Bleach is one of the most common household products. You’ll find it in everything from toilet cleaner and almost every cleaning spray to laundry detergent and dishwasher tablets. Bleach can also be a super helpful cleaning ingredient for killing bacteria.
But bleach can also be a nightmare. When you get bleach onto clothing or other fabrics like curtains or a sofa, it can leave a permanent (and very obvious) mark. Bleach stains are some of the hardest stains to remove.
However, all is not lost. So, before you throw out your favourite t-shirt or invest in a new armchair, check out some of these tips to remove bleach from clothes.
New Stain? Do This as Soon as Possible!
Bleach stains are very hard to fix, and they are also super hard to dye over because bleach has a pH of 11-13, making it a very strong alkaline.
Before you can add a new colour or try to fix the stain, you need to neutralise it.
Here’s what to do as soon as you spill bleach on your clothes:
- Rinse the area with cold water. Hot water will help the bleach work faster, so by using cold water, you can minimise the effect of the bleach.
- Create a paste of cold water and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and cover the area with the mixture.
- Let the paste dry on the stain for at least 15 minutes.
- Gently brush the dried mixture off the area with a soft brush, such as an old toothbrush.
This technique is a great way to neutralise the bleach since baking soda is closer to PH 7 (neutral) and won’t react with the bleach. Don’t be surprised if you still see a stain when you brush off the dried mixture. With the dried, neutralised stain and no more excess bleach, you can start working to remove the stain entirely.
How to Remove Bleach Stains from Clothes
Here are a few ways to get bleach stains out of clothes altogether.
Fabric dye – the most effective method
The most effective way to remove bleach stains, especially large stains, is to use a fabric dye.
Dying your clothes can help give a perfect, seamless result. However, no solution is perfect, and there are definitely pros and cons to using fabric dye.
- It can provide a seamless finish.
- Refreshes old or damaged clothing
- Effective for large areas
- Usually easy to use
- Wide variety of colours
- It can be messy and stain hands or other objects if spilled.
- It may leave an uneven finish if not used properly.
- Hard to get an exact colour match
Most fabric dyes come with specific instructions; you should follow these for the best results. You may need to use a colour remover before using the dye to ensure an even colour across the garment.
Remember, depending on what item of clothing you are dyeing and its current colour, you may need more than one box of dye.
Large items such as jeans or hoodies will require more dye or will be a lighter colour than smaller items such as T-shirts.
White vinegar – for white clothes
Usually, we think of bleach stains as turning clothes white or removing the colour, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean bleach won’t show up on white clothes.
Bleach stains on white or light-coloured clothing can end up looking yellow or cream in colour and are still very visible.
Here’s how to get rid of bleach stains on white clothes using white vinegar:
- Neutralise the bleach using the bicarbonate of soda method above.
- Apply a small amount of white vinegar to the stain.
- Allow the vinegar to sit on the stain for approximately 5-10 minutes. Add a little more vinegar if the stain is drying out.
- Rinse with cold water and add the item to a normal wash cycle.
- Check the stain and repeat if necessary.
Getting rid of bleach stains on white clothes doesn’t have to be challenging. Usually, white vinegar is enough to get rid of stains for good.
You can even add some vinegar to your wash to help lift the stain further and brighten your whites.
Just don’t forget that you should use vinegar with bleach unless the bleach is neutralised or the stain has been thoroughly rinsed– vinegar and bleach react to make chlorine gas which is not good!
Rubbing alcohol – for dark clothes
Unfortunately, bleach stains on dark clothes are very obvious and very hard to get rid of. Using fabric dye is still one of the best options for very large stains.
However, for more minor stains, you can try to remove them using rubbing alcohol without having to dye the whole item.
Here’s what you need to know about removing bleach stains with rubbing alcohol:
- Dip a small cotton ball or cotton swab into some rubbing alcohol, also called surgical spirit.
- Gently rub the soaked cotton against the stain to pull the surrounding dye onto the white spot.
- Repeat the process using a new cotton ball until the bleach stain has disappeared.
- Allow the item of clothing to air dry before washing it on a regular cycle in your washing machine.
This technique involves breaking down the dye and blending it over the bleach stain until it is gone.
If the stain is too large, you may end up removing too much dye from the clothing, and you’ll have even more stains to deal with!
Getting rid of bleach stains isn’t always easy, as bleach is a very powerful cleaning ingredient. However, with a few tried and tested techniques, you may not need to throw your favourite jumper in the bin!
Of course, preventing bleach stains by being careful when handling bleach, ensuring bleach products are stored safely and are unlikely to spill, and following the correct cleaning instructions is always best.
If all else fails, you could always add more bleach to create a cool tie-dye bleached effect!
In The Wash is your guide to the best laundry and cleaning products, tips and tricks. Our mission is to solve the UK’s cleaning and laundry dilemmas!