Whether it’s a lipstick stain, a ketchup spill, or a glass of wine that didn’t quite make it to your mouth – if you’ve ever struggled with removing red dye from your clothing, you know how challenging it can be.
The endless laundry cycles and half a container of detergent later – you may still find yourself with the red dye stubbornly stuck on your clothes. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on your stained clothing just yet. We’ve bought you 6 tried-and-true ways to get rid of even the most tenacious red dyes from clothes quickly and easily.
First, let’s discuss a few critical points about removing red dye.
Determining the Type of Red Dye
The type, quality, and method of application of the dye used in the fabric will largely determine how easy or difficult it is to remove. If you’re dealing with properly dyed fabric, there are two main types of dyes you can come across:
Natural dyes are sourced from natural resources such as plants and insects. They are generally easier to remove than their synthetic counterparts but can still prove tricky if applied with additives that make them more colorfast.
A few examples where you can come across natural red dyes include:
- Hand dyed scarves
- Natural silk ties
- Tie dye designs
These dyes are chemically manufactured in a laboratory; our standard clothes are dyed with this type of dye. This kind of dye usually doesn’t fade, transfer or wash out as easily and can be harder to remove without industrial-grade chemicals.
But it’s also less likely that you need to remove a properly dyed synthetic fabric. Most often, it’s the accidental red dye stains that you need to get out of your clothes. This takes us to our third kind of red dye:
Red Dye Stains
If you want to remove red dye from your clothes, you’re probably dealing with some kind of red stain. Both natural and synthetic dyed fabrics can bleed or transfer red dyes onto other fabrics if handled incorrectly.
Other types of red dye stains can come from red wine spills, food splatters, makeup smudges, or any other kind of red color that ends up on your clothes.
Depending on the fabric and the type of dye causing the stain, these stains can be the hardest or the easiest to remove. And you might have to use a combination of stain removers, fabric treatments, or other DIY home treatments to get rid of them.
Determining the Type of Fabric
The type of fabric you’re dealing with is also significant for red dye removal. For example, delicate fabrics like silk and cashmere require gentler treatments, wool needs extra care, synthetic materials like nylon and polyester can be more durable, and cotton is usually between all these.
The other important factor is how these fabrics react with different dye stains. Cotton, for example, is not resistant to dyes and tends to turn yellowish when exposed to chlorine bleach. Conversely, silk doesn’t accept dyes as easily and doesn’t respond well to hot water.
Preparing the Clothes
Once you know what type of dye and fabric you’re dealing with, it’s time to start the pre-treatment process.
The first step is to determine if you want to clean some spots or the entire piece of cloth. Contrary to what you might think, spot cleaning is not always recommended and can actually cause patched discoloration. In most cases, it’s better to treat the entire cloth.
Second, you need to prepare the fabric for the treatment. This usually involves brushing off any loose particles and removing as much staining material as possible (blot it with a tissue or a damp cloth).
Next, wash the fabric with a concentrated detergent solution. This will help to remove most of the staining material. If you’re dealing with a delicate fabric, add some fabric softener to the water.
Now you’re ready to begin the actual red dye removal process. Let’s discuss the 6 most effective methods for removing red dye from your clothes.
Method 1: Use Stain Remover
If you’re serious about removing red dye stains, your best bet is to use a professional-grade stain remover. These products are specifically designed for removing stubborn dye stains from fabrics and come in liquid or powder form.
So invest in a good quality product; Rit Dye Laundry Treatment and Carbona Color Run Remover are the two we recommend. Especially the Rit dye is highly effective and even works on the toughest red dye stains.
You can also use other brands like Shout, Resolve, and Zout but read the instructions carefully as most of these chemicals are only suitable for white fabrics.
- Stain remover
- Prepare the stain remover solution according to the instructions on the package. If it’s a powder, dissolve it in water, and if it’s a liquid product, dilute it according to the directions (Hot water works best).
- Soak the stain in this mixture for about 10-30 minutes, and keep checking to make sure it’s working. And lightly rub the affected area with a damp cloth if needed.
- Once the stain is gone, wash the fabric in cold water and detergent.
You can also repeat the treatment a few times if necessary. But it really depends on the type of fabric and whether it can withstand multiple treatments.
Method 2: Use Chlorine Based Bleach
Bleach is another effective method for removing red dye stains from clothes. But be warned that chlorine bleach is unsuitable for all fabrics and can destroy your clothes if not used properly. So, if you’re going to use a bleach-based product, ensure it’s compatible with your fabric.
Colorex and Evolve are chlorine-based bleach products designed to remove dye stains.
- chlorine-based bleach
- Mix one part bleach with five parts water or prepare it according to the directions on the package.
