A bleach stain is the last thing you want on clothes you intend to keep. Unfortunately, such accidents occur all the time especially when doing laundry or general household chores.
Bleach stains are some of the most difficult to deal with because in the first place, they are not stains. They are permanent marks that occur when a fabric’s coloring matter fades irreversibly as a result of coming into contact with bleaching agents.
What is Bleach?
Bleach is a common household disinfectant that is also effective at removing soiling from clothes. The most common type (chlorine bleach) features sodium hypochlorite at the active component.
Chlorine bleach clears soiling from white garments by destroying the chromophore system of soiling that fails to come out of a fabric by regular washing. During the bleaching process, the soil or stain transforms from a dark to lighter shade. Ultimately, cleaning can result from removal of the stain or change in pigmentation.
How Does Bleach Whiten Clothes?
Bleach whitens clothes by the same mechanism of destroying chromophores bonds. Ideally, the process is known as oxidation.
The process releases oxygen which reacts with the color compounds present in fabrics thereby making them lose their original appearance. As a result, they appear whitish or faded depending on the strength of the reaction.
Besides ruining color and appearance, bleach can as well affect fabric quality. This creates the need for using it in the right concentration even for clothes that are labeled chorine bleach safe.
There is a color safe (oxygen bleach) type of bleach that is gentler on clothes. Oxygen bleach primarily consist of hydrogen peroxide.
How to get rid of Bleach Stains on Clothes
Unlike other stains bleach stains are permanent. You cannot get rid of them but you can neutralize the spot to prevent further bleaching. You can also use other means to restore color to your garment.
The first thing to do after bleach stains your garment is to neutralize the spot immediately. This prevents the bleach from drawing more dye from your garment. It also saves the fabric from getting ‘eaten up’.
Method 1: Use Soap and Water
This is more of something you do regularly when washing clothing. After presoaking garments in a solution of water and bleach, you transfer them into a solution of water and soap. This step reduces the concentration of bleach significantly such that it has no further impact on your garment.
If the bleach stain is small, prepare the solution of dish soap and water in a small bowl. Use your hands to wash the stain thoroughly with the solution. Rinse of with cold water severally and let the garment air-dry.
If dealing with a multiple stains on a large garment, consider preparing the solution in a sink or bucket. Soak the garment in the solution and hand-wash it well. Rinse severally with cold water and air-dry.
If dealing with a carpet, begin by blotting the stain with a white cloth. Blot repeatedly until the cloth absorbs most of the bleach.
Next, prepare a water and dish soap solution in a small basin or bucket. Dip another cloth in the solution and wring out excess water. Blot the stain with the cloth repeatedly and rinse the cloth as necessary. Finish up by allowing the spot to air-dry.
Method 2: Baking Soda Paste
Persil recommend baking soda paste as an alternative method for neutralizing bleach. Simply begin by rinsing the spot with cold water. This helps to remove excess bleach as well as to weaken the concentration of its remaining traces.
Then combine one cup of baking soda with one cup of water to form a thick paste. Apply the paste generously on the spot and let it dry. Finish up by brushing it off gently with a brush that has soft bristles.
Method 3: Hydrogen Peroxide and Water
Another solution that can neutralize bleach comprises of hydrogen peroxide and water. To prepare the solution, Clorox recommend that you combine 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts of water. Rinse your garment with the solution and allow it to air-dry.
Method 4: Other Neutralizers
Sceincing.com notes that other bleach neutralizers that you can use include sodium thiosulfate, sodium sulfite, ascorbic acid and sodium metabisulfite.
Sodium thiosulfate is also know as fixer. In most cases, spaces use it to neutralize bleach by lowering down chlorine levels. Since it can be quite toxic you need to use protective gear when handling it.
Sodium sulfite is popular among swimming pool handlers. It helps to stabilize chlorine. You also need protecting clothing and gear for your eyes and hands when handling it.
Ascorbic acid neutralizes bleach in water tanks so that it can be safe for use.
Lastly, sodium metabisulfite is used in swimming pools just like sodium sulfite. It is also goes by the names disodium salt or disodium sulfite.
