How to Remove Dye Transfer Stains From Clothes

Dye transfer stains can be frustrating, but removing them from clothes doesn’t have to be difficult. With some tried and true methods, a bit of elbow grease, and the right products, you can get rid of dye stains and restore your clothes.

What Causes Dye Transfer Stains

Dye transfer happens when the dyes from one fabric rub off onto another fabric. This typically occurs when wet fabrics rub together in the washer or dryer. The friction causes the dyes to release from one fabric and bind to the fibers of the other.

Some common causes of dye transfer stains include:

  • Washing dark and light colors together – Dark fabrics often contain excess dye which can bleed onto lighter items.
  • Overloading the washer or dryer – When fabrics don’t have room to move freely, they are more likely to rub and transfer dye.
  • Heat from drying – High heat can cause dyes to bleed more readily from fabrics.
  • New or poor quality fabrics – Lower quality dyes may not bind as well to fibers and release more easily.

How to Prevent Dye Transfer

While removing existing stains is important, prevention is ideal to avoid dealing with stains in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent dye transfer:

Wash in Cold Water

Wash fabrics in the coolest water possible. Hot water causes dyes to loosen and bleed more easily. Stick to cold water washes whenever possible.

Sort Laundry by Color

Always wash darks and lights separately. Sort clothes by color before washing to avoid dye transfer between fabrics.

Use Color Catchers

Throw a color catcher sheet in the wash to absorb any excess dye released. The sheet traps loose dyes before they can stain other items.

Skip the Dryer

Line dry fabrics instead of machine drying when possible. The heat and friction of drying can cause dyes to bleed.

Test New Fabrics

Wash bright or dark new fabrics separately the first few times to ensure dyes don’t run. Over time dyes bind securely to fibers.

Wash Similar Colors

Group more saturated, vivid colors in one load and paler tones in another. Similar shades to reduce the risk of bleeding.

Removing Dye Stains From White Fabrics

White fabrics make dye stains extremely visible. Luckily, the right stain removers can help erase these stains from your whites.

Rinse With Cold Water

Rinse the fabric under cold running water as soon as possible after a stain occurs. This prevents the dye from fully setting into fibers.

Apply Stain Remover

Spray stained area with a prewash stain remover or use a stain remover stick to lift the dye. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before washing.

Use Borax

Make a borax paste by mixing 1 tablespoon borax with just enough water to form a spreadable paste. Rub this mixture into the stain and let sit for 30 minutes before washing. The borax will help break down and lift the dye.

Try Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Both lemon juice and white vinegar work to neutralize dyes. Soak the fabric in one of these acidic ingredients for 30 minutes before washing to help remove the discoloration.

Use Oxygen Bleach

An oxygen bleach product works wonders at whitening fabrics and removing stains. Check the garment tag and apply if safe for the material.

Wash With Bleach

For white cotton, linen, and other bleach-safe fabrics, add chlorine bleach to the wash cycle according to the packaging directions to remove stubborn stains.

Removing Dye Stains From Colored Fabrics

It takes a more gentle approach to remove dye stains from colored fabrics without damaging the original dye of the garment. Follow these tips.

Blot Excess Dye

Use a clean white towel or cloth to blot and lift as much excess dye as possible immediately after a stain occurs. Avoid scrubbing or spreading the stain.

Rinse With Cold Water

Rinse under cold running water. Hot water can set in stains permanently.

Use Color-Safe Bleach

Check garment tags and opt for an oxygen or color-safe bleach product if possible. This will help lift dye without stripping the fabric’s original coloring.

Make a Baking Soda Paste

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda with just enough water to make a spreadable paste. Apply this to the stain, let sit for an hour, then rinse clean. Baking soda will pull dye from fibers.

Use Vinegar

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz stained area, let sit for 15 minutes, then wash. The vinegar solution will help neutralize and remove excess dye.

Rub With Bar Soap

Rub a wet bar of white soap over the stained area to help lift dye from fibers before washing. The soap molecules bind to the dye.

Try Ammonia

Dilute 1 tablespoon of clear ammonia in 1 cup of water. Use a clean cloth to dab this solution onto the stain. Rinse thoroughly. Ammonia works to dissolve dyes.

Removing Dye Stains From Delicates

Delicate fabrics like silk, satin, and lace require a gentler approach. Follow these tips to lift dye from delicates without damage:

Blot Excess Dye

Gently dab the stain with a clean white towel. Do not rub delicate fabrics as it may damage fibers or spread the stain.

Use Cold Water

Rinse the stained fabric under a gentle stream of cold water to flush out as much excess dye as possible.

