How to remove dye from fabric

Written by drue tibbits
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How to remove dye from fabric
Dye stains can be difficult to remove. (stain - splat image by from

It is not easy to remove dye from fabric. Dyes stay bonded to fabric fibres, which is why your colourful shirt stays colourful even after repeated washings. When you accidentally get dye on fabric, such as hair colouring on a towel, blueberry stains on a shirt or a craft project mishap that ended up on your chair, it can be difficult to get the dye to release. Dye-removal techniques have varying degrees of success, depending on how long the dye has been on the fabric, the source of the dye and the nature of the fabric itself.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Heavy-duty liquid washing powder
  • Old toothbrush
  • All-fabric oxygen bleach
  • Sponge
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Monagum thickener
  • Spoon
  • Hydrogen peroxide

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  1. 1

    Clean the dye stain as soon as possible. Treat the dye stain before laundering and drying, as this can set the dye permanently.

  2. 2

    Apply heavy-duty liquid washing powder directly on the dye stain. Work in the detergent by rubbing the fabric against itself or scrub it in with an old toothbrush. Rinse the fabric with cool water. If the dye stain remains, proceed with the next step.

  3. 3

    Soak the fabric in a diluted solution of all-fabric oxygen bleach. Follow the package directions to make a diluted solution and soak the fabric for as long as the package recommends. For fixed-fabric items such as chairs, sponge the diluted solution onto the dye stain until the area is soaked. At the end of the recommended soaking time, rinse the fabric with cool water. If the dye stain remains, proceed with the next step.

  4. 4

    Check the fabric for colour fastness by applying a small amount of chlorine bleach to a hidden area such as an inside seam or hem. If the fabric changes colour, do not use chlorine bleach on the fabric.

  5. 5

    Mix a solution of one part chlorine bleach to five parts warm water. Soak the item for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and inspect.

  6. 6

    Use stronger concentrations of bleach if the dye stain remains. Start with two parts chlorine bleach to five parts water and soak for 15 minutes. Increase the concentration if the dye stain remains, but do not mix the solution stronger than one part bleach to one part water.

  7. 7

    Rinse the fabric with cool water and inspect the fabric. A dye stain that remains after 15 minutes of bleaching is permanent.

  8. 8

    Make a bleach paste for items that cannot be soaked. Mix two parts chlorine bleach to five parts water. Add enough monagum thickener to the mix to thicken it to a paste consistency, about 1 tbsp monagum for ½ cup liquid.

  9. 9

    Apply the paste quickly, before the mixture breaks down, to the dye stain using the back of a spoon. Wait three minutes and rinse the area with cool water.

  10. 10

    Neutralise the bleach, after either the soaking or the paste method, to avoid damage to the fabric. Make a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to 10 parts water and soak, or sponge it on, the fabric.

  11. 11

    Allow the hydrogen peroxide solution to soak for 10 minutes. Rinse the fabric with cool water, and launder the item as usual. Any dye stain that remains is permanent.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use chlorine bleach on silk or wool. The bleach can permanently damage these fabrics.
  • Use adequate ventilation when using chlorine bleach.

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