How to Remove Colors That Ran in the Wash

by Aleksandra Ozimek

Sort your laundry beforehand to avoid color-run mishaps in the wash.

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Laundry accidents can happen to anyone. Rule number one when it comes to laundry: separate dark colors from light colors. However, you may inadvertently mix dark- and light-colored items, or you may take a risk thinking a certain color won't run in the wash. When this happens, light-colored items may take on some of the color that ran from the darker-colored items. Luckily, you can easily reverse this, and your light-colored items will return to their original color.

Items you will need

  • Water
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Bleach
  • Color-safe bleach
  • White vinegar
Step 1

Soak your laundry as quickly as possible after you notice the color runs, especially if the laundry is still wet. First, soak the laundry in warm water and laundry detergent for about 30 minutes. Rinse, and check the results.

Step 2

Separate laundry into white items and color-fast items. Place the white items into a basin, sink or bowl and add about 1/4 cup of bleach. Let the items soak for no longer than 15 minutes; any longer could cause the fabric to weaken. The bleach should return these items their original white color. Rinse thoroughly with water, and wash in detergent either by hand or in the washing machine and separate these items from the dark-colored items.

Step 3

Add water and about 1/4 cup of color-safe bleach to the color-fast items. As an alternative, you can use a product for color-bled items. Either product should remove the color that ran onto the items. Let the items soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse, and wash using laundry detergent.

Step 4

Soak both the white items and the color-fast items separately in a mixture of water and about a cup of white vinegar as an additional, but optional step. White vinegar helps restore the color of discolored clothing.

Step 5

Repeat any of the steps if necessary if the colors still haven't been restored to your laundry.


  • Remember to separate white items from colored items in future washes to avoid color runs.

    Treat clothing while it is still wet. Do not place it in the dryer or wait until it dries. This will only set the color and make it harder to remove.

    Always read care labels before washing an item. Also read them before using chlorine bleach, or if unsure, use only non-chlorine bleach.


  • Do not use bleach intended for whites on colored clothing, even for a few minutes. It will cause the color to fade or it might stain the colored clothing permanently.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Aleksandra Ozimek has been writing professionally since 2007 for a fashion blog, various online media and the "Queens Courier," in addition to interning at "Cosmopolitan" magazine. She completed her Bachelor of Science in journalism and photography from St. John's University, where she is completing her master's degree.