How to get rid of dye transfer stains

Updated April 17, 2017

Dye transfer stains occur when detergents remove dyes from the surface of your clothing. The dyes then settle on another piece of clothing, changing its colour. For example, a red T-shirt might dye white socks pink, or dark-rinse blue jeans might dye a white T-shirt light blue. Dye transfer is more common with cotton garments than synthetic garments because dye is usually applied to cotton fabrics after the cloth has been woven. Dye transfer usually occurs with new garments that have not been washed before.

Remove the offending garment from the load of laundry and wash the stained laundry again in cold water. Dye transfer stains often rinse out in the wash.

Pretreat remaining stains with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Wash again in cold water.

Dilute all-fabric powdered bleach according to the label's instructions. Soak garments in the diluted bleach. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Check the garment label to determine whether liquid chlorine bleach will damage the fabric. If bleach is safe, dilute liquid chlorine bleach according to label instructions and soak the garment for 15 minutes.


Prevent dye transfer by separating whites and colours and washing colours in cold water. Wash new garments separately in cold water.


Liquid chlorine bleach may damage some garments. Do not bleach garments for more than 15 minutes. Do not put stained clothes in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will set the stains.

Things You'll Need

  • Heavy duty liquid detergent
  • All-fabric powdered bleach
  • Liquid chlorine bleach
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About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.