Few stain problems are more difficult than getting out dye which has transferred from one garment to another in the laundry. Stains to white garments, the most common, are the easiest to treat. If you have a dark fabric that is stained or discolored due to dye transfer, then you may have a bit of a challenge in front of you, as you risk ruining the original dye job if you let any solvent sit on it too long.
The number one rule is to treat the dye transfer immediately. Once you have dried or ironed the fabric, the dye becomes set. To prevent dye transfer to begin with, sort your laundry loads by color and use something called fabric stabilizers, or interfacing. These are sheets which absorb any lose dye in the water. Other products called Syntrapol and Color Catcher cause the dye to remain as clumps in the water instead of leeching into your clothing.
- For small area stains, place ammonia, dish detergent and water in a spray bottle, all in equal parts. Spray on the stain and scrub gently with an old toothbrush. If your garment is colored then you will need to rinse immediately, and repeat until the stain is gone. If it’s white, you may let it soak.
- Also for small stains, fill a spray bottle half way with vinegar and half way with warm water, and spray. You may also make up a dish full of this and soak the fabric whole if you like.
- For white fabrics, use a bleach solution. It’s recommended that you start with an 8:1 water to bleach ratio, increasing as necessary. Rinse and repeat before washing, or add an oxy plus soaker. Using very hot water—just short of boiling—may also increase effectiveness. Be careful of using too much bleach too often, as it will break down the fabric fibers; with some white garments, it could react to certain chemicals, turning the garment rather yellow.
- If you don’t want to use bleach, then try making some green tea. Soak the entire garment in a washtub of hot water with green tea in it, and then sprinkle with salt. Wash as normal. A quarter of a cup of borax in your washing water may also remove stains, as may Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing, which you’ll find in the soap section of most grocery stores.
- If you’re growing really desperate to turn your favorite white shirt white again, then you may try an extremely strong color remover called Rit, or its equivalent. It’s so strong that it’ll ruin the finish on your washer or dryer, so prepare it carefully, following the instructions provided. Old clothes and tough latex gloves are also recommended, to protect you.
If, in the end, you just can’t seem to get that stain out, your final option is to have the whole garment dyed a darker color. While not ideal, it may be preferable to throwing it out altogether.