Unlike food stains which may stain clothing thanks to tannins, oils or pigmented ingredients, hair dye’s only job is to apply colour in fairly rapid order. Most hairstylists do a great job of protecting their client’s clothing from errant globs of runaway dye or bleach, but capes aren’t airtight. And then there’s box dye for the DIY-ers. It goes without saying, the easiest way to treat stains is to prevent them in the first place: use gloves, lay out old towels to protect surfaces and wear old or dark clothing when handing and applying hair dye. That said, if you’ve landed on this stain guide, chances are the dye has already been cast. Enough talk; time is of the essence.
What you’ll need to treat hair dye stains:
- A blunt scraping tool (butter knife, spatula, credit card, etc.)
- A sink
- Paper towel, a napkin or old cloth
- Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strips or Tru Earth Platinum laundry detergent eco-strips
- Optional: chlorine-free oxygen bleach* – see note below
How to treat and remove hair dye stains in 8 easy steps
Step 1: Identify the fabric type
Inspect the fabric care label to note the delicacy of the textile and how it should be laundered.
Note: The following stain guide is for items that can be machine laundered or hand washed. For vintage or dry clean-only clothing, complete steps two and three, then immediately bring to a professional dry cleaner.
Step 2: Remove any excess dye from the garment
Using a blunt tool (like a butter knife or credit card), lift any excess dye from the fabric, taking special care not to spread or transfer it to other parts of the item. Then, blot with a clean, old cloth or an absorbent paper towel or napkin. Take exceptional care not to rub the hair dye deeper into the fibre of the textile.
Step 3: Rinse with cold water from the backside of the stain
Rinse the stain with cold water from the back side of the fabric so that any bleeding runs off the item instead of trickling down it (which could create a larger stain.) This will dilute the physical remnants of the hair dye.
Step 4: Pre-treat with an enzyme-containing laundry detergent
Tear a strip of Tru Earth into small pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Add one tablespoon (15ml) of tap-hot water to begin dissolving it. Stir with a spoon to form a paste, adding small volumes of water as needed. Smear the concentrate atop the stain, gently pressing the mixture into it to allow the surfactant to get to work, releasing the residues from the fabric.
Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. If needed, use a soft-bristled brush to agitate the stain, working from the outside edge, toward the centre. Rinse.
(Optional) Step 5: Treat with chlorine-free oxygen bleach
If you’re particularly concerned about stain setting or if the clothing item is beloved or sentimental, you may consider treating it with chlorine-free oxygen bleach – if the fabric type can handle it. If so, mix cold water with the bleach in a basin – per the manufacturer’s instructions and test for colourfastness first – and allow it to soak for at least four hours.
Special note: We don’t love recommending oxygen bleach. Reason being, it contains ingredients that Tru Earth prides itself on being free of and it’s typically sold in single-use plastic tubs. That said, fashion waste is a major climate issue, and we encourage everyone to attempt to extend the life of their textiles. Before contributing to plastic waste, we encourage you to ask a friend or neighbour if they have any you can borrow.
Step 6: Time to wash
If the garment is machine-washable, toss it in the washer alongside a Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strip on its typical wash setting.
For hand wash-only items, tear up the strip, place the pieces in a sink or basin and cover with cool or warm water, but not hot. Allow it to soak and then agitate the article and rinse.
Step 7: Hang dry
Only place the garment in the dryer once you are finished stain treating; the heat of the machine will “set” any remaining stains, making them permanent.
Step 8: Inspect the stain
Has it resolved? If not, repeat the stain treatment in step four and launder again.
What if the hair dye stain still persists?
We get it, hair dye is a stubborn stain to treat. Cycle though the stain guide no less than three times – remember, do not apply heat (dryer, hair dryer, etc.) to expedite drying time – before consulting a dry cleaner to see if they have any specialized tools or formulas that can help. In our experience, at-home dry cleaning kits typically won’t yield as effective results as a brick-and-mortar cleaning professional.
What about dried-on hair dye stains?
If you’ve only discovered hair dye splatter after it has dried, re-wet the blemish with a mixture of water and baking soda. Mix equal parts (15mL of each) and then apply to the stain. Allow it to sit for an hour or so, then use a wet cloth, sponge or paper towel to clear away the paste. Then, work through the guide above, starting at step four.