Apply Stain Remover

Look for a delicate fabric stain remover or take a small amount of a clear, gel dish soap on a cloth and gently blot the stain to absorb discoloration without harming the fabric.

Try White Vinegar

Dilute white vinegar with an equal part water and apply with a clean cloth or use a spray bottle to lightly mist the stain. The vinegar will help neutralize dyes. Rinse well.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with a cup of cold water. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and dab the stain. Rinse thoroughly after treatment.

Use Milk

Apply undiluted milk to the stain with a soft cloth or cotton pad. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes so milk proteins can attract and absorb dye from fibers. Then rinse clean.

Avoid Heat

Do not machine wash or dry delicates stained with dye transfer. Line dry in shade instead and wash gently by hand if needed. Heat can set stains.

Removing Dye Stains From Leather & Suede

Leather and suede require a much different approach to prevent damaging these materials. Use these tips for dye stains on leather and suede:

Blot Excess Dye

Immediately blot wet stains with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. Apply pressure to absorb as much liquid as possible without rubbing.

Use White Vinegar

Dip a cloth in undiluted white vinegar and gently dab the dye stain. The vinegar will help break dye bonds so the color can be lifted.

Try Clear Alcohol

Use a clean cloth to apply clear rubbing alcohol or vodka to the stained area. Allow alcohol to fully dry, then wipe again with a clean dry cloth. The alcohol will dissolve and lift dye.

Use Saddle Soap

Saddle soap is formulated to clean leather. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth. Gently blot and clean stained area, wiping away any excess suds with a dry section of the cloth.

Try Nail Polish Remover

Test acetone-free nail polish remover on an inconspicuous spot first. If no damage, dip a cotton pad in the remover and gently blot stain. Rinse and wipe clean after with a dry cloth.

Use Baby Wipes

Gently rub the stained area with a fragrance-free baby wipe to help lift fresh stains. Take care not to abrade the delicate leather or suede.

Avoid Heat & Water

Do not attempt to machine wash leather and suede items. Heat and excess water can lead to permanent damage. Spot clean stains instead.

How to Remove Dye Transfer Stains From Clothes: Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions about removing dye stains from your clothes? Here are answers to some common queries.

What is the fastest way to get dye out of clothes?

Rinsing the stained fabric under cold running water immediately after the stain occurs is the quickest way to dilute and flush out excess dye before it has a chance to fully set into fibers.

How do you get old dried in stains out of clothes?

For dried and set-in stains, try soaking the clothing item in a mixture of 1 part oxygen bleach and 4 parts water for up to 8 hours before washing. This allows the bleach time to penetrate, break down, and remove the stain.

What removes hair dye stains from skin or surfaces?

Hair dye is difficult to remove, but rubbing alcohol or an acetone nail polish remover can help lift these stains from skin and surfaces when applied promptly. Always spot test on an inconspicuous area first.

How do you get hair dye out of a washing machine?

Run an empty hot water cycle with either a dishwasher tablet or powdered dishwasher detergent to help clean away residual hair dye inside the machine. Vinegar in the dispenser can also help remove buildup and stains.

Can you get dye transfer out of polyester?

Pre-treating polyester with a stain remover, using color-safe bleach, or rubbing the stain with bar soap can all help remove dye transfer from polyester. The synthetic fibers resist full removal, but these methods reduce the appearance.

Does WD-40 remove dye stains?

Yes, WD-40 can work to dissolve and lift dye stains, particularly on durable surfaces like concrete and tile. Spray on the stain, let it sit for 5 minutes, then wipe clean with a dry cloth.

Does sunlight remove dye stains?

Sunlight will gradually help fade and break down excess dye in fabric over time. However, for quick stain removal, use targeted treatments first before attempting to fade in the sun.

What removes denim dye stains?

Rubbing alcohol, hairspray, white vinegar, and oxygen bleach products can all be effective at removing transferred denim dye from surfaces and light colored fabrics, often without damage.

Key Takeaways for Dye Stain Removal

While dye stains can certainly be frustrating, don’t give up hope! Here are the key tips for success:

  • Always act quickly – immediately rinse fabric with cold water after staining occurs.
  • Pretreat stains before washing – use stain removing sprays, pastes, or solutions tailored to fabric type.
  • Wash and dry separately – avoid additional dye transfer by isolating stained items.
  • Use the right products – pick bleaches, solvents, or whitening agents formulated for your fabric.
  • Take care with delicates and leather – opt for gentler techniques like dabbing with vinegar or milk.
  • Persist and do not dry until stain is fully removed – heat can set in stains permanently.

With some persistence and the proper methods, you can win the battle against dye transfer stains!