How to Remove Unwanted Dyes from Cotton Clothing

cottondressshirt

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.

Comments

  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,
    Jenny

  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:

    Janet,
    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: HowToCleanSuff.net – 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:

    Mary,
    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: HowToCleanStuff.net – 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!

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