Anyone who has ever done laundry has experienced the dreaded color bleed at least once. This happens when you throw a load of colorful clothing into the washing machine and then find that dye from one garment has spread to other clothes! Fortunately, you can easily learn how to remove color stains from clothing using just a few simple products.
One of the best ways to remove color stains from clothes is to soak the stained garment in a solution of water and laundry detergent for half an hour. Other methods include using vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice to remove the stain. Commercial products like OxiClean, bleach, and color grabbers can also work.
In this article, you will find out what makes some clothes bleed color. You will learn eight techniques for removing color stains from clothes. Finally, you will discover tips for how to prevent this type of stain.
- What Causes Color Stains?
- How to Remove Color Stains From Clothes: 8 Methods
- How to Remove Stain from Clothes Caused by Other Clothes
- How to Remove Color Stains from White Clothes
- How to Remove Stains From Colored Clothes
- How to Prevent Color Transfer in the Wash
- How to Remove Dye Stains
- Best Stain Remover for Colored Clothes
What Causes Color Stains?
Dye leaking out of non-colorfast clothing causes color stains. This happens for various reasons, including unset dyes, cheap or unstable dyes, or bad dying methods. You often find this issue in inexpensive ready-wear clothes that did not receive proper treatment during the manufacturing process.
Color bleeding in the wash is the reason your mom or grandma probably taught you to separate the darks from the lights and the colors from the whites as you do laundry. These days, this is an impractical laundry method because we all want to reduce our water and energy consumption.
Plus, laundry experts suggest that you should usually focus more on separating types of fabric than on separating colors as you do laundry. This matters because fabrics like polyester and cotton need different kinds of cleaning methods.
The trouble comes from cheap clothes that cut corners or used bad products. In some cases, the ready-wear clothes you see in the store get overdyed. This means that the fabric is coated in a layer of dye particles it can’t absorb because its fibers are already saturated.
Using too much dye makes the clothes look gorgeous and colorful on the rack. But this also means that the first time you wash the garment, all that excess dye will float free, and look for something else to stick to!
Dye transfer occurs when you wash a load of clothes containing one of these garments that is not colorfast. For example, suppose you just bought a red shirt. You put the red shirt, your blue jeans, and a bunch of grey t-shirts into the washer together. When you open the washer after the cycle, you discover blotches of red on the jeans and the t-shirts.
Red and orange-colored clothing famously bleed dye in greater proportion than other colors, but the fact is that any new garment you bring home could cause problems. Fortunately, you can learn several preventative steps to avoid causing color transfer in the wash later in this article.
And when the worst happens, you will have eight easy methods ready to go to remove the color stain from your clothes!
How to Remove Color Stains From Clothes: 8 Methods
When you find a color bleed stain on your clothes in the washing machine, you can use effective techniques like soaking the stained garment with detergent to immediately treat the stain. You can also apply several household remedies like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Several commercial products like OxiClean can also work well on certain fabric types.
Before you try any of these methods, make sure you track down the culprit in your load of laundry and remove the garment that has bled dye from the rest of the laundry. This way, it will not continue to cause problems as you treat the stained clothing!
1. Detergent SoakOne of the easiest and most effective ways to remove color stains from clothes is to immediately place the stained garment in a special soak. However, this method will not work if you miss the stain and put the clothing in your dryer.
- Fill up a clean bucket or sink with two gallons of warm water. Measure in four tablespoons of laundry detergent and swish it until you see suds.
- Add another drop of detergent directly onto the stain on the clothing.
- Submerge the garment into the suds to get it wet.
- Use an old toothbrush to scrub the detergent into the stain on the wet clothing.
- Let the garment soak for half an hour.
- Rinse it out and check to see if any of the color bleed remains.
An inexpensive and effective way to remove dye transfer from many clothes at once is to use a white vinegar soak. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which dissolves or breaks down dye particles and can often remove color stains from fabric.
Make sure you use distilled white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar or any other variation. You can find large jugs of distilled white vinegar in most grocery stores in the pickle or condiments aisles.
- Set up a vinegar and water solution. For one or two garments, you will need just one gallon of water and one cup of white vinegar. If you need to soak a whole load of laundry, use a clean bathtub, add five to ten gallons of warm water, and measure in one cup of vinegar for every gallon of water used.
- Swish the clothes around gently to make sure they get fully saturated.
- Let the garments soak for half an hour.
- Carefully examine each piece of clothing to see if any color bleed remains. If not, re-wash your clothes in the washing machine, but don’t put them in the dyer. Instead, hang them up to air dry just in case.
- If you see some of the color stubbornly sticking to the clothes, rinse out the vinegar and try another method.
One of the best ways to treat color stains on white clothes is to use bleach. For pure white clothing, you can use chlorine bleach for a powerful stain remover. But in most cases, you may find it safer to use oxygenated bleach.
Oxygenated bleach should not damage the original dye in colored clothes, but it will lift the color stain out. This is because the dye transfer that made the stain is not properly set in the fabric like the original dye.
Generally speaking, it’s good to try a gentler treatment first, such as using a laundry detergent or vinegar soak. But if those methods did not work or only removed part of the color stain, you will need to take more drastic steps like using bleach.
