How to remove hair dye from clothes

Dyeing your hair at home can be a convenient and cost-effective way to change up your look. However, one of the biggest downsides is the risk of getting hair dye on your clothing. Whether you spilled some dye while applying it or your freshly dyed hair brushed against a shirt, getting hair color out of fabric can be a real challenge.

Fortunately, there are several effective techniques you can try to remove hair dye stains from your clothes. In this article, we’ll cover the best methods for getting hair color out of different fabric types, as well as provide some tips to help prevent stains in the first place. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge and tools you need to tackle even the toughest hair dye stains and keep your wardrobe looking its best.

remove hair dye from clothes

Why Does Hair Dye Stain Clothes?

Hair dye is formulated to penetrate deeply into the hair shaft and deposit long-lasting color. This same quality that makes it effective for coloring hair also makes it a stubborn stain on clothing. The dye molecules can bind tightly to fabric fibers, resulting in a stain that’s difficult to remove.

The degree of staining often depends on the type of hair dye used. Permanent hair color, which uses strong oxidizing agents to create dramatic, long-lasting results, is typically the most challenging to get out of clothes. Semi-permanent and demi-permanent dyes may also leave stubborn stains, while temporary rinse-out colors tend to be the easiest to remove.

In addition to the dye itself, the other chemicals in hair coloring products, such as developers and conditioners, can contribute to the staining process. The longer the dye is allowed to sit on the fabric, the more time it has to fully absorb and set into the fibers.

Factors that Affect Removability

The ease of removing a hair dye stain can depend on several factors, including:

FactorImpact on Removability
Fabric TypeNatural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk are more absorbent and prone to staining than synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon.
Dye ColorDarker, more vibrant hair dye colors like black, blue, and red are generally more difficult to remove than lighter shades.
Stain AgeFresh hair dye stains are typically easier to treat than set-in, older stains that have had time to fully absorb into the fabric.
Stain SizeSmaller, more localized stains are easier to target and remove than large, all-over dye transfers.

By understanding these variables, you can choose the most effective stain removal method for your specific situation. Let’s dive into the step-by-step process for getting hair dye out of different types of clothing.

Removing Hair Dye from Cotton, Linen, and Other Natural Fabrics

Cotton, linen, and other natural fiber fabrics are some of the most common culprits for hair dye stains. The absorbent nature of these materials makes them particularly susceptible to holding onto hair color. However, with the right technique, you can often successfully remove these stubborn stains.

Here’s how to get hair dye out of natural fiber clothes:

  1. Act quickly. The sooner you can treat a fresh hair dye stain, the better. Allowing it to set in will only make the stain harder to remove later on.
  2. Blot the stain. Use a clean, white cloth or paper towel to gently blot at the stain and absorb as much of the excess dye as possible. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the dye deeper into the fabric.
  3. Apply a stain remover. Look for a heavy-duty stain remover formulated to tackle tough dye and pigment stains, such as Carbona Color Run Remover or Shout Advanced Stain Remover. Apply it directly to the affected area, making sure to cover the entire stain. Allow it to sit for the recommended time, usually 5-10 minutes.
  4. Launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric. The heat will help activate the stain remover and lift the dye from the fibers. Use the highest water temperature that won’t damage the garment.
  5. Air dry in direct sunlight. The UV rays from the sun can have a natural bleaching effect that may further help fade the stain.
  6. Repeat as needed. If the stain persists after the first wash, you may need to re-treat and launder the item again. Stubborn stains may require several cycles.

For set-in hair dye stains on natural fabrics, you can also try these additional methods:

  • Make a baking soda paste. Mix baking soda and water into a thick paste and gently rub it into the stain. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Use an enzyme cleaner. Look for a laundry detergent or spot remover containing enzymes, such as Biz Advanced Stain Fighter, which can help break down the dye compounds.
  • Try color remover. A commercial color remover product specifically designed to lift dye stains, like Retro Color Remover, may be effective, but test it first on an inconspicuous area.
  • Soak in vinegar. Submerging the stained item in a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water can sometimes help loosen and lift the dye.

Removing Hair Dye from Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic tend to be less absorbent than natural fibers, making hair dye stains a bit easier to tackle. However, the dye can still bind to the material, so you’ll want to act quickly.

Here are the steps for removing hair dye from synthetic clothes:

  1. Blot the stain. Use a clean, white cloth or paper towel to gently blot at the affected area and absorb as much of the excess dye as possible.
  2. Apply a stain remover. Look for a heavy-duty stain remover or spot cleaner specifically formulated for synthetic fabrics, such as Persil ProClean Stain Fighter. Apply it directly to the stain and allow it to sit for the recommended time, usually 5-10 minutes.
  3. Launder in cool water. Wash the garment in the coolest water temperature safe for the fabric. Hot water can actually set the stain further on synthetics.
  4. Air dry. Avoid putting the item in the dryer, as the heat can also cause the stain to become more difficult to remove. Allow it to air dry instead.
  5. Repeat if needed. If the stain remains after the first wash, repeat the process until it is fully removed.

