How to get colour run out of clothes

Left a red sock in the wash? Don't stress: here's how to remove colour run from white or multicoloured clothes, and how to prevent colour bleeding when washing

Updated 14 November 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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A basket of pink stained laundry with a red sock on the side, before the use of colour run remover

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Key Steps

Avoid and correct colour run in your wash by:

  • Separating clothes by colour before washing them. Read our article on how to do laundry for more guidance on this.

  • Washing new clothes, or those more prone to colour run (like red items), on their own. This will remove excess dye which would run in a normal wash.

  • Tackling colour run stains immediately. A key tip for how to fix colour run? Start ASAP: the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to remove. If all your efforts don't manage to restore your clothes, then why not embrace the stain? Learn how to tie dye your own clothes at home instead!

You might think you know exactly how to stop colours running in the wash, but every now You might think you know exactly how to stop colours running in the wash.  But every now and again, a stray red sock or new pair of jeans will inevitably slip under the radar. That's why it's always useful to know how to remove colour run stains from clothes,. With home remedies and a few hero products, you won’t be stuck with that pink shirt or baby blue underwear forever.

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  • How to get colour run out of clothes

    If it's too late for prevention, here's the cure. Knowing how to remove colour run from white or multicoloured clothes doesn’t have to be complicated even when you've turned a set of cricket whites into cricket pinks.

    1. 1

      1. Don't put them in the dryer!

      The high heat of a tumble dryer will set any colour run stains from the laundry cycle. It'll be so much easier to figure out how to get colour run out of clothes if you've managed to spot colour run before popping them in the dryer.  But if that warning came all too late, don't despair! Skip to Step 3.

    2. 2

      2. Remove the source of the colour run, and re-wash the stained clothes

      Dig out that red sock troublemaker, put it aside, and throw the affected clothes right back into your washing machine.  If you haven’t dried your laundry, chances are, the colours aren’t set yet. A repeat wash will be your simple answer to how to get rid of colour run, ASAP.

    3. 3

      3. For stubborn stains, treat with a colour run remover

      If your clothing has been stained heavily, your best bet is to soak the item in a colour run remover that is suitable for the fabric.  Do this step before attempting to wash the garment again.

    4. 4

      4. How to remove colour run stains from clothes with home remedies

      If you don't have a good colour run remover, a home remedy can also work well for shifting stubborn colour stains.

      Try adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to a bowl of cold water and soaking the stained area. Be sure to test a small area of the clothing first to check it won’t be affected by the vinegar. Then wash again as normal. If you prefer, you could also swap the white vinegar here for lemon juice, still patch testing on the fabric first.

      Quick Note: The acetic acid in vinegar effectively breaks down grime and dirt, allowing the stain particles to loosen.[2]

    5. 5

      5. Wash again and dry!

      Once you're satisfied with the results of your colour run treatment, put the clothes back in the machine for another wash. Check if the stains have completely gone and then (and only then), hang them up to dry or pop them in the tumble dryer.

  • How to stop colours running in the wash

    You've (hopefully) managed to lift the stains with your colour run remover or home remedy treatment,. But you probably aren't in a hurry to do the whole thing again after your next laundry load. Here's how to prevent colour bleeding next time!

    1. 1

      1. Wash colours and whites separately

      The simplest answer to how to stop colour bleeding from clothes onto the rest of the laundry load? Separate your whites from your dark or brightly coloured items before doing laundry, and wash similar colours together as much as possible.

    2. 2

      2. Be extra careful when washing new clothes

      It's harder to master how to stop colour bleeding from clothes that you've newly purchased, as the dye might not be fully set before the first wash. If you have any new garments in strong colours, you may want to wash these with similar colours only or hand-wash them the first time

    3. 3

      3. Double-check your clothes before tumble drying them

      Yes, we've said it before; but sticking to this rule will save you and your clothes some heartache. A spin in a hot tumble dryer can set stains into clothes for good. Instead of tipping your laundered clothes straight into the tumble dryer, check all the items for residual stains or colour run. See if you need to give them another wash first.

Why do colour run stains occur?

Colour run stains occur when dyes from one fabric transfer onto another during the washing process. This phenomenon is primarily caused by the presence of unstable or poorly fixed dyes in the fabric. When exposed to water and detergent, these dyes can dissolve and migrate to other fabrics, resulting in unwanted colour bleeding. Factors such as temperature, agitation, and the type of dye used can influence the severity of colour run stains.[3] Mixing garments of different colours, especially vibrant or dark hues, without proper sorting can increase the risk. To prevent colour run stains, it is advisable to separate laundry by colour and use colour-catching sheets or detergent additives.

Now you have some easy-to-follow tips for how to get colour run out of clothes, you won't have to spend the next month in baby-pink shirts. Don’t forget to follow our guide on how to prevent colour bleeding from clothes! Also, check out our guide on how to remove pink stains from white clothes if you accidentally mixed your red garment with your whites.

Frequently asked questions about removing colour run from coloured clothes

Q. Does vinegar stop colour bleeding?

If you have new, heavily coloured clothes, soak them in white vinegar. The acetic acid will seal the fabric dye, which may help prevent colour bleeding.

Q. Can you use baking soda to remove colour run?

The answer depends on the type of clothing you’re dealing with. If you’re fixing white garment, baking soda can help remove colour run. Bicarbonate of soda has been tested to have whitening properties. Now, if you’re dealing with coloured garments, the results may not be as evident.

Q. How do you fix fabric bleeding?

Quilters usually recommend soaking the fabrics in a mixture of dish soap, baking soda and vinegar. After a few hours, you can wash them in Persil detergent. Air dry or hang them under the sun.

Q. Does salt fade clothing?

There are contradicting opinions about the effects of salt on clothing. Others use it to prevent colour fading when dying fabrics. However, some sources say that salt can damage garments and cause their colours to weaken. So, take it with a grain of salt (pun intended). After all, there are little to no studies supporting both claims. 



2. Acetic acid - chemical safety facts. (2022, October 14). Chemical Safety Facts.

3. Cotton, L., Hayward, A. S., Lant, N. J., & Blackburn, R. S. (2020). Improved garment longevity and reduced microfibre release are important sustainability benefits of laundering in colder and quicker washing machine cycles. Dyes and Pigments, 177, 108120.

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