- Soak the stained fabric in this solution for 10-15 minutes. You have to be really careful with this step because over-soaking can produce a yellow hue in white clothes and even weaken the fabric.
- So soak the fabric in short 3-5b minute intervals and then rinse to check if the stain is coming off.
- Once the stain is removed, rinse it off with cold water and detergent. Or run it through the washing machine if you’re confident the fabric can handle it.
It’s not recommended to spot-clean any fabric using chlorine bleach, as that part can come out much different than the rest of the fabric.
Method 3: Use Oxygen Based Bleach
Oxygen-based bleach is also known as color-safe bleach and is a safer choice for removing stains from colored fabrics. Although it also works like any regular bleach, it’s not as strong, so you might not get the same results.
OxiClean, Molly Sud’s, and Biokleen are popular examples of oxygen-based bleach products. These products come in different strengths, so all oxygen-based bleach may not work on all types of colored fabrics.
- Oxygen based bleach
- Prepare the oxygen-based bleach solution according to the instructions on the package. Most of these products need to be dissolved in warm water.
- Soak the stained fabric for about 10-15 minutes or according to the instructions on the package. Or add it to the washing machine directly; they’re usually safe enough for that.
- Then rinse the fabric with cold water and detergent.
Method 4: Use Ammonia & Detergent
Ammonia is a very powerful cleaning agent, and laundromats have been using it to remove tough stains from clothes for generations. When mixed with detergent, it can effectively remove red dye stains from clothes.
It’s safe for both white and colored fabrics and also works on delicate fabrics like silk. Plus, it’s an excellent choice to spot a clean red dye stain as it won’t discolor the treated area like chlorine bleach.
- Mix one part ammonia and two parts detergent in a bowl of warm water. You can increase the amount of ammonia and detergent depending on the size of the stain.
- Since it’s safe to spot-clean the fabric with ammonia, you can use a small sponge or cloth to apply the solution to the stained area and rub it gently.
- Or you can also soak the whole fabric in the solution just like the other methods.
- Then rinse the fabric with cold water and detergent or run it through the washing machine cycle.
Don’t ever mix ammonia with chlorine bleach; it can produce hazardous fumes that are really dangerous. Plus, make sure not to use it on wool, leather, or any other material that doesn’t react well with ammonia.
Method 5: Use Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can be a great choice for less stubborn dye stains like the ones created by the food coloring. It’s a safe alternative to bleaching and can be used on colored fabrics without any risk of discoloration. Think of it as a milder version of chlorine bleach, just without the strong side effects.
You can use the common topical hydrogen peroxide we use for antiseptic purposes. But better invest in the concentrated laundry versions, specially made for cleaning fabrics.
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Lay the stained fabric flat and place a towel under it to prevent the dye from seeping into the other side.
- Then, dampen a sponge with hydrogen peroxide and gently scrub the stained area in circular motions.
- Keep the sponge damp with hydrogen peroxide as you continue scouring. (Try not to overdo it with pressure.)
Once the stain is removed, rinse the fabric with cold water and detergent.
Red dye stains are particularly stubborn because their pigment molecules are too small, can easily seep into fibers, and become hard to remove. So the DIY home-based methods usually don’t work, and you have to resort to commercial cleaning agents to remove the stain.
Fortunately, several highly reliable options are available for removing red dye stains from different types of fabrics. Chlorine-based stain removers are the most effective but can only be used on white fabrics as they may discolor colored fabrics.
In comparison, oxygen-based bleach, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide are milder alternatives and can be applied on colored fabrics without any risk of discoloration. So the next time you spill something red on your favorite dress, remember that these methods can help save you from an embarrassing situation.
Does Vinegar Remove Red Dye Stains?
Vinegar might help lighten the stain, but it’s unreliable for completely eliminating the red dye stains. Plus, it has a strong, pungent smell and acidic properties, which aren’t really desirable when dealing with clothes.
Can I Use Hot Water to Remove Red Dye?
It depends on the type of fabric and stain. Some delicate fabrics like silk, wool, or cashmere can shrink or lose their texture when exposed to hot water. Other times, the red dye stain might further set in the fabric due to heat. So it’s better to stick to cold water to remove red dye stains.
What precautions to take when handling red dye stains?
- Always check the fabric’s care label before cleaning it, as strong chemicals can easily damage some fabrics.
- Don’t ignore the warnings about product safety given on the packaging of commercial products. Some of those can produce hazardous fumes or cause skin irritation.
- Test the cleaning solution on a hidden part of the fabric to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration.
- Do not mix different cleaning agents without proper safety measures.
- Wear protective gloves and eyewear when handling strong chemicals.
- Make sure to rinse the fabric thoroughly after applying the cleaning solution.