For set-in hair dye stains on synthetics, you can also try:

  • Using rubbing alcohol. Dab a bit of rubbing alcohol directly onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.
  • Applying a grease-cutting dish soap. Rub a small amount of a degreasing dish soap, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, into the stain before laundering.
  • Trying an oxidizing detergent. Look for a laundry detergent containing bleaching agents, such as OxiClean White Revive Laundry Detergent, which can help break down the dye molecules.

Remember, always test any stain removal method on an inconspicuous area of the garment first to ensure it doesn’t cause damage or discoloration.

Removing Hair Dye from Upholstery and Carpets

Hair dye stains don’t just affect clothing – they can also wreak havoc on upholstered furniture, carpets, and other household fabrics. Fortunately, many of the same removal techniques used for clothes can also work on these larger textile surfaces.

Here’s how to tackle hair dye stains on upholstery and carpets:

  1. Blot up excess dye. Use a clean, white cloth or paper towels to gently blot at the stain and soak up as much of the spilled or transferred dye as possible.
  2. Apply a stain remover. Look for a heavy-duty upholstery or carpet cleaner specifically formulated to tackle dye and pigment stains, such as Folex Carpet Spot Remover or Chem-Dry Professional Strength Dye and Pigment Remover. Follow the product instructions carefully, applying it directly to the affected area.
  3. Blot and rinse. After allowing the stain remover to work, blot the area again with clean, white cloths to lift the dissolved dye. You may need to repeat this step a few times.
  4. Use an enzyme cleaner. For set-in stains, an enzyme-based carpet or upholstery cleaner, like Zout Laundry Stain Remover, can help break down the dye compounds. Apply it, let it sit, then blot and rinse.
  5. Try an ammonia solution. Mix one part clear household ammonia with one part water, then sponge this solution onto the stain. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes before blotting and rinsing.
  6. Absorb with baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the stain and let it sit for several hours to draw out the dye. Then vacuum up the baking soda.
  7. Expose to sunlight. For outdoor carpets or upholstery, the UV rays from sunlight can help fade and lift hair dye stains over time.

Remember to always spot test any cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous area first to ensure they won’t damage or discolor the fabric. You may also want to consult a professional upholstery or carpet cleaning service for particularly stubborn stains.

Prevention Tips to Avoid Hair Dye Stains

The best way to deal with hair dye stains is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some tips to help keep your clothes, furniture, and carpets dye-free:

  • Wear old clothes when dyeing hair. Opt for an old t-shirt, sweatshirt, or button-down shirt that you don’t mind getting stained. This reduces the risk of ruining your favorite garments.
  • Use gloves. Protect your hands by wearing a pair of disposable gloves when applying hair color. This prevents dye from transferring directly to your skin and then onto your clothes.
  • Apply dye in a contained area. Dye your hair in the bathroom or another space with a hard, non-porous floor and surfaces that are easy to wipe clean. Avoid doing it over carpeting or upholstered furniture.
  • Wrap hair in a towel. Drape a clean towel around your shoulders to catch any drips or stray dye as you’re applying and rinsing out the color.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Make sure to fully rinse out all of the hair dye, conditioner, and other products to prevent any residue from transferring to your clothes or skin.
  • Let hair dry completely. Avoid brushing, touching, or laying your head on fabrics until your freshly dyed hair is completely dry and set.

With a little preparation and vigilance, you can greatly reduce the chances of those pesky hair dye stains wreaking havoc on your wardrobe and home.


Removing hair dye from clothes, upholstery, and carpets can be a challenge, but it’s definitely possible with the right techniques. By acting quickly, using the appropriate stain removal methods for the fabric type, and taking preventative measures, you can effectively tackle even the toughest hair color stains.

Remember, the key is to treat the stain as soon as possible before it has a chance to fully set in. Blotting, laundering in hot water, and using targeted stain removers or home remedies can all be effective, depending on the situation.

For set-in stains or tricky fabrics, you may need to employ more robust methods like enzyme cleaners, color removers, or professional services. And of course, taking steps to prevent hair dye stains in the first place is always the best approach.

With a little know-how and elbow grease, you can successfully remove those pesky hair color stains and keep your clothes, furniture, and carpets looking their best. So the next time you tackle a home hair dye job, be prepared and ready to tackle any stains that may arise.

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.