How to Remove Unwanted Dyes from Cotton Clothing


Aly asked: I was using a tide pen to get tea out of white cotton dress shirt. A yellow sticky was nearby and the color went into the shirt. Now the tide pen is not taking the color out. Ekkk!

When unwanted dyes transfer onto your clothing, there are a couple of different things you can do to fix it. Since these dyes are not absorbed into the fibers like the permanent dyes on the shirt, they are known as “loose dyes” and can be treated and removed. If the shirt is white, the treatment is even easier. Follow the guidelines below to remove the unwanted color.

You Will Need:

  • Clorox or Clorox 2 (color safe bleach)
  • RIT Dye Fixative or
  • RIT Dye Remover

Steps to Remove the Unwanted Dye:

*When working with color removers, it is always best to test the cleaner on a small hidden area to ensure there are no unwanted effects to the material.

  1. Begin by checking the care instructions on the shirt for any cleaning substances that should be avoided. Cotton is typically tolerant of many cleaners making it a great fabric to work with.
  2. There are two options to remove the dye, remove it with a dye remover or bleach it out. Either will remove the color without damaging the shirt.
  3. To bleach the color out, fill a bucket with water and add a small amount of Clorox for white garments or Clorox 2 for colored garments.
  4. Place the garment in the bucket and allow it to soak for several hours.
  5. The color safe bleach should remove the loose dye without affecting the other colors, but be sure to test a small area beforehand.
  6. If the dye that has bled out is not removed, try a special dye remover.
  7. RIT Dye Fixative is designed to bind to loose dyes and reduce color bleeding. It is designed specifically for this purpose and can be found at most drugstores and department stores along with the other RIT dyes. If the garment is white, you can also use RIT Dye Remover that will essentially bleach the entire piece.
  8. For either product, follow the manufacturer’s directions on the packaging for use.
  9. Avoid drying the item in the dryer until the unwanted dye is completely removed, just allow it to air dry. The heat from the dryer will set the dye making it nearly impossible to remove.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Avoid using too much bleach as it can weaken the fibers of the fabric over time.
  • If the dye is fresh and light, you may be able to remove it by spraying it with a stain treatment and washing immediately. Again, do not dry it in the dryer until you are sure the dye is removed.


  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi, can you tell my if you can take dye that I have put in, out? I dyed two small sofa covers from white to denim blue, but was not very successful, and now I want to take the blue out and dye them red. Is this possible?

    Many thanks,

  2. Karen says:

    I have a NY Jersey that must have gotten a spill on it. The jersey is beige and I finally got the yellow stain out when no other cleaners could get it out, but now I have a white spot there. Is there a way to maybe dye that portion of the shirt to a light beige again? Please advise.

  3. Chandan says:

    I have a white cotton kids garment. On that garment, there is a twill tape attached, which is navy in color. The navy color twill tape is dyed locally in a bucket-dying method. Now on washing the whole garment, the blue color is bleeding from the twill tape and staining the white garment. How can I fix the blue color in that twill tape already attached to garment? Suggestion needed urgently.

  4. Jassal says:

    I had a colored cloth bleed on a white cloth, how can I get it white again?

  5. Janet says:

    Pink toddler dress: 98% cotton, 2% elastic. The dress has some blue patches over it – looks like it got near something and blue dye went on it. How can I remove the blue dye, as it is a new dress and a favorite? Thank you.

  6. Melanie says:

    If you don’t have any OxiClean or commercial stain removers available, you can try spraying the stain with hairspray and blotting the area with water. You can also try blotting the stain with rubbing alcohol and rinsing with cold water. A baking soda and water paste is another option, or for a last resort, you can try acetone nail polish remover.

    Source: – How to Remove Ink Stains from Cotton Fabrics
    Source: eHow – How to Get Dye Stains Out of Clothes

  7. Mary says:

    I bought a black blouse, wore it, and my bra got black stains from the shirt. Could you tell me what would take that dye out? Ty.

