How can you get pink out of white clothing? Laundry experts share their solutions for color-bleeding

Left a dark sock in with the rest of your white laundry? Here’s how to refresh the color and fix color bleeding

A red sock in a basket of white washing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It happens to us all – we miss one small bright-colored item in a load of bright white laundry and the next thing we know everything we own is pink. 

If you've experienced color bleeding when doing laundry, it can be tempting to think that your once white clothing is lost, but laundry experts have some clever tips for restoring whites to bright again, even when sorting clothes for laundry didn't quite go to plan.

Here is what the pros do when faced with getting pink out of white clothing.

How can you get pink out of white clothing? 

Although bundling everything together can seem like a good laundry hack to save time, keeping dark clothing away from your light laundry load is essential – even if the dark-colored item has been washed hundreds of times before. Color transfer can happen at any point in a clothes life cycle, so it is better to be overly cautious in the first place. 

1. Separate the garment and run it under cold water

When unloading your laundry and spotting an unintentionally dyed garment, it is vital that you get it out and start running it under cold – not hot – water as soon as you can, suggests Leanne Lee, garment expert and stylist at fashion brand Blue Bungalow. ‘This can help prevent the dye from setting further,’ she explains. 

‘You should absolutely avoid using hot water, as it can cause the dye to bind more firmly to the fabric,’ she adds.

2. Soak the affected garment in white vinegar

Using vinegar in laundry seems to be a solution to everything these days, but it really is a star when it comes to fixing color transfer, says Maria Mooney, brand director, and cleaning expert at Truly Free

‘You can soak the stained clothing in equal parts cold water and white vinegar for at least 30 minutes before washing to help relax the fibers and release the dye,’ she explains, ‘then, just wash as normal to get dingy whites white again.’ 

Maria Mooney
Maria Mooney

Truly Free has been a leading producer of eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products for family homes for over six years.

3. Use a dedicated dye remover

There are, of course, laundry products available designed specifically for treating leaked dye in clothing, as Rick Rome, CEO  and founder of WashClub NYC points out. 

‘If only a small section of the garment is affected, dab the stain with a clean white cloth or napkin to absorb it. Be sure not to rub, as this will spread the stain and cause it to set further. Apply stain remover directly to the stained area using a commercial stain remover or a homemade solution by mixing equal parts liquid dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. Using a soft brush, gently brush the stain remover into the stain and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. Once pre-treated, rinse the affected area with cold water and wash as normal.

‘If the entire garment is affected, however, immediately soak the garment in cold water and laundry detergent for at least half an hour. After soaking the garment, use your soft brush to brush stain remover into the stain. Let the garment settle and repeat these steps as needed. To dry, line dry the clothing outside or use the air dry setting on the dryer – avoiding direct heat to prevent setting any remaining stain in permanently.’

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These color-safe bleaching tablets are perfect for getting dye stains out of clothes without affecting the garment’s color. When working with these as spot treatments, ensure you are wearing thick cleaning gloves to protect your skin and keep them away from children and pets.

4. Use a color-safe bleach alternative, and wash in hot water

Although laundry experts usually recommend turning the temperature down on your washing machine to save money and the environment, when it comes to getting whites white again, it really does help to turn up the heat, Maria Mooney, a cleaning expert, advises. 

‘Washing whites in hot water can help to break down and remove stains effectively, especially when paired with a good quality detergent or a bleach alternative that is safe for use with any garment with color.

‘If using bleach in laundry sounds scary to you, then using a bleach alternative, such as TrulyFree OxyBoost, available at TrulyFree can help with brightening the fabric without harsh chemicals that can damage your machine or your health,’ she adds. 

‘Just be sure to check the laundry symbols on your garment care label to make sure it is safe for hot water,’ she warns. 

How to prevent dye from leaking in the laundry

Laundry baskets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The easiest way to prevent leaking dye when doing laundry is to sort your clothes into neat categories based on their color and what kind of wash they need. If you have garments that have white next to a dark color or are concerned, then it can help to use a color catcher sheet, such as Shout from Amazon, to help hold onto any escaped dye, rather than it soaking into your other clothes and linens. 

Color catchers are made from highly absorbent fibers, explaining why they are able to soak in the dye before your clothing no matter where they end up in your washing machine during the cycle. I personally use them whenever I am washing a brightly colored item for the first time, even when everything in the washing machine is dark in color, just to make sure I am not damaging anything in the machine.

FAQs

Why did bleach turn my whites pink?

If you have used bleach to whiten whites, but they have come out a funny color such as pink, then it may be that there was a substance on the clothing that has reacted with your laundry additive. Most commonly, pink staining results from bleach mixing with certain kinds of sunscreen.

If you have been wearing sunscreen or other heavy moisturizing products that may cling to clothing fibers, then it may be a good idea to prewash the garments before adding in your whitening treatment to help get rid of any reactive residue. 

What color will pink turn if you bleach it?

Bleach will turn any pink dye – whether intentional or color transfer – white, or a reddish off-white when applied. This makes it ideal for returning white clothing back to its original color, but it is worth noting it may take two or so washes to see perfect results.

If using bleach frequently in your laundry, it is worth considering using a kinder bleach alternative in your laundry instead, to prevent damaging your clothing fibers, washing machine, skin, or health with the harsh chemical.


Fixing color transfer can be a headache, but more often than not with the right technique you can restore your garments to look as if nothing happened in the first place. After you have treated the garment, double-check for lingering staining before washing, and then check again, continuing to treat the garment as needed until it is bright white once again.

If you don’t fancy all the scrubbing, you could, of course, take it to your local laundrette for the experts to treat it professionally. 

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.