How To Remove Bleach Stains From Black Clothes

Bleach can do a lot of damage to the dye used in your fabrics – but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to remove bleach stains from black clothes.

Read on to learn more!

What happens when bleach gets on black clothes?

You probably know that bleach damages clothing when it gets onto it, but you might not know why it does this. Bleach is a mixture of chemicals, primarily made up of peroxides and hydroxides.

Both of these chemicals have the primary job of ‘stripping’ things. For example, when you ‘bleach’ hair to make naturally dark hair lighter, hydrogen peroxide is used.

Bleach isn’t designed to lighten hair or even clothes, but it is designed to strip chemicals away from the surface of things.

Bleach is primarily used to clean things, but because of its strong stripping properties, it can only be used to do this when it is diluted. If the bleach is not diluted, then it will actually damage the surface that you are trying to clean.

So, if neat bleach comes into contact with clothing, it will begin to strip the material, primarily taking away the color. In lighter clothes, this might not be noticeable. But, in black and colored clothes, it is very easy to see the damage that the bleach has done.

Can you reverse bleach stains on clothes?

If you ask most people, they will tell you that it is impossible to reverse bleach stains on clothes. In a lot of cases, it is very difficult to remove bleach stains from clothing. However, it is not impossible.

There are lots of things that will impact how effective your attempts at removing bleach stains from clothing will be. In particular, the main factor that will affect this is how quickly you act after the bleach gets onto your clothes.

Bleach stains are, and will always be, permanent. But if you act quickly then you might be able to limit the amount of damage that the bleach is able to do. Household bleach is an alkaline chemical and it is a very strong one.

So, the only way to prevent any damage from occurring to your clothes is to apply a strong acidic product to the area where the bleach has touched. If you cannot act quickly, however, your clothes aren’t necessarily beyond repair.

You can always attempt color restoration to save your black clothes. But, for now, let’s take a look at how you can reverse bleach stains if you act quickly.

How to remove bleach stains

What You Need

If you accidentally get bleach, or a product containing bleach, on your clothes, then you have to act quickly. But, before you do anything, there are some materials that you will need to gather to begin reversing the damage that the bleach has begun to cause.

Here’s a list of what you need to help you:

  • Dish Soap
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Fabric Dye
  • Permanent Black Fabric Marker
  • Baking Soda
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Color Remover
  • Clothes

Once you have quickly gathered all of these everyday household items, you can then begin to work on your clothing. Follow everything that we say next to make the process easier.

Neutralize the bleach

As soon as you get bleach on your clothes, your first step to try to save them should be to neutralize the bleach. We briefly mentioned this earlier when we spoke about bleach being an alkaline chemical mixture.

When you get bleach on your clothes, it can be tempting to immediately begin trying to fix it, but this isn’t where you should begin. Instead, you should begin by trying to stop the bleach from doing any more damage, and you will do this by neutralizing it.

To do this, you should begin by taking the damaged piece of clothing and rinsing it underneath your tap. Ensure that the water is cold, and keep it there until all the excess bleach has washed away.

When the excess bleach is gone, you can then begin neutralizing the bleach that penetrated the clothing. To do this, mix baking soda and water together to make a paste.

Once you have mixed your paste, apply it directly to the affected area and allow the paste to dry. Leave it there for a little while, then wash the paste away. If you acted quick enough, then this should have limited the damage that was done to your clothing.

Fixing bleach stains with dish soap

Now, this piece is about black clothing, but we would class gray clothing as part of this spectrum. If you have got bleach onto your gray clothing, then you can attempt to remove this using dish soap.

In particular, the best dish soap for the job is Blue Dawn. But, if you don’t have this at hand, then any soap will do. So, take your dish soap and add some to a cup of water. We would recommend using 2-3 squirts of the soap. Then take a spoon or fork, and mix the solution well (until the soap has diluted).

You can then take your cloth and dip it into the solution. Then, apply the cloth directly to the affected area of your clothing. Begin on the outside of the item of clothing, then repeat the process for the inside of the clothing too.

In most cases, you will have to do this multiple times before you start to see the results. But, this hack is usually successful in removing bleach residue from clothing. It won’t work on pure black clothes, but it should work on gray clothing.

Fixing bleach stains with rubbing alcohol

The most effective way to fix bleach stains on black clothing is to use rubbing alcohol. Black clothing is by far the most affected by bleach when it comes into contact with it, so you will need to use a strong product to reverse this damage.

The best solution for the job is rubbing alcohol. 

For black clothing, you should always begin with the neutralizing method that we spoke about earlier. When this is done, you should then rinse your clothing in the wash. If any stains persist (they should only be small), you can then use the rubbing alcohol method to remove them.

To do this, begin by dipping a cotton swab into your rubbing alcohol. Focus on the bleach stain and rub the cotton swab on this area. Pull from the areas that have been unaffected by the bleach into the white patches that the bleach has left behind.

This will move the dye from the unaffected areas and encourage it into the bleached areas. As the affected areas are only small, this is usually enough to make the white spots unnoticeable. When you are finished, simply leave your clothing to air dry. Once they have dried, you shouldn’t be able to see the damage from the bleach anymore.

Remove stains using fabric dye

As you can probably tell, removing the damage caused by bleach from black clothing is a long process. You must begin by neutralizing the bleach, then use rubbing alcohol to remove the stains. But what happens if these methods were not 100% effective?

As a last resort, you can use fabric dye on your clothing. You might choose to do this if the rubbing alcohol method only partly worked, or if you didn’t neutralize the bleach in time and the damage is pretty severe.

In a lot of cases, you will be able to get the bleached areas back to a grayish color, but this will still stand out from the black on the rest of the clothing.

So, if you want to resolve this problem, you should invest in a good black fabric dye. All of these dyes come with different instructions for how to use them, so we would recommend following the instructions on the packaging.

Apply the dye to the affected area, and once the process is complete, you should be unable to notice that bleach ever got on the clothing.

James Marshall
About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »