Disaster: The Sorrowful Tale of the Whites Gone Pink

This is the jersey sent by Satan.  I picked it up a few weeks ago from Spotlight to make a “final” version of the 40’s Charm Hack (which is clean and tidy and revised- will be up tomorrow! I just wanted to complete).  It’s a lightweight nylon/wool blend, and only came in heathered gray, though I wanted something red.  “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll throw it in the washing machine with some crimson iDye and all will be well.”  I regularly dye fabrics that way.

All was not well, the fabric itself was hellish to work with- it stretched and warped and shrank from the needle as I stitched.  I’ve worked with lightweight jerseys, lightweight wools, all kinds of nylon and wool, but this was like some kind of demonic visitation rather than a sewing experience.  Disgusting fabric.  I made an ugly muslin with it, made fun of it, and that was that.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I’ve been on a whites kick lately.  I love how they blaze and glow under the skin-sizzling UV rays here, and how white seems to go with everything else in my closet.   This past Friday, I threw a load of whites into a warm wash with mild detergent, a touch of vinegar and some baking soda:

Linen-cotton jersey with cotton bobbin lace. This is an excellent basic, the lace saves it from complete boredom.

SpinaLace Tee- Also linen-cotton slub knit, it washed to a level of softness for which there are no words.

Hemp Hurricane: I have worn this skirt almost constantly all summer. It has doubled as a blanket for sitting on the beach, as a sort of tent for sun protection, and it literally creates its own breeze when I walk.

Lacewing Top- Nylon/Cotton blend, works with everything in my wardrobe.

Summer Snowflake in Merino and Guipure- recognize the faux-lero?

I also added some delicious ivory Japanese double layered cotton knit for Enid’s version of the 40’s Charm Hack (which is to be a birthday present) and a few other bits and pieces, including a couple of cotton tea towels.

I didn’t think about the fact I had recently dyed something red in my washing machine.  Why should I?  I ran an empty vinegar rinse after dyeing and another load of darks had been through with no problems.  Dyeing in my washing machine has never caused me any issues whatsoever. In fact, dyeing usually “cleans” my washing machine.

Mysteriously, my whites came out pink. Every blessed one, except the merino- though the cotton guipure trim was not spared.  Curiously, the tea towels were also unaffected.

Not a pretty pink, but a just-barely-not-white pink.  I ran another washing machine rinse then shoved them back into the washing machine with a healthy dose of bleach.  (I took out the merino.)

They actually bleached pinker.  I kid you not.  They became Homer-Simpson-work-shirt pink.  WHY?  I left them wet on the bench in my kitchen lest drying set the pink dye permanently.  In the meantime, I washed Lila’s butterfly sheets with the white background.  They’re cotton and came out completely clean.  “Excellent,” I thought.  “No more pink in the machine, I didn’t ruin it, now my whites will behave.”

The next morning, I went out to purchase dye remover. “This will get it out, nothing to worry about,” I thought to myself.  I even read the back of the box and followed the directions to the letter.

The white is for comparison.  It’s actually brighter than this pink, I couldn’t get the color right…

MORE PINK!  It is actually pinker than before!  This almost qualifies as a color, but I’m stumped.  Why did this happen?  How?  Why not her sheets?  Why not the tea towels?

What do I do? I don’t dare trying to bleach them again.  Or do I?  Fiber gurus- do you have any ideas?  I’m trying to stay philosophical about this, but after writing this post and thinking about the time (easily 30 hours) and thought and resources put into these clothes I’m actually pretty upset. (And for WHAT were they dyed pink?  For the top that turned out to be the worst fabric fail of the year!)

I guess I could dye them all another color, but the white is what works with everything else.  It’s a “neutral” for me.  Besides, I shudder to think how silly a blue or purple lace-insertion tee would look.  Black?  I worked with black dye once, it was very difficult.


  1. Oh Steph I am so sorry to hear that! I have no useful suggetions at all, cannot imagine what the problem is :( I do hope someone can assist. xo

  2. Remind me never to dye anything red in my machine!! Not that I actually own more than one item of white clothing, but my husband might not like a whole heap of pink shirts.

    I can’t believe bleach and dye remover made them pinker??! I know my bleach doesn’t affect anything unless its then exposed to air before being bleached… But to get PINKER? I’m so so sorry. :(

    • yeah, there’s something freaky about red dye. my husband actually suggested i dye the lot of the clothes red, i think he was looking for a big dramatic reaction so i just smoldered in response…

      The only thing i can think of (and its a long shot) is that the bleach and the dye remover “thought” I wanted icky gross washed in pink as the color so they brightened it… but chemicals can’t think, that’s nuts…

    • Aargh, that should have been exposed to air before being RINSED. Stupid brain.

      Chemicals can’t think, but I wouldn’t be too sure about washing machines… Why else would they eat socks?

      • That’s right up there with zombie construction machines taking over the world. They’re in league with the sock eating-pinkifying washing machines….

  3. Yikes! I don’t have any suggestions, sorry! I shrank and felted one of my hand-knit sweaters in the washing machine once. I still have it; couldn’t bear to give it away!

    • Oh no, that stinks! I did that too a few years ago… I decided to make my husband a sweater out of some delicious and expensive but WONDERFUL baby alpaca with a lovely halo… In worsted weight. Of course it grew. Too much. So I tried felting it (I was seriously a beginner, would just frog it now) and it’s now the biggest shame in my Area 51 (where the UFOs go). Even bigger shame than my unfinished quilts. Except I know how to refashion it now, so keep your eyes peeled for that one..

