How to Prevent Colour Run in the Washing Machine

Most kids love brightly coloured clothes, but how do you prevent those colours from bleeding in the washing machine? And what do you do if you’ve just discovered your child’s favourite white t-shirt is suddenly an interesting shade of pink? Here are a few easy tips and tricks to help you avoid colour run in your wash.  

Preventing colour run in a wash

The key to avoiding colour run in wash cycles is to be careful when preparing the items you put into your washing machine. It’s always a good idea to:

  • Check the care labels of your clothes for recommended washing instructions. You’ll find garments like jeans should be washed a certain way (usually inside out, or on their own at first).
  • Always follow recommended temperature instructions. Some clothes may be colourfast if washed at cooler temperatures, but will leak dye if they are washed at too hot a temperature. Always wash on a cool cycle if in any doubt.
  • Separate light and dark colours, but also wash similar colours together. The main culprits for colour bleed are red, dark blue, and black garments. But don’t just assume it’s safe to mix black and red items, for example – your red top might end up with a muddy shade of brown!
  • Buy clothes advertised as ‘colour fast’.  Since kids grow so fast, we often don’t bother to invest in high quality clothes, but cheaper garments are frequently guilty of colour bleed, so remember to look for ‘colour-fast’ on the label.
  • Colour test new clothes for fastness. Add a little detergent and water to an inconspicuous area and blot with white cloth to see if the colour comes off. Check out our guide to colour fastness for more information.
  • Wash new clothes separately. It’s never a good idea to wear new clothes straight out of the factory, or off the shop floor. Pre-washing new clothes separately, regardless of whether they’ve passed your colour test, means you’ll have a better idea of whether the colours run in the wash.
  • Never leave wet clothes lying in the washing machine.  The longer brightly coloured, wet clothes are in contact with each other, the more chance there is for some of the colour to transfer.

How to remove colour stains from clothes

When your child’s favourite white t-shirt turns pink, panic can set in, and you might forget how to remove stains from clothes when colours run. But the way to sort out colour run in washing is fairly easy and similar to many stain removal techniques:

  • Remember to keep the stain damp. This will prevent the stain from setting. Once it’s set you’re unlikely to get the extra colour out.
  • Re-wash the garment on its own with Surf excel. If the stain hasn’t set yet, there’s a small chance, with a good amount of agitation in the machine, it might just wash right out.
  • Soak the garment in a colour removing solution or detergent. Most colour run removers are designed for use on garments that are either white, or coloured with no design or embellishment. Follow the instructions carefully, and don’t soak longer than recommended.
  • Rewash in your machine.

Stain removal alternatives

If you’ve tried all the tactics above and the colour run still isn’t coming out, you have two more solutions, depending on the colour of your garment:

  • Bleach white. Bleach is a strong chemical, so always be careful to protect your hands and surfaces before using it. As a last resort, to return any garments to white, soak them in a weak solution of bleach and water, followed by a washing in your machine. Be aware that using bleach directly in your machine may damage in parts and invalidate your warranty.
  • Dye a darker colour. If your garment is way beyond turning white, consider dying it a darker colour to cover up the colour run. You garment will get a new lease of life!

  Have you had to learn how to get colour stains out of clothes? Share your success stories with us in the comments box below.