Don’t Let Bleach Ruin Your Clothes, Try These Fixes Before the Stain Sets In

published Nov 21, 2023
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chlorine bleach accident
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Bleach is a great way to remove stains from your white-colored laundry. But when this laundry room essential comes in contact with colored fabric, bleach can lead to pesky discoloration. Most of the time, unfortunately, these stains are permanent. 

“Bleach spots, the discoloration from when products that contain sodium hypochlorite bleach accidentally contact your clothing, can’t be reversed,” says in-house scientist and cleaning expert at Clorox Mary Gagliardi, a.k.a. Dr. Laundry. 

That’s especially true if the bleach spot has set (for example, if you’ve already washed and dried the item). But if the bleach spot just happened and hasn’t set in, the following removal methods may help reduce it. 

Rinse and neutralize the bleach

Before attempting to remove the bleach stain, it’s important to remove excess bleach from the affected fabric by rinsing it off with cold tap water. You’ll also want to neutralize the bleach since it can be dangerous to mix cleaning chemicals. After you rinse the bleach-stained item, mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Cover the bleached area with the paste and allow it to fully dry. Then, use a dry laundry brush or old toothbrush to wipe off the dried paste. 

Soak it in a mixture of lemon juice and water

Grab a large bucket and add a gallon of boiling water, plus a quarter-cup of lemon juice. Soak the bleached garment in the mixture for two hours, then wring it out. Let the item completely dry. If it’s still stained, repeat the process before washing and drying it. 

Apply alcohol 

Soak a cotton ball or pad in clear alcohol, such as gin or vodka. Dap the wet cotton ball on the bleached area. The alcohol should help transfer the darker color back into the bleached spot. Once you’re done, air dry the item and wash and dry as normal. 

Try white vinegar

Distilled white vinegar contains a compound that may dissolve unwanted bleach from your clothes. After rinsing all the excess bleach from the item — this is important because you don’t want to mix bleach and vinegar — generously pour vinegar on the stain and allow it to sit for five minutes. Then, rinse the item with cold water. 

Use dish soap 

First, fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of gentle dish soap. Mix the solution to form a soapy solution. Dab a clean cloth in the mixture, then apply it to the bleach-stained area. Next, blot clean, cold water on the stain. Let the garment dry fully. 

If all else fails, repurpose the item or cover the spot

Bleach spots on black fabrics are the easiest to get rid of: just use a black permanent marker (like a Sharpie) to cover the discoloration. “It’s harder to match other colors, but if you have a well-stocked art store, you can bring in your item and see if they will let you try different colors for the perfect match,” says Gagliardi. When you can’t effectively color over a bleach spot, use the item for an art project, like reverse tie dye or galaxy bleach art, working the bleach spot you already have into the new design you create.