Dye transfer is one of the most vexing of all laundry care problems. It occurs when a color from one garment bleeds into the fabric of another (and sometimes an entire load). The best way to handle dye transfer problems is to avoid them.
Dye Transfer Removal Methods
What you will need:
- Spray Bottle
- Dish detergent (such as Dawn or Joy)
- Small nailbrush or toothbrush
- Green Tea
- In a spray bottle, mix equal parts water, ammonia and dish detergent.
- Spray the dye transfer area liberally. You should test a small, inconspicuous area of the garment first with this solution as it may cause discoloration on some garments.
- Brush the area briskly with the nailbrush or toothbrush.
- Wash the garment again as usual (by itself).
- If the entire garment has dye transfer (i.e. a white shirt that has turned pink), you may mix a larger amount of the above solution and submerge the entire garment briefly. Again, always test a small, inconspicuous area to make sure no further discoloration will occur.
- If the stain still remains after washing, repeat the procedure.
- If your garments are bleach safe (always check the tag), mix a diluted solution of bleach and hot water (about 1 part bleach to eight parts water), and soak the dye transfer area with the solution (or the entire garment if necessary). If this solution does not lift the stain, gradually increase the amount of bleach until the solution is about half and half, or until the stain appears to lift. Wash as usual, but do not dry until you are sure the stain is gone. ALWAYS REMEMBER that bleach is a hazardous chemical and should be handled with care. For more information, see Ashland Material Safety Data Sheet (PDF).
- As an alternative method, or for use on clothing that is not bleach-safe, soak the garment in hot water infused with green tea. After soaking for about 15 minutes, remove the garment, spread regular table salt on the dye transfer stain, and let stand for another 15 minutes. Wash as usual, but do not dry if the stain is not completely gone.
- As another alternative method, also for use on clothing that is not bleach-safe, wash your garment as you normally would (by itself), but instead of using regular detergent, use 1/4 of Boric Acid (Borax, found in the laundry aisle at most grocery stores).
Preventing Dye Transfer
- Read all labels on your clothes carefully; many clothing labels will indicate that the colors have a tendency to bleed by stating that the clothing should be washed separately or with like colors. If your label says that, follow their advice, especially if it the first time you are washing the garment.
- Sort your clothes carefully and make sure you don’t wash any darker colors with your lighter colors, which invites dye transfer trouble.
- Remove your clothes promptly from the washer once the cycle is complete.
- Be especially wary of red or orange colored clothing as those colors tend to bleed more easily.
- There are products known as fabric stabilizers (or “interfacing”) that will serve to absorb dyes and act as color magnets in your washer, thus avoiding the issue of dye transfer. You can find these products (which look like thin sheets of foam) at most fabric stores.
- There are other products which you can actually add to your wash that help to prevent dye transfer. You can usually find these products in the laundry aisle at your local store or online.
Additional Tips and Advice
- If a dye transfer stain does occur, the sooner you tackle the stain, the better. Don’t allow the stain to set in; you stand the best chance of eliminating the stain by working on the garment while it is still wet.
- If you want to remove the dye transfer stain, under no circumstances should you dry the garment or use an iron on it as this will set the stain, which will then be nearly impossible to remove.
- “Rit”, has a product sold in most laundry aisles and fabric stores, that may help remove color stains from WHITE clothing (it removes all color, so shouldn’t be used on colored clothing). Rit is very powerful, so be sure to wear rubber gloves, old clothes and follow all directions on the box. It may even mar the finish on some appliances and table tops, so exercise caution in where you use it.
- “Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing” is another product you may try to help lift out dye transfer stains. It can usually be found in the soap or laundry aisle of your grocery store.
- Keep in mind that not all dye transfer stains can be removed and the darker the stain, the less likely it will come out entirely. If you simply can’t part with the garment, consider other alternatives, such as dying the entire garment a darker color.