  4. I have nothing useful to offer except sympathy. That story read like some awful cruel joke some nasty fabric and sewing antichrist played on you. Fingers crossed you can get them back to white.

    • OH! hahahahah thank you for that. The laugh is almost worth the pain. :)

      It’s even worse because my Me Made May pledge stipulates that I can only wear things I’ve made in the past 6 months, and while i haven’t crunched the numbers I’m pretty sure this is about half my MMM wardrobe…

  5. Crap! This happened to me recently and anything that could be bleached (ie sheets, cotton t’s) I put into a sinkful of hot water and bleach, dropped them in and stirred regularly until all the colour came out. For the synthetics I did the same procedure but with the Dylon Colour Run remover. It’s not the best product in the world but I used all sachets and left them in the water for ages.

    I’ve got everything crossed for you.

    • I see a ray of hope! I’m kind of scared of bleach’s caustic powers used against the fibers, but I might just try this tomorrow if there’s nothing else I can do. I always thought bleach always made things white, it really shook my understanding of the universe when my whites came out pinker after a bleach wash…. But maybe a soak will do the trick…


  6. Ummmm – should I bring over copious amounts of chocolate stat? That is awful, when you really don’t want pink clothes! The only colours that really go with that pink are beige (hmmm), chocolate brown, grey and black. None of which feature in your gorgeous colour palette. You could get away with cream or white too I suppose. Big hugs are jumping across from my suburb to yours right now. My teddy bear sends his love too!

  7. Ouch! I’ve had really good luck with dye remover, so I don’t understand why it wouldn’t work for you. What happens if you use the dye remover in another machine, like at the laundromat? The only thing that leaps to mind would be a pocket of dye solution lurking somewhere in your machine. Not enough for the sheets, but enough for your white clothes. Or maybe you’d do the test sheets at a lower water level than the clothes?? Can you do another formal rinse-out of your machine, very full of hot water with detergent and nothing else, and a sacrificial bit of something white like some scraps from these clothes?

    Also, you don’t mention what kind of idye it is, natural or poly? Is the image really the one you used, natural? Because I see at Dharma that there’s some specific dye remover for it, and you’d probably want to use that instead. The vinegar would mostly wash out fiber-reactive dye, it’d bind acid dye to protein-based fabric like wool and silk, so I’d be cautious about using that if you’re not certain what you’re doing.

    Sorry, I know it sounds far-fetched, but the dye remover has worked so well for me that I can’t see anything else..

    • Yes, dye remover has worked for me in the past, too…

      I’ll try that test wash. Very sensible.

      It’s natural iDye. Poly iDye wouldn’t have dyed the wool, let alone the linen and cottons.. Grrr! It’s even weirder now I think about it- that first wash I did definitely had vinegar in there, my whites needed freshening. The vinegar is what sets dye to protein fibers, but the merino came out white. Weird weird.

  8. Rit’s dye leacher has always worked for me. That and an oxyclean boil. (Take a canning pot (ceramic coated. never, ever ever use aluminum because it stains) fill it halfway with water–canning pots have a convinent line at the halfway mark–and put it on to boil. When it’s boiling, throw in a scoop of oxyclean, and it should foam up. Toss in your stained items, and stir with a wooden spoon and let boil for ten minutes. Remove and rinse.)

  9. I have never had anything like this happen, and I literally can’t count how many times I have dyed stuff in my machine. As I understand it the iDye is a fiber reactive dye and shouldn’t have stuck around in your washer. I would contact Jacquard (the manufacturer) and see if they can help you. I would run your washer again with hot water and a large amount of washing soda to try to clean it out.


  10. Oh NO!!! That’s horrific. Sounds like you did everything right, too. :( I would try a last-ditch bleach soak—what have you got to lose—but DAMN that’s criminal. I am suddenly glad I’ve never tried to dye anything red. :(

  11. Eeeep! I have no thoughts about this, because I never dye anything, but I feel your horror shock and pain! Just a thought – perhaps Claudine at couturearts.wordpress.com the dye queen could help you? Or Carolyn of Handmadebycarolyn? They regularly post about their escapades with dye.

  12. Oh, how awful. I don’t have any answers, but would suggest checking out Paula Burch’s dyeing web site. She has a treasure trove of information about dyeing as well as an archive of dyeing questions she’s answered. And if no one has written in with this problem before, you can ask her directly. Good luck!

  13. It definitely seems to me like the washer is clean and for whatever reason your bleaches are what’s causing the color brightening. I am completely at a loss as to *why*–if this question were to come up on my textile science exam next week I would be totally stumped. (Assuming you’re using regular chlorine bleach that is.) I suggest hanging all these clothes in the sun, for the linen and hemp especially those are really effective ways to bleach things–and to not put any more scary chemicals on your clothes until you’ve had a chance to cool your head a bit. You might want to consider a discharge bath rather than a household bleach (which are NOT optimized to remove dyes); something like Thiox, while still caustic, is very good at removing the pink components of a reactive color!

  14. Oh, no. This is horrible!
    And I have to helpful ideas to offer. I would run one or two other (black?) machines through the machine. Was the red dye liquid our powder?
    Maybe you should try and contact the manufacturer on Monday and explain what happened, they should know their chemicals and what they react with.

    If you can’t manage to get them white again – obviously bleach is not a good idea – I would honestly think about dying them a different color. This may sound terrible, but I could imagine this might be the only way. Don’t hate me for saying this – I actually think a nice fiery red or something in the range of your lipstick color would work nicely for you. Black is usