How to get red dye out of white fabric

Updated February 21, 2017

Red dye is a laundry nightmare for many people, especially when the dye is staining a piece of white clothing. The difficulty lies not only in the source of the red dye -- some red dyes are easier to remove than others -- but the fact that some types of white fabric are washable and others are not. Though there are some removal tips that can be considered "tried and true," getting red dye out of white fabric is often a project that requires time and experimentation.

Determine whether the piece of white fabric is washable or not. Clothing, tablecloths and place mats most often have a care tag that gives washing instructions. Some types of fabrics that are not always washable include wool clothing and carpets, silk and some rayon garments.

Soak washable white fabrics such as cotton, polyester and linen in a solution of warm water, ammonia and dish detergent to allow the red dye to loosen. Use 1/2 tsp detergent and 1 tbsp of ammonia for every quart of water. Let the fabric soak for at least a half-hour.

Rinse the fabric in plain water after soaking. Assess the severity of the red dye stain.

Use a vinegar-and-water soak for white fabrics if the ammonia solution doesn't get rid of all of the red dye. Add 1 tbsp white vinegar to 1 qt. warm water. Be aware that some cottons and linen materials may yellow from the vinegar. Test on an inconspicuous spot before putting the entire garment into the vinegar soak.

Dab a red dye stain that is set (usually by the clothes dryer) with rubbing alcohol. Place an absorbent cloth underneath the white fabric and apply the alcohol with a clean sponge. The alcohol will lift the red dye off of the white fabric.

Remove red dye from unwashable white fabrics with warm water. Sponge water over the affected area to loosen and dilute the red stain.

Combine a laundry stain pre-treatment or carpet cleaner with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of ammonia. Rub the cleanser on the red dye. If working on a piece of fabric that is not a carpet, place a pad under the fabric to keep the dye from bleeding onto other surfaces.

Rinse with water to wash away the stain remover and red dye.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Warm water
  • Dish detergent
  • Ammonia
  • White vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Absorbent cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Stain treatment
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author