  8. Melanie says:

    The article, How to Fix Dye Transfer, lists several methods to remove the stain, such as soaking the garment in diluted bleach, soaking it in green tea and rubbing the stain with salt, or using a mixture of dish soap, ammonia and water.
    You can also try the methods that I suggested to Janet, which are commonly used to remove ink stains;
    – Oxiclean or commercial stain removers
    – Hairspray and blotting with cold water
    – Blotting with rubbing alcohol and rinsing with cold water
    – Applying baking soda paste
    – As a last resort, you can try using acetone nail polish remover.
    Always read the tag on your garment first, research the best stain removal method for that fabric and test the cleaning solution on hidden area of fabric first.
    Source: – How to Remove Ink Stains from Cotton Fabrics
    Source: eHow – How to Get Dye Stains Out of Clothes

  9. Baltej says:

    I put some clothes together in water for washing, and color of one cloth has transferred to all other clothes. So now I want to remove the spots of blue color from one light pink and one white shirt… please suggest…

  10. Asu says:

    I got some red color in my white cotton shirt from my jean pant logo while washing. I have tried to remove it by using petrol, lemon, and spirit, but the color is still there.
    How can I clean it?

  11. Cece says:

    I had a light brown stain on a white cotton dress. I used a bleach pen and washed. It turned yellow. I have soaked in Oxiclean, then soaked in Clorox 2, but nothing seems to remove the yellow from the dress? It’s an expensive designer dress. HELP!

  12. Christine says:

    I have washed a pair of jeans with a cotton shirt, and the tan leather patch on the jeans has marked the shirt. How do I get these off?

  13. Melanie says:

    Although the steps in this article may work, here is another article that could help as well: How to Fix Dye Transfer.

  14. Molly says:

    I have a yellow sweatshirt (60% cotton, 40% modal) that, when after removed from the drier, I noticed had random small black smudges on it. What should I do in this case? Thank you!

  15. Melanie says:

    Have you noticed any ‘dirt’ in your dryer? There could be soot in the dryer from a clogged vent, or if you washed a bath mat that has a rubber backing on it recently, some of the rubber backing could have flaked off. There are sometimes rubber parts in dryers (such as the door seal) that could flake off as well. If you think a vent is clogged, use this article to clean it: How to Clean a Dryer Vent.
    Here are some articles that might help with removing the stains:
    How to Remove Soot from Clothing
    How to Remove Melted Rubber from Clothing
    How to Remove Tar from Clothing
    Since you aren’t sure what the stains are, you can always just try a general laundry stain remover as well, or even just try some dish liquid. (Test the dish liquid first on a hidden spot though since sometimes they are dyed and the dye can leave a stain.) Unfortunately, heat sets many types of stains, so the stains may take several treatments to be removed (if they can be removed at all).
    Source: – How To Clean A Dryer

  16. Bobbie says:

    I dyed a crochet outfit pearl gray and it came out darker than I wanted. What should I do?

  17. Mosiuoa says:

    Thank you for your help, but are there other dye removers besides those ones?

  18. Melanie says:

    The dye removers listed in this article are the most well known and widely available commercial dye removers. Another is Synthrapol, as mentioned in the article How to Remove Bleeding Dyes from Clothing. However, there are a variety of dye removal techniques listed in the article How to Fix Dye Transfer that use more common household items.

  19. Deepa says:

    I had washed some clothes together in washing machine. During the process, colour of one fabric got on two of my husband’s shirts. Later, I washed it using Ala. The stain has become light, but is not gone competently. Please suggest some way by which the stain can go.

  20. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Bleeding Dyes from Clothing.

  21. Mya says:

    I washed a pale blue hoodie with my other colored clothes and now it has purple dye stains all over it. I didn’t put it in the dryer, but I can’t buy anything to fix it until tomorrow. Will it be too late? It’s my favorite hoodie and I just got it so I am really desperate. Also, I am in college, so I can’t really soak the hoodie anywhere. Would it be okay to just re-wash it with color-safe bleach?

  22. Brenda says:

    A hair dye soaked into my husband’s orange polo shirt collar and will not budge. I’ve tried Shout, baking soda paste, vinegar, Fels-Naptha, bar soap, and just detergent, but nothing works. What else?

  23. Melanie says:

    There are more ideas that might help in the article How to Remove Hair Dye from Towels. Good luck!

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