When it comes to the colour of our clothing, black will always be a classic. It’s neutral, goes well with everything, and is well-known for being flattering on all body types.
In most cases, black clothes are safe from stains caused by everyday spillages, but have you noticed that your garments sometimes get orange patches on them?
This problem is more common than you may think, and depending on the cause, there is a way to fix it.
Why Do Black Clothes Turn Orange?
In most cases, the orange patches on your black clothes will be caused by either bleach or rust.
In this article, we cover both of these possibilities in detail and give you some ways to fix the discolouration and prevent it from happening again.
1. Bleach stains
When orange marks suddenly appear on your black clothing, the most likely culprit is a bleaching agent.
Many products used around the house when cleaning, doing laundry, or dyeing your hair contain bleach that will discolour your clothing when it comes into contact with the fabric.
Although your clothes appear black, the dye used to make them that colour is actually made up of a mixture of navy, red, and yellow.
When the fabric is exposed to bleach, some of this dye is stripped from the material, causing it to turn orange.
Depending on how long your clothing was exposed to bleach, these discoloured patches could also appear white or red.
2. Rust stains
The other leading cause of orange stains on clothing is rust, which forms when iron and oxygen come into contact with water.
When flecks of this iron oxide enter your washing machine, they can be transferred to your laundry, causing unwanted stains.
There are four main causes of rust in your washing machine: foreign metal objects, rusted washing machine parts, iron oxide in your water supply, and rusted pipes. These are each detailed below:
- Foreign metal objects: Small metal objects such as keys and coins can get caught in the machine drum by accident and start to rust. This rust will build up over time and transfer onto your clothes. If this is the source of the rust, you can remove the metal object from your machine, and your black clothes won’t keep turning orange.
- Rusting washing machine parts: As your washing machine gets older, it will become more prone to rust. Depending on the level of build-up, running an empty wash cycle with ½ litre of lemon juice can solve the problem. However, in some cases, you will need to replace your washer to sort out the issue.
- Iron oxide in the water: If there is nothing wrong with your washing machine, you may find that your water supply has iron oxide in it. This is not visible to the human eye, but you can use a water test kit to check if this is the issue. If so, installing a water filtration system is the best way to ensure the rust is removed.
- Rusted pipes: The last potential source of rust in your washing machine is rusty pipes. This issue will only worsen over time, so we highly recommend replacing your pipes as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is the only way to rectify this issue.
It is worth noting that rust will only be the cause of your orange stains if multiple items of clothing have been affected. If only one item has become discoloured, exposure to bleach is the more likely culprit.
Removing Bleach Stains from Black Clothes
Any orange stains on your black clothes because of contact with bleach are permanent. However, you shouldn’t throw out your garment just yet!
Although these stains cannot be removed, it is possible to restore the fabric using one of the following methods:
1. Rubbing alcohol
When dealing with small stains, rubbing alcohol is your best bet. Simply use a cotton wool ball to rub the liquid around the stain.
Then, as the excess dye in the fabric comes loose, you can spread it over the orange stain by rubbing the cotton wool over the affected area.
2. Fabric dye
Your best option for large stains is to re-dye your garment using fabric dye that matches the fabric’s original colour.
You will need to strip the original dye from the garment and then use the new shade to make the fabric black again. Always follow the label instructions for the best results.
3. Hair dye
According to The Sun, black hair dye can also be used in place of fabric dye if needed. You can simply dab the dye onto the orange stain and leave it to dry.
However, this will be very time-consuming for larger stains, so it is best used for smaller sections of discolouration.
4. Fabric marker
Your last option for fully restoring your clothes is to use a black fabric marker to colour in the orange patches.
It can be hard to perfectly colour match the marker to the garment, but it will make the stain much less noticeable.
Ensure you follow the product instructions when washing your clothing to ensure it doesn’t fade.
5. Work with the stain
If none of these restoration methods fit your needs, your only options are to throw the garment away or learn to work with the stain.
For example, The Guardian suggests bleaching the whole item to make it a new colour, tie-dyeing the fabric to create a new pattern that incorporates the stain or sewing a patch over the top to hide the discolouration.
Removing Rust Stains from Black Clothes
Fortunately, removing rust stains from dark clothing is possible once you know the appropriate cleaning method.
However, you must ensure your garment is colourfast before proceeding, as some of these stain removal methods could cause damage to the fabric and worsen the problem.
We suggest doing a spot test beforehand just to be safe.
1. Salt and lemon juice
One of the best ways to remove rust stains is to use salt and lemon juice. You can create a paste by combining one part of each ingredient and then applying it evenly to the surface of the stain.
Leave it for five minutes, wipe away the excess, and wash the garment as usual.
The rust stain will be gone, but you must be careful with this technique. Lemon juice is a mild bleaching agent; leaving it on the surface too long can cause bleach stains.
2. White vinegar
White vinegar is another natural stain remover that will work wonders in removing rust from your clothing.
For the best results, you simply need to saturate the orange areas in the vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes. You can then blot at the stain using a clean cloth and wash the garment as usual.
3. Rust remover
Your last option for removing rust stains is to purchase a rust remover from your local store. These products are designed to remove rust from clothing but use harsh chemicals you may wish to avoid.
To prevent damage to your clothing, follow the label instructions. However, most require you to apply the product to the stain, let it sit, and then rinse it off.
How to Prevent Black Clothes Turning Orange
Although there are effective stain removal methods, it’s much easier to avoid staining your black items of clothing orange in the first place.
Below are some tips to help you avoid accidentally bleaching or staining your clothes with rust:
1. Don’t wear black when using bleaching products
To avoid bleach stains, it is always a good idea to wear light-coloured clothing when using a product that contains a bleaching agent.
We also highly recommend that you wear a pair of gloves to protect your cuffs from accidental exposure.
2. Use oxygen bleach when washing dark garments
There are occasions when you might need to purposefully add bleach to your garments, such as when trying to lift stains.
When it comes to dark garments, an oxygen (colour safe) bleach will need to be used rather than a chlorine one to avoid discolouration.
3. Read care labels before using bleach
Before adding bleach to your machine, check your garment’s care label. If the label says “do not bleach” or has a symbol of a triangle with a cross through it, you cannot safely use bleach with that item, even if it is colour safe.
If the triangle symbol has lines going through it instead, you can use oxygen bleach on the fabric without the risk of orange patches developing.
4. Assess your skincare ingredients
Some skincare formulations – particularly those that treat acne – can contain harsh chemicals such as benzoyl peroxide. This substance is an oxidising agency and can bleach your clothing, pillow cases, and towels after application before it’s absorbed into the skin.
Consider swapping to a different product or only applying the product a night and using white pillow cases, bed sheets, towels, and linen.
5. Check for metal objects before washing
Most sources of rust cannot be avoided, only rectified quickly. However, you can prevent rusting caused by small metal objects (coins, paperclips, etc.) left in your machine.
Get into the habit of checking your pockets thoroughly before putting your clothes in the laundry basket.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.