How to remove yellow bleach stains from fabric

Updated February 21, 2017

Bleach is an effective laundry product that can help keep your whites sparkling clean, but when used on the wrong material it can create ugly yellow stains that are difficult to remove. When the unavoidable happens and bleach spills on your favourite shirt, you may think it is beyond repair. Before you give it up for lost, there are several techniques to try that just may save your favourite shirt from the trash.

Blot a newly spotted area with a cloth saturated with sodium thiosulfate, also known as photographic fixer used in film developing. Look for it wherever photography supplies are sold. (see resources). It works best if applied before bleach has a chance to permanently stain the material as it neutralises the bleaching action. Blot until the stain fades and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

Remove stains that have already set in with distilled white vinegar. Saturate a clean white cloth (a coloured cloth may make the stain worse) with distilled vinegar and blot the stain until it is saturated with vinegar. Rinse with cold water and repeat as necessary to remove the stain. Dry as usual. Vinegar neutralises any bleach residue and dissolves and lifts away any damaged material that may be holding the stain. Exercise caution when using vinegar as repeated uses will deteriorate cotton fibres and weaken the material.

Take advantage of Mother Nature and spread the stained clothing on the grass in direct sunlight for several hours. The sun's rays bleach the stain and the oxygen given off by the grass increases the bleaching effects. For best effects, wet the material before laying it in the sun. Hanging stained fabrics over bushes or shrubs is also effective, provided they receive direct sunlight.

Cover stubborn stains with a laundry marker or permanent marker. If you are lucky enough to match the colour of the fabric, this will conceal the stain. Test the marker on a scrap piece of fabric to match the colour before applying to the clothing. Do not use bleach or harsh detergents to wash the fabric after applying markers. It may cause the colour to run.

Strip the colour from the entire article of clothing with Sodium Hydrosulfite. Look for it in the laundry section of your local department store labelled as colour stripper or colour remover. Rit makes a colour remover that is effective and economical. Follow the manufacturer's directions to strip the colour from the fabric. Dye the clothing to the original colour once you strip pigment from the fabric.


Store all chemicals in the original container and out of the reach of children.

Things You'll Need

  • Sodium Thiosulfate
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Sodium Hydrosulfite
  • Permanent markers
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About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.