Box dye regulars know that the hardest part of an at-home hair coloring session isn't actually the dyeing process—it's preventing the stains on you, your clothes, and your home. The Laundress Product Specialist Madeline Miller's best advice for avoiding stains? "Avoid exposing treasured garments to the dyeing process, as it is inevitably messy," she says. “During at-home dye jobs, we recommend wearing old T-shirts or sweats that you don’t mind staining and thoroughly covering home surfaces that may be exposed with newspaper or plastic tarp.”
Be sure to set up a clean area around you. “Hair dye stains are so difficult to remove because there are a variety of different ingredients that go into the dye,” says Rechelle Balanzat, CEO and Founder of Juliette Cleaners. “The average person may or may not be aware of how those specific ingredients are interacting with their fabrics.”
Meet the Expert
- Madeline Miller is a product specialist at The Laundress, a line of laundry and fabric care products.
- Rechelle Balanzat is the CEO and founder of New York-based Juliette Cleaners.
Accidents do happen, so it’s best to tackle any hair dye stains ASAP. “The longer the dye sits, the harder it is to lift, so we recommend getting to these stains as fast as possible for best results," Miller says.
Since time is of the essence, it’s a good idea to have a few hair dye stain removing tools ready to go:
- Stain Solution: Miller recommends The Laundress Stain Solution this to help remove stains from washable fabrics and "dry clean" tagged fabrics like silk and wool. "The Stain Solution is a concentrated blend of plant-derived enzymes that works to lift away color-rich and protein-based stains," she says.
- Brush: Try a brush designed for cleaning fabrics like The Laundress Stain Brush. “The soft fibers in our Stain Brush are gentle enough to use on both everyday fabrics and delicates, and really help to coax out discoloration before laundering,” Miller says. If you don't have a fabric brush handy, Balanzat suggests reaching for a toothbrush.
- A small wash tub or laundry basin
- A bowl: This will be for your stain solution
“Ultimately, [your process] will depend on the ingredients you’re using and the fabric you’re treating,” she says. "When we treat a stain, we are not just treating one stain—we are treating the many ingredients that make up that stain. Each ingredient has a pH level. Our job to remove that stain is about neutralizing the pH level.”
There are a few things to consider when getting hair dye out of your clothes, according to Balanzat: hair dye (red, blonde, black, brown, etc.), the ingredients of the dye (animal substances vs. non animal substances), the type of fabric that has been compromised, the color of the fabric, and how long the stain has been on the fabric.
Your first step—regardless of the stained material—might seem obvious: Check the care tags for the instructed laundering process, as it will help determine the stain removal solutions, water temperature and best washing method for the garment. “For items tagged ‘dry clean only’ or ‘do not wash,’ we recommend proceeding with caution in stain removal, as some fabrics are not designed to be submerged in water and should be taken to a care professional for cleaning,” Miller says. “Most other fabrics, including ‘dry clean’ tagged fabrics like wool and silk, can be stain-treated and laundered at home using the correct methods, including cold water and our Laundress fabric-specific detergent solutions.”
Ahead, the experts break down how to cleanse dye out of any kind of fabric.
Cotton, linen, denim, and durable synthetic fabrics like polyester can tolerate more vigorous stain removal methods, such as scrubbing or soaking in very hot water. “The rigor in which we remove that stain has a direct correlation with the fabric we are treating,” Balanzat says. “Cotton is like a sponge and will soak things right up. Silk is not as absorbent.”
- Start by pouring a few drops over the stained area and working it in using a damp brush.
- "Working in circular motions, make sure the solution is fully lathering the dye stain, then submerge the garment in a Wash Basin filled with the hottest water the garment can tolerate," says Miller. "Use hot water for everyday fabrics like cotton and linen, cool water for delicates like wool, silk and sensitive synthetics."
- Soak the garment for 15 minutes, then check the stained area to see how the dye is lifting.
- Next, rinse the stain and use the water pressure from your sink or tub to help lift the stain from the garment.
- If necessary, reapply more Stain Solution and repeat until the stain has lifted, then proceed with laundering according to the fabric type.
Remember: Don’t machine dry any items until you are sure stains have lifted, as the heat can further adhere the stain to the fabric, Miller cautions. “Avoid soaking ‘dry clean’ garments like silk and wool for over 30 minutes at a time, as it can warp or discolor the fabric,” she adds. “Instead, let the fabric rest on a clean towel for a while before restarting the stain treatment process.”
Sheets and Bedding
Depending on the fabric type, you can follow the same process for getting hair dye out of clothes. “If dealing with a dye stain on a specific area of the bedding, we recommend completing a targeted pre-soak of just that area using the Wash Basin to avoid having to soak the entire sheet or coverlet,” Miller says. “Once you see the stains lifting, launder the piece(s) of bedding using the hottest water the fabric can tolerate. Do not machine dry until the stains are fully lifted.”
Upholstery and Carpet
When cleaning upholstery or carpeting for the first time, be sure to always test an inconspicuous area before cleaning fully, suggests Miller. Don’t continue cleaning if the water or product leaves a mark or creates discoloration, if the treated area is cleaner and brighter than the rest of the fabric, or if the fabric ripples or wrinkles.
- Check the item’s tag. If it recommends against applying water or cleaning solvents to the fabric, it’s best to consult a cleaning professional. If not, start by soaking up any excess dye using a rag.
- Then, apply a few drops of Stain Solution to the stains. “A little goes a long way with this concentrated solution, so take care to not overapply,” Miller says.
- Dampen your brush, and work in the solution.
- "Wet a Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth—our alternative to single-use paper towels—with warm water and gently blot the affected area until the stain and all suds disappear," adds Miller.
“For dye spills on countertops of any kind—including marble and quartz—spritz generously with Surface Cleaner and wipe away using a Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth,” Miller says.
- “Tougher, older stains on bathroom surfaces can be addressed by mixing ½-1 capful of All-Purpose Bleach Alternative with a few drops of hot water to create a powerful paste," says Miller.
- Then, use a brush to massage the stain out.
- Miller says to let the fabric stand for five minutes, before wiping it clean with a damp Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth.
- Repeat if needed.