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How to remove colours that ran in the wash

Updated March 23, 2017

Laundry accidents can happen to anyone. Rule number one when it comes to laundry: separate dark colours from light colours. However, you may inadvertently mix dark- and light-coloured items, or you may take a risk thinking a certain colour won't run in the wash. When this happens, light-coloured items may take on some of the colour that ran from the darker-coloured items. Luckily, you can easily reverse this, and your light-coloured items will return to their original colour.

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  1. Soak your laundry as quickly as possible after you notice the colour runs, especially if the laundry is still wet. First, soak the laundry in warm water and washing powder for about 30 minutes. Rinse, and check the results.

  2. Separate laundry into white items and colour-fast items. Place the white items into a basin, sink or bowl and add about 59 ml (1/4 cup) of bleach. Let the items soak for no longer than 15 minutes; any longer could cause the fabric to weaken. The bleach should return these items their original white colour. Rinse thoroughly with water, and wash in detergent either by hand or in the washing machine and separate these items from the dark-coloured items.

  3. Add water and about 59 ml (1/4 cup) of colour-safe bleach to the colour-fast items. As an alternative, you can use a product for colour-bled items. Either product should remove the colour that ran onto the items. Let the items soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse, and wash using washing powder.

  4. Soak both the white items and the colour-fast items separately in a mixture of water and about a cup of white vinegar as an additional, but optional step. White vinegar helps restore the colour of discoloured clothing.

  5. Repeat any of the steps if necessary if the colours still haven't been restored to your laundry.

  6. Tip

    Remember to separate white items from coloured items in future washes to avoid colour runs. Treat clothing while it is still wet. Do not place it in the dryer or wait until it dries. This will only set the colour and make it harder to remove. Always read care labels before washing an item. Also read them before using chlorine bleach, or if unsure, use only non-chlorine bleach.


    Do not use bleach intended for whites on coloured clothing, even for a few minutes. It will cause the colour to fade or it might stain the coloured clothing permanently.

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Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Washing Powder
  • Bleach
  • Colour-safe bleach
  • White vinegar

About the Author

Aleksandra Ozimek has been writing professionally since 2007 for a fashion blog, various online media and the "Queens Courier," in addition to interning at "Cosmopolitan" magazine. She completed her Bachelor of Science in journalism and photography from St. John's University, where she is completing her master's degree.

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