Anytime you use bleach, you should work near an open window and wear protective clothing like gloves.
For pure white clothes, try using chlorine bleach:
- Fill a bucket with two gallons of cold water. Measure in two tablespoons of bleach.
- Add your stained white clothes and swish around to make sure they get fully soaked.
- Let the garments sit for ten minutes.
- After ten minutes, check to see if any of the color remains. If so, give the bleach another five minutes. If you do not see any color, immediately rinse the clothes under cool running water.
- Wash the white clothes in the washing machine with regular detergent to remove the bleach smell.
For colored clothes, use this method instead:
- First, find the garment that leaked dye and set that aside. Then put everything else, including the stained clothes, back into the washing machine.
- Read the instructions on the oxygen bleach bottle to find out how much to add for one load of laundry. You can pour this right into the basin with the clothes or add it to the liquid chute if you have one of those on your machine.
- Run your machine through a normal cold-water cycle.
- When the cycle ends, check the clothes to see if the color stains have disappeared!
- If you feel confident you got all the staining out, you can place the garments in the dryer. Otherwise, hang them up to air dry and then check them one more time.
4. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice can naturally whiten and bleach fabric, making it a great stain remover for color stains on white clothes. Plus, this is an all-natural method that doesn’t need any harsh chemicals!
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice directly onto the stain. Make sure you fully saturate the whole stained area.
- Sprinkle table salt generously over the damp area.
- Use a soft sponge to gently rub the salt into the juice, working it into the fabric.
- Rinse the spot under cool running water.
- Check to see if the stain remains. If it does, repeat the method. If you got it all, hang up the garment to air dry.
5. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another gentle remedy to get color stains out of clothes made from a cheap product you already have in your pantry. This method does take longer and may require repeated applications. For that reason, you may want to consider using it as a pre-treatment for color stains and then applying a secondary method after it.
- First, mix up a thick paste of baking soda and water. Typically you need about 6 tablespoons of baking soda and a third a cup of warm water.
- Use your fingers to smooth the paste over the dye transfer area.
- Let the garment sit until the baking soda becomes dry and crumbly.
- Brush away the loose crumbs of baking soda and then run the garment through the wash using regular detergent.
- Do not place the garment in the dryer. Instead, hang it up to air dry and check if any discoloration remains.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide and Toothpaste
Hydrogen peroxide can lift color stains from most clothing in minutes. As a fun fact, many types of toothpaste contain hydrogen peroxide, meaning that you can often remove a small color bleed by dabbing toothpaste onto it!
This method works best on white clothing that has color stains on it. You can use hydrogen peroxide on some colored clothing, but make sure you spot-test the garment first to ensure the peroxide will not bleach the clothing. To do this, pour a few drops of peroxide onto a hidden inside seam of the garment, wait five minutes, and see if any bleaching occurs.
- First, measure four cups of water and four cups of hydrogen peroxide into a bucket. You just need equal proportions of water and peroxide, so you can make more or less of the solution depending on the size of your garment.
- Next, soak the stained clothing for half an hour.
- Rinse it out under cool water.
- If no discoloration remains, go ahead and wash the garment using regular laundry detergent.
7. Home Remedy
Besides using common household products like vinegar to remove stains, you can find several home remedy recipes to treat color stains in clothes.
One effective recipe is to combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with 3 teaspoons of laundry detergent, mixed into one gallon of warm water. Soak the stained garment in this solution for an hour and then rinse it out, checking to see if the stain has disappeared.
Another popular home remedy recipe is to mix up one teaspoon of white vinegar, one-half teaspoon of dish soap, and one cup of water and use this to spray or dab onto the stain. Continuous blotting with clean rags should lift away the color stain after this treatment.
8. Commercial Color Remover
Each product will come with specific instructions for use. For example, RIT Color Remover requires stirring the product into a pot of boiling water!
Other products such as color grabbers or color catcher sheets can soak up stray dye particles from the water in the washing machine, preventing the dye from transferring to other clothes and staining them. These sheets are typically a thin white microfiber soaked in some form of soda ash or washing soda.
How to Remove Stain from Clothes Caused by Other Clothes
The best way to remove stains from clothes caused by other clothes is to soak the stained garments in a solution of laundry detergent and water. If this fails, try using a natural stain remover such as vinegar. In extreme cases, you may need to use bleach or a commercial product to remove the color stain entirely.
One key thing to keep in mind during this process is that you need to start by finding the piece of clothing that leaked dye. Set this garment aside and make sure you handwash it by itself in the future. That way, it will not continue to bleed dye onto the other clothes in the washing machine!
Another important thing to note is that you should not put any of the items from this load of laundry into your dryer. Even if you don’t immediately spot a color stain on some of the garments, go ahead and hang them up to air dry, and then inspect them closely if you missed a spot of dye.
How to Remove Color Stains from White Clothes
The gentlest way to remove color stains from white clothes is to use the vinegar method and allow the acetic acid in the vinegar to break down the dye stain and remove it from the white clothes. If this does not work or you want a quicker result, you can also use the bleach method or the hydrogen peroxide method on white clothing.
