Does Dry Cleaning Remove Colour Run?

Have you ever got your clothes out of the wash only to find out that they are a different colour? If your whites turned pink after being washed with red clothing, this is what we call a colour run. It can be time-consuming to fix, and you may want an easier option, such as taking it to a dry cleaners. But would that actually help?

Yes, dry cleaning can help you fix and remove colour runs. When you take a colour-run-affected garment to a professional dry cleaner, they can use their expertise and special products to either prevent the colour from running or remove stains from previous colour runs.

Of course, the success of the process can vary depending on what your clothes are made of and the types of dyes used. Let’s learn more about dry cleaning in this article.

What Exactly is Colour Run? And How Can Dry Cleaning Get Rid Of It? 

Colour runs happen when the dye from one item of clothing bleeds into the water and stains other clothes. This is more likely to happen with new clothes, dark, or bright colours that haven’t been washed much yet. 

red dye on white shirt

What causes colour runs? It can be the temperature of the water you’re using. Too much heat can break down the dye on your fabrics, making them more prone to bleed. It could also be due to substandard dyes or dyeing techniques, or the colour of the dye itself. 

DID YOU KNOW? Orange and red dyes have a high tendency to run. Make sure to wash new clothes separately to ensure that the dye will not transfer to your other garments. 

So how can dry cleaning be beneficial when removing colour runs? It’s simple: Unlike washing at home with water and detergent, dry cleaning uses special chemicals to clean clothes without making them wet. Hence, it’s much gentler on your clothes, and will not use any agitation, which is another annoying reason behind colour bleeds. 

Although there are a lot of chemicals used in dry cleaning, they don’t mix with the dyes in your clothes. The result? It will help fix, and even prevent, colour runs. 

However, it’s important to remember that not all fabrics and dyes will respond well to dry cleaning, so it’s always best to ask the professional dry cleaner first. 

How To Fix Colour Runs At Home

If you’ve got a colour run, don’t worry! There are a few tricks you can try at home to fix it before you think about dry cleaning. Keep in mind that these tips work better on certain items depending on what they’re made of and the type of dye that’s caused the problem.

The most important thing is to act fast, and choose from the following methods:

Wash Your Garment Again

Simply washing the stained clothes again by themselves can wash away the unwanted dye. This is often the best method if the stain is minimal, or not a lot of time has passed since the bleeding happened.

person changing the program on washing machine

Make sure to use cold water and a gentle detergent. 

TIP: Using high temperatures can set the stain on your fabrics. Avoid using hot washes and the tumble dryer until the stain is completely removed. 

Use White Vinegar

White vinegar is a gentle, natural fabric softener that can help remove colour runs. If you think that it’s just useful on salads, it’s time to include it in your laundry sessions. 

To remove colour bleeds, dilute one cup of white vinegar and water in a bucket or basin. Soak the garment for at least 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Wash as you normally would. 

Repeat if necessary. 

Use Bicarbonate Of Soda

For your white fabrics that have unfortunately been dyed, bicarbonate of soda can be your best option.

Baking Soda

Just mix a solution of bicarbonate of soda with just enough water to form a paste, then apply it to the stain. Allow the mixture to sit for at least an hour, then gently scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with cold water and wash as normal. Repeat if necessary. 

Use Oxygen Bleach

For your coloured garments, using chlorine bleach is not a good idea as it will just stain them further. This is where oxygen bleach would be a great help. 

Oxygen bleach is extremely effective in removing stains, but won’t cause your coloured fabrics to lose their dye. Just make sure to follow the instructions carefully, which usually involves soaking the garment in a solution of oxygen bleach and water before washing as usual.

Use Chlorine Bleach

For stubborn colour dye stains on white clothing, you can rely on chlorine bleach.


Make sure to only use the recommended amount and follow the instructions on the packaging. Although bleach is extremely potent, it can also easily damage your fabrics if not used correctly. Proceed with caution. 

WARNING: Chlorine bleach can be very harsh, not only on your fabrics, but also your skin. Getting it in contact with your skin or inhaling it can be dangerous. Make sure to wear gloves and use it in a well-ventilated area to avoid accidents. 

How to Avoid Colour Runs

Prevention is always better than cure, especially regarding colour runs. Here are some extra tips to help avoid this issue:

Always Check Care Labels

The little label inside your clothing isn’t just for decoration. It tells you how to take care of your garment, including whether it’s likely to bleed colour. Always check it before washing.

wash and dry similar colours together care label

Wash Similar Colours Together

One of the easiest ways to avoid colour runs is to sort your laundry. Keep darks with darks, lights with lights, and wash very bright colours together or separately.

If Possible, Handwash

Handwashing is gentler on clothes than machine washing and can greatly reduce the risk of colour runs, especially for new or brightly coloured items.

SEE ALSO: Which Fabrics Should You Hand Wash? (& how to do it)

Wash New Garments Separately

Brand-new clothes, especially dark or vibrant ones, are the usual suspects for colour runs. Wash them on their own for the first few washes to avoid annoying accidents.

Dry Your Clothes Promptly

Leaving wet clothes sitting in the washer can encourage dyes to bleed. Hang them up or dry them as soon as the wash cycle finishes.

Clothes hanging outdoors

TIP: If possible, air dry your clothes. They are much gentler on your fabrics and will keep them in great shape for a longer time. 

Use Colour Catcher Sheets

Colour catcher sheets can help as they help trap loose dyes during the washing cycle. Just throw them in the wash and you’ll be able to protect your clothes from unexpected colour runs.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dry cleaners remove colour runs?

Yes, dry cleaners can remove colour runs. They use specialised chemicals and techniques that can effectively address and eliminate colour runs from garments, without causing further damage or colour bleed.

What does dry clean only mean?

“Dry clean only” means that a garment should not be washed with water and regular detergent but instead needs to be cleaned with special chemicals in a dry cleaning process. This method is gentler and helps to preserve the fabric’s integrity, appearance, and colour.

What is the best colour run remover?

The best colour run remover can vary depending on the fabric and the type of dye that caused the run. For home remedies, white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, and oxygen bleach are effective for different scenarios. However, for professional results, taking the garment to a dry cleaner is often the most effective solution.

Will dry cleaning fade colours?

No, dry cleaning will not typically fade colours. Dry cleaning is designed to clean clothes without using water, reducing the risk of colour fading and bleeding. The chemicals used in dry cleaning are generally safe for most dyes and fabrics, preserving the garment’s original colour.

Is dry cleaning better than washing?

Dry cleaning is better than washing for certain types of garments and fabrics, particularly those that are delicate, prone to colour bleeding, or labelled as “dry clean only.” Dry cleaning uses chemicals to clean clothes without water, which can be gentler on fabrics and prevent issues like shrinking, distortion, and colour runs.

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