Restoring Color on a Bleach Stain
After neutralizing bleach, the next step is to know how to restore color or mask the spot on your garment. Alternatively, you can use more bleach to customize your garment to a fancy and stylish look.
Fabric markers are richly pigmented textile markers. Their shades are permanent and available in an array of beautiful colors.
You can use a fabric marker to fill a bleached spot with a color that matches the rest of the garment. If your garment has multiple spots, you can use fabric markers of different colors to create a fun pattern.
Further, you can explore your creativity by drawing interesting design to cover the spot. For example, you can make tribal patterns, flowers, animal drawings or anything else that excites your visual sense.
Most fabric markers are highly versatile. They can be used on a wide range of fabrics and garments. They also work well on shoes and upholstery.
It is safe to wash your clothes with hands or in the washing machine after decorating them with fabric markers. The paint does not come out but you should give it a day or more time to dry permanently.
The only challenge with fabric markers is that you might not find a color that completely matches the unbleached sections of your garment. On the upper side, you can use a set of different colors to make your garment even prettier.
A sharpie pen works more like a fabric marker. It fills the bleached spot with color, thus making it uniform with the rest of the garment. Even so, sharpie pens are not meant for fabrics. As such, they run more easily. They also fade as you wash the garment repeatedly.
All the same, you cannot disregard a sharpie pen as a cheap and temporary solution. It is better off than tossing a bleach stained garment in the bin.
Fabric dye is the best solution for adding color to clothes with large bleach stains. You can also use it to rejuvenate old faded garments.
The main advantage of fabric dye is blending with almost all kinds of fabrics. It also work well with blended fabrics. And what’s more you can use it to change the color of your clothes or to make tie and dye patterns.
Use Fabric Spray Paint
Using a spray paint is a fun way to cover bleach stains and make your garment look all new and vibrant. With spray paints, you can bring different colors together and unleash your creativity with splatters, color spots and writings.
You can also use stencils and anything else that can help you create an elaborate pattern.
Spray paints are excellent for t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops and related clothes. You can also use them on upholstery.
Wash your clothes safely after the paint dries off.
Masking Bleach Stains
Sewing helps you mask bleach stains with patterns such as flowers and tribal designs. You only need to come up with a beautiful pattern that blends well with the rest of your garment.
A great tip if you are inexperienced is to draw the pattern first. This makes sewing easier. If your garment has a plan color, you can make the pattern more decorative by incorporating threads of different colors.
If you have bleach stains on a pair of jeans or another type of garment that blends well with patches, this is a masking approach to consider.
You can either put a nice patch on the spot or cut the section off and patch from the inside. Patches give you an opportunity to play with different colors and fabric designs.
Use Beads and Brooches
Beads, brooches and studs are a good way of masking bleach stains. With beads you can create interesting embroidery-like patterns, whereas brooches are generally characterized by such kind of designs.
Brooches blend well with dresses but you can also try them on denims, blazers and other types of clothes.
Use Iron-on Clothing Labels
Iron on labels are affordable and easy to attach personalized marks. They work well for masking specific sections of your clothes because they stay in place after attaching.
How to Avoid Bleach Stains
Whether you use bleach occasionally or on a daily basis, it is possible to avoid bleach stains. Below are some tips and ideas to help keep your favorite clothes from bleach.
Dress appropriately: Wearing the right clothes when handling bleach can spare your regular clothes from irreversible marks. Invest in a good white apron if your work entails constant use of chlorine bleach.
You can buy an apron made of a fabric with a different color, but unless you are using oxygen bleach, it is also likely to develop bleach stains at some point.
Close bleach bottles tightly after use: Most bleach products are sold in liquid form. This means that you have to select where to place your bottle careful. Still, you have to ensure that the bottle is tightly closed always.
If the bottle tips over and bleach spills to your flooring and carpet, you are likely to end up with a challenge that is extremely difficult to address.
Can you use Vinegar to Neutralize Bleach?
Never use vinegar to neutralize bleach. The reaction between bleach and vinegar leads to the production of chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is toxic and can harm your health.