How to Get Rid of Bleach Stains

By: Editors of Consumer Guide & Austin Henderson  | 
White spots on red cotton fabric
Oh no. elbud / Shutterstock

Chlorine, that ubiquitous defender against bacteria in pools, can sometimes become a nuisance outside the water. If it finds its way onto your clothing or other surfaces, it can leave behind unsightly bleach stains.

Learn how to get rid of bleach stains, ensuring your items look as good as new.


What Causes Bleach Stains?

Understanding what causes bleach stains is crucial for effectively removing them and preventing future mishaps. Bleach stains are not just ordinary stains; they are the result of a chemical reaction between bleach and the dyes in fabrics.

Bleach, especially chlorine bleach, is a powerful oxidizing agent. When it comes into contact with the dyes in clothes, it breaks down their molecular bonds.


This reaction causes the color to fade or disappear, leading to what we identify as bleach stains. This reaction is more pronounced with excess bleach or when bleach is left on the fabric for an extended period.

Factors Influencing Bleach Stains

  • Fabric type: The susceptibility to bleach stains varies. For instance, when it comes to clothes, bleach stains are more common in dark and colored clothing, while white clothes might just lose their brightness.
  • Bleach concentration and exposure time: Higher concentrations of bleach and longer exposure times increase the likelihood and severity of bleach stains.
  • Water temperature: Washing or rinsing the stained area with cold water can help mitigate the effect, while warm water might intensify the bleach's action.


Removing Chlorine Stains From Various Fabrics

When dealing with delicate fabrics like acetate, acrylic fabric, burlap, cotton and linen, immediate action is crucial. Mix 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of sodium thiosulfate in 1 quart (1 L) of water and flush the stain. Be careful, as sodium thiosulfate can irritate eyes and skin.

For persistent stains, try a solution of Rit Color Remover and water. Remember, chlorine stains can be stubborn, so prompt treatment is essential.


  • Synthetic fabrics: Synthetic fabrics like modacrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester, rayon, silk, spandex and wool require similar immediate attention. The flushing method with sodium thiosulfate solution is effective here too.
  • Chlorine stains on home surfaces: For non-fabric surfaces like acrylic plastic, asphalt, cork, linoleum, masonry tile, Plexiglass and vinyl tile, wiping up spills quickly is vital. Treat the area with warm sudsy water, rinse thoroughly and dry.
  • Leather, suede and vinyl: Unfortunately, for materials like leather, suede and vinyl clothing or wall coverings, chlorine often causes irreversible color change. In these instances, professional consultation might be the best course of action.

Preventing and Repairing Bleach Mishaps

Prevention is always better than cure. When handling bleach or swimming, be mindful of spillage and splashes to avoid bleach stains.

For minor bleach mishaps on clothes, simple home remedies can be effective. A paste made from baking soda and water, or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, can help in restoring the color. For white clothing, lemon juice or white vinegar can be a savior.


Sometimes, a bleach stain might be too tough to handle at home. In such cases, seeking professional cleaning services or using fabric dyes might be the best option. Remember, testing any treatment on an inconspicuous area first is always a good practice.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.


Bleach Stain FAQs

Can I use rubbing alcohol to remove bleach stains from clothes?
Rubbing alcohol might not effectively remove bleach stains from clothes since the stain is a result of color loss. However, it can be used to clean up excess bleach on nonporous surfaces.
How can I fix bleach stains on dark clothes?
For dark clothes, consider using a fabric marker that closely matches the original dye of the garment. Gently color in the bleached area and allow it to air dry. This method can disguise the stain, especially if it's small.
Are there any natural remedies for removing bleach stains from white clothes?
For white clothes, mixing equal parts of lemon juice and water or using a white vinegar solution can help restore the brightness. Apply the mixture to the stained area and then rinse with cold water.
How can I avoid further damage while trying to remove bleach stains from fabric?
Always test any stain removal solution on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first. Use gentle dabbing rather than rubbing to avoid spreading the stain or damaging the fabric fibers.