Blue jeans are usually dyed with indigo, a dye that provides a distinctive, true-blue color. Although indigo is traditionally a natural dye made from plants, today's jeans manufacturers often use a synthetic form. Most garment care tags recommend laundering jeans before wearing -- usually in cold water -- to prevent the blue dye from bleeding and staining other clothing. However, excess dye sometimes continues to bleed and stain in the wash, or when the jeans rub against light-colored fabric. You may be able to remove the dye from washable clothing if the stain is fresh and the garment hasn't been tumble-dried.
Treat the stain with a laundry pre-treatment spray, liquid or gel. Alternatively, you can also use a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent. Rinse the garment thoroughly.
Launder clothing with chlorine bleach if the garment is white and the tag indicates that bleach is safe for the fabric. Fill the washing machine with the hottest water appropriate according to the tag. Add your regular laundry detergent and 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach before adding the garment.
Launder colored garments with color-safe, non-chlorine bleach. Fill the machine with the hottest water appropriate for the garment, then add a capful of liquid non-chlorine bleach or a scoop of powdered non-chlorine bleach. Add the garment, then wash normally.
Inspect the garment carefully to be sure the blue jean stain is gone. If the dye is still visible, repeat the steps.
Dry the garment as directed on the care tag when the stain is successfully removed. Never dry the garment if the stain is still visible. Usually, set in dye stains are impossible to remove.
Items you will need
- Laundry pre-treatment product
- Chlorine bleach or non-chlorine, color-safe bleach
- Always read the label on laundry detergent, pre-treatment products and bleach, because directions and amounts of specific products often vary.
- If nothing works and the blue jean dye is still visible, you may be able to remove the dye with a commercial color remover product. However, the product will usually strip all of the color from the garment.
- Never use chlorine bleach on colored garments because the bleach will fade and discolor the fabric. Use non-chlorine, color-safe bleach if you are unsure, because the products are gentler and less toxic.
- Never combine chlorine bleach with household cleaners, especially products that contain ammonia. The mixture can create toxic fumes.
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Dyeing with Indigo
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Unstable Dyes
- University of Kentucky Extension: Stain Removal for Washable Fabrics
- Clorox: How to Use Bleach
- Clorox: Stain Fighter and Color Booster Powder
- Clorox: Stain Remover & Color Booster Liquid
- Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images