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How to remove color stains from clothes

Accidentally dyed your clothing in the washing machine? Keep reading to find out how to remove color stains.


Clothes with colour stains example

It has happened to everyone at least once. You open the washing machine door, expecting freshly laundered linen, and find only strangely off-colored clothes due to the colored dye from one of the garments running in the wash. If this has just happened to you, don’t panic –all is not lost! Read on to find out how to remove color stains from clothes.

Check pockets, legs and sleeves of garments to ensure colored items don’t sneak into the washing machine unseen. The most dangerous color run clothes are often forgotten socks or gloves tucked away in pockets.

What causes color to run?

Dyeing isn’t permanent. Colored dyes, if poorly applied or not strongly bound to the fabric, have a tendency to run when washed. It’s a popular myth that certain colors are more likely to run that others, but it is the fabric that determines whether a garment will leak its dye. Synthetic fabrics are less likely to run, as the dye has been added when the fabric was being created. Home-dyed clothes are very likely to run, as the dye has been added post-purchase. Bear this in mind when washing – choose a color scheme and wash garments of the same color together.

How to remove color stains

The best way to remove color stains from clothes is to catch them while they are ‘hot’ –that is, as soon as possible! Check the machine hasn’t been contaminated – if the stain is particularly strong, consider running a short rinse to remove any dye residue, and rinse your laundry basket to prevent further stains. If the stain is light to moderate, rewash immediately with a stain-focused detergent, such as , being sure to read and follow any instructions written on the packaging and test a product on a small area before use.

Alternatively, it’s possible to use white vinegar to remove the color stain. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into a bucket of cold water, stir thoroughly and then rinse the stained garment. Be sure to check the effect of the vinegar on one small corner of the fabric – if the garment is colored, the vinegar may react with the native dye.

Another option is to use oxygen bleach. When using any kind of bleach, make sure to use gloves and goggles, and be careful not to splash on exposed skin. Dissolve the bleach in a small cup of hot water, then add to a bucket of cool water. Soak the garment for 15-30 minutes, then rinse through.

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For more sever stains, consider using 3% hydrogen peroxide. Add a few drops directly to the fabric (always be sure to check the effect on an unseen corner of the garment) and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Rinse as above.

How to remove color stains from white clothes

If the stain still hasn’t been removed, or if the stained clothing is white, you could try adding 1/8 of a cup of chlorine bleach to a bucket full of water. Allow the garment to soak for 15-30 minutes, then rinse either by hand or using a rinse-cycle on a machine.

There you have it – a simple guide to help you remove color stains clothes. You can also find more advice on dye or color stains

Person pouring liquid on clothes to remove the stains

* Remember, be careful when washing: always read the label on your clothes.

  • Before every wash, check to ensure unwanted colored items don’t sneak into the machine unseen.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on removing dye and colour stains from clothes

How do you remove dye stains on clothes?

As soon as possible, take the stained area of your clothing, and rub with a gentle mix of warm water and detergent. Remember to keep it away from the rest of the garment to avoid dye running. Time is key to removing dye stains on clothes, so the quicker the better!

How do you remove dye transfer stains from white clothes?

Dye transfer stains can be tricky to remove. Multiple washes with oxygen bleach, either by hand or in the washing machine should be enough to dislodge the deep-set stain. Patience is essential.

How to remove color stains from jeans

The same tips as above will work on denim jeans. Being a tough fabric, they are quite resilient, so a machine wash (on 'normal' or 'heavy' settings) with cold water should dislodge tough stains.

How to remove tie dye from clothes

Tie dye is an intentional stain but if it has ended up somewhere it shouldn't then use a stain-focused detergent or oxygen bleach to fade the mark.

Originally published