It’s much easier to get dye transfer out of white clothes than out of colored clothes because you don’t have to worry bout your cleaning product damaging the original dye in the garment!
How to Remove Stains From Colored Clothes
The best way to get small stains from colored clothes is to use either the laundry detergent or vinegar methods described earlier. But if you find that a whole load of laundry has dye transfer soaked into it, you may want to try using OxiClean bleach and running the whole load through a second wash with the bleach.
OxiClean bleach is oxygenated bleach that is color safe and will not take the original dye out of your colored clothes. You should take care when using any commercial cleaning product and always spot test it on a hidden portion of a garment before applying it liberally.
How to Prevent Color Transfer in the Wash
Of course, the absolute best way to deal with color stains in clothes is to keep them from happening in the first place! You can take a few precautions to prevent any color bleed from occurring in your washing machine.
First, make sure you read the care label inside any new clothes. You can even do this before buying the garment, and avoid buying clothes with cheap dye jobs! Avoid clothes with labels that say things like “Do Not Use Detergent,” “Wash Before Wear,” or “Color May Wash Out.”
If you own clothes with these labels, set them aside and wash them separately.
Second, use cold water in your washing machine whenever possible. Hot water opens up the fibers in many kinds of fabric, releasing even more dye into the water. Cold water does not loosen up the fibers in the same way.
Another pro tip you can try on all the new clothes you buy is to perform a colorfastness test before putting that new garment in the wash with your other clothing. To do this, soak a clean white rag and scrub it gently over an interior seam in the garment. If it comes away clean, you can usually safely wash the garment, but if you see any dye on the rag, you should wash the garment by itself.
Finally, try using color grabbers sheets in your wash. If this seems too expensive, you can also try adding one cup of vinegar to the wash and your laundry detergent.
How to Remove Dye Stains
Now that you know eight simple methods for getting color stains out of clothes, you can get some tips on how to remove dye stains from specific items.
The best way to remove dye stains from most types of fabric is to use the vinegar method described earlier in this article. Most of the time, vinegar will not damage the original dye in the garment, it contains no dangerous chemicals, and it costs very little!
Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol will both easily lift dye transfer out of clothing. The trouble is that these products, like chlorine bleach, tend to damage the original dye in colored clothing. Make sure you try a spot test before using strong dye-lifting agents on colored fabric.
The best way to remove dye stains from white clothes is to use bleach. You can even use chlorine bleach on completely white clothes like undershirts or socks. You can simply bleach away the color of the dye and turn your clothes back into their original spotless white.
That said, you should not expose delicate clothing to chlorine bleach. Try using the hydrogen peroxide method instead fo delicate white clothes. OxiClean oxygenated bleach contains a large percentage of hydrogen peroxide and is also good for more delicate white garments.
The best way to remove dye stains from upholstery is to whip up a home remedy containing dish soap, vinegar, and water.
- In a small bowl, combine one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap, and one cup of warm water. Stir this together.
- Dip a clean white rag into this solution and use it to dab at the stained upholstery.
- You should see the color coming off onto the rag. Rinse out the rag and keep going until you no longer see dye on the upholstery.
- Finally, use another clean rag soaked in plain water to “rinse” the spot by dabbing once more with the damp rag.
Getting a dye stain out of the carpet may prove challenging, but you can usually accomplish the task by using a special mix of hydrogen peroxide and warm water.
- First, blot the stain with a dry rag to see if any wet dye will come away.
- Next, mix one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with three tablespoons of mildly warm water.
- Dip a clean rag into this mixture and use it to blot the stain.
- Check the rag to see if any color has appeared on it. Keep blotting until you no longer see color on the carpet.
- Finally, soak a clean rag in water and blot at the area again to get out as much peroxide as possible.
Best Stain Remover for Colored Clothes
The quickest way to get a color stain out of colored clothes is to use a commercial stain remover.OxiClean Max Force Spray has a powerful ability to lift many types of stains out of colored clothes without damaging the original dye. It can handle grass, grease, food, color, and dirt stains. Because it does not use chlorinated bleach but instead mostly contains hydrogen peroxide, this product works well on colored fabrics.
All you have to do is spritz the handy spray onto the stain, let it sit for five minutes, and then put the garment in the washing machine as usual!Shout Stain Remover Wipes offer a handy on-the-go solution for color stains. You can also use these wipes on things like couches and upholstery. They do not damage the color of colored clothes or upholstery.
The best thing about the Shout wipes is that they come in individual little packets, perfect for stashing in your car or purse. You can immediately treat a stain without waiting to get home to the washing machine!
You can often quickly remove color stains from clothes by scrubbing laundry detergent into the stain and allowing the garment to soak in detergent and water. You can also use vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda to remove color stains from clothes. The best way to get color stains out of white clothes is to use bleach or hydrogen peroxide.
Commercial products like OxiClean sprays or Shout wipes can quickly remove some color stains. To prevent color stains on your clothes, do a color test on new garments before mixing them into the wash with old clothes. You can also use color grabber sheets to soak up stray dye particles in the washing machine.