How to Remove Dye Stains

What do Kool-aid, mustard, ink, food coloring, hair dye and shoe polish have in common? They are all examples of difficult-to-remove dye stains. The process for removing dye stains, however, is similar, no matter the source of the dye.

Remove Dye Stains

Dye stains can occur in many ways: your new hair color has leached onto your white towels, you've accidentally spilled cherry Kool-aid on the couch, or an open bottle of food color falls on the wood floor in you dining room. The key to successfully removing a dye stain is to treat it as soon as possible. If allowed to remain on the material and dry, the stain often sets and becomes more difficult, if not impossible, to remove. 

How to Remove Dye Stains from Washable Fabrics

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Paper towels
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • All-fabric powdered bleach
  • Chlorine or color-safe bleach
  • Commercial color remover

Some dye-based stains, especially those food-based, are quickly removed by running them under cool, running water. Use a paper towel to gently remove any excess food or staining agent from the surface of the fabric. Avoid pushing the stain into the fabric or smearing it to additional areas. Rinse from the wrong side of the stain in order to prevent pushing the dye stain further into the fabric. Rinse until the stain is removed or the water runs clear. 

If the stain remains, it is necessary to treat the stain with laundry products in order to thoroughly remove it. 

  1. Blot any excess moisture from the stain using paper towels.
  2. Apply a thick layer of heavy-duty laundry detergent to the stained area. Use your fingers to gently massage the detergent into the stain.
  3. Allow to penetrate the stain for ten minutes. 
  4. Following package direction, create a diluted solution of all-fabric bleach powder. Without rinsing, soak the fabric.
  5. Launder using a heavy-duty laundry detergent.

Inspect the fabric carefully for any remaining stains. If the stain persists and the fabric is white, you can soak the entire garment in a mixture of chlorine bleach. If this does not remove the stain, a commercial color remover may remove the dye stain. Commercial color removers will remove all color from the entire fabric.

How to Remove Dye Stains from Carpet

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Clean, white towels
  • Warm water
  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • White vinegar
  • Alcohol
  • Ammonia

When drips and spills happen on carpet, it is essential to begin treating them immediately. Whether you have synthetic- or natural-fiber carpet, the key is to remove the stain before it dries and sets into the fibers. 

  1. Measure two cups of warm water. Add one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir gently to distribute.
  2. Dip the towel into the solution. 
  3. Gently blot the stain with the wet towel, alternating frequently with a dry cloth until the stain is removed or stops leaching onto the towels. As you lift up the stain, move to new areas on the towels. This prevents adding the dye back to the carpet.
  4. Blot with cold water.
  5. Blot with a dry towel to absorb the excess moisture. 

If the stain remains, mix together one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with one tablespoon of ammonia in two cups of warm water. Apply this solution to the stain by gently blotting with a clean, white towel. Blot until the stain is saturated with the solution. Leave on for at least 30 minutes, periodically blotting with a clean towel to lift up the dye, followed by more solution. Keep blotting and reapplying until the stain is removed. Blot with cold water to rinse the area. Blot with dry towel to remove the excess moisture. 

How to Remove Dye Stains from Flooring

The ability of a dye to absorb into a flooring material, or other hard surface, depends on the type of material. Highly polished, hard surfaces often resist the dye, leaving the dye just on the surface. Softer surfaces, such as lightly finished wood, will absorb the dye into the top layers of the floor. Wiping up the stain quickly is essential to properly removing it. 

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Clean, white towels
  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda

Dampen a clean, white towel with cool water. Add a small amount of dishwashing liquid. Quickly wipe up the dye. If the dye is still wet, work quickly and avoid spreading the stain over a larger area. If the dye is dried, gently rub the cloth over the stained area to remove the dye stain.

If the stain remains, you may need to gently remove it from the surface of the floor using baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda in a thick layer over the wet, stained area. Allow to rest on the stain for a few minutes. Using a clean, white towel, gently work the baking soda into the stained area. The baking soda will help scour away the stain without leaving scratches. Use a damp, clean towel to clean baking soda from the floor. 

How to Remove Dye Stains from Upholstery

The process for removing dye stains from upholstery is similar to removing it from carpet. The only exception is that working on upholstery stains often involves verticle surfaces. When removing a stain from a verticle location, place a clean, white towel underneath the stain against the fabric. This keeps the removed dye from running down and creating a larger dye stain

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Mild dishwashing liquid
  • White vinegar
  • Alcohol
  • Ammonia
  • Clean, white towels

Begin by using a clean, white towle to gently blot any excess dye from the upholstery. Create a mixture of 2 cups of cold water, one tablespoon dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon vinegar. Using a clean, white cloth, gently blot onto the stain. Allow to penetrate for at least 30 minutes. Every five minutes blot with a clean cloth and more solution. This helps to pull the dye out of the stain.

Once the stain is removed, or no longer coming off onto the towel, rinse the area by blotting with a clean towel moistened with cool water. Then blot away the excess moisture with a dry towel. 

Many dyes are intended to be permanent when applied to hair or fabric. Removing a dye stain may be difficult, but it is possible when treated quickly and with the correct cleaning products.