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How to remove color stains from your white clothes

Just as one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, one red sock can leave an entire load of whites looking pretty in pink. When this disaster strikes, don’t despair. Just follow the advice of cleaning coach Leslie Reichert and your white clothes will return to being bright and light in no time.

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3 laundry myths debunked

Play Video - 1:27

3 laundry myths debunked

Play Video - 1:27

3 rules for avoiding a color bleed disaster in the first place

  1. First, sort clothes according to color before washing them. Keep a dedicated mesh zippered laundry bag, like this, on hand to contain socks and other small laundry items.
  2. Thoroughly check pockets, pant legs and sleeves and remove colored items like mittens, scarves and socks that may be hiding there.
  3. Make sure all clothes have been removed from the washer and the dryer before adding another load. Red socks are almost invisible when clinging to the inside walls of these appliances.

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How to treat spots of discoloration

If only one or two spots of color have transferred onto a piece of clothing, Reichert recommends trying an oxygen bleach first. To start, dissolve oxygen bleach in hot water, then add enough cold water to cool the mixture. Soak the garment in this solution for 15-30 minutes, then rinse.

If the stain remains, try wetting the stains with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

If that doesn't work, Reichert suggests using chlorine bleach. Begin with 1/8 cup of chlorine bleach to a sink full of water. "Be very careful not to splash any in your eyes or onto your skin," she adds. Allow the garment to soak for 15-30 minutes, then run it through a wash cycle. Repeat as needed. Don’t machine dry the item until the stain is fully removed.

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What to do if your entire load of laundry becomes discolored

Remove the item that caused the problem.

Re-wash the affected clothing using oxygen bleach (per package directions), your regular detergent and the hottest water recommended on the care labels.

It the stain remains, and the care labels allow the use of chlorine bleach, wash the clothes again, this time using just 1/8 cup of chlorine bleach, your regular detergent and cold water. Repeat as needed. Once the discoloration has been removed, run the entire load through another rinse cycle to remove any residual chlorine.

In addition to Reichert’s recommendations, the American Cleaning Institute recommends using a packaged color remover to restore white fabrics that have picked up color from other fabrics. After color has been removed, launder as usual.

Note: Some color removers are for whites only. For colorfast articles, look for products, like Carbona Color Run Remover, that are safe for whites and colorfast articles.

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