How do I wash a new white shirt that has red sleeves?

It’s a new softball shirt: snow white torso, bright red sleeves. I had one before and threw it into the washing machine and it came out pink with red sleeves.

How do I avoid having this happen again?

Cold water, no bleach. Cross your fingers.

Cold water, definitely. You could look for these “color catcher” sheets. They have worked well for me in similar situations.

The purist way:

  1. remove the sleeves
  2. wash them in professional textile detergent (Dharma Trading Co. has an excellent cheaper knockoff of Synthropol which is the standard one). This will strip out all the ‘loose’ dye.
  3. sew the sleeves back on

You can now wash the shirt on cold safely.

Hand wash each sleeve thoroughly in the sink in warm water to get as much extra dye out as possible. Hang it to dry, then when it is dry, run it through the dryer for about 15 minutes to try to set the dye that is left. Then, wash it in the washer on cold with the color catcher sheet as suggested, BY ITSELF, just in case, with a cold wash (or all temp) detergent, double rinse, and again, hang it to dry. You can toss it in the dryer after it dries for a few minutes with a dryer sheet to soften up once it is actually dry. Continue to hang it to dry for about the first four or five washes. Sometimes the dye transfer happens not in the wash, but in the heat of the dryer.

I faced a similar problem with a red-sleeved shirt a few years ago, and the washing of the sleeves in the sink, along with the hanging to dry, worked for me. I’d never heard of color catcher sheets, but heck, give them a try.

You could iron the sleeves to set the dye, if the fabric can be ironed really hot. Ideally, 100% cotton.

I came in to put in a good word for Shout Color Catcher Sheets. If you have an issue after the first washing, try again with an extra sheet or two. They completely resolved an issue I had with a white shirt that had turned pink in the wash, and I have not had another problem since I started using one in every mixed load.

If you have a high efficiency washer, be sure to put the color catcher sheet in a lingerie bag so it doesn’t gum up the works.

This is what I do, and I’ve never had a problem.

Are you saying that the pink came out of the white shirt after washing it with the Color Catcher sheets?

Use the largest load setting to dilute the dye even nore.

Exactly. I was shocked. It was sort of a last ditch effort to see if I could save it. It was still pinkish after the first wash, so I put in three sheets and washed it again, and the pink completely disappeared. I haven’t washed a mixed load without a color catcher since, and I have had no clothes damaged by bleeding (I have had plenty of color catcher sheets come out of the wash a different color than they went in).

That is amazing (and unexpected). Thanks for sharing.

I went looking to see if I could find my original post, since I couldn’t remember the exact details, and found this story that someone else had posted back in 2006.

My 2011 post is here.

Hmm, interesting. But what is that stuff, does it have bleach?

Soak the sleeves (fpld the shirt so just the sleeves can be immersed) in cold water and vinegar, one cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Vinegar sets the dye, then you can wash normally.


My mom quilts a lot, and she originally convinced me to try them (the color catcher sheets). Quilts have lots of different colors, so I thought she might know what she was talking about. :slight_smile:

My mom always told me to add a palm full of salt to the load when washing anything red for the first time; and to wash it by itself on the first wash. She said it would “set” the dye. I’ve never had an issue with them while following her direction.

Of course, any of these techniques would be easier at the fabric factory. Why the heck aren’t clothes sold already set?

Because using too much dye and not setting the color often produces a (temporarily) brighter color which is more appealing to consumers. I assume the cost of re-washing clothes after dyeing could also play a role.