • Try to avoid placing vividly colored red clothes with white or pale-colored clothes, as this is just asking for trouble!


You can get red dye out of clothes using solvents like vinegar, rubbing alcohol, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide. You can also bleach red dye out of white clothes using oxygen or chlorine bleach. Special home remedy recipes like mixing ammonia with dish soap can also soak red dye transfer out of clothing.

Red clothing often gets over-saturated with dye in the factory, making it look nice on the rack but leading to dye transfer the first time you wash the garment. To avoid getting red dye stains on your other clothes, try to hand wash red clothes after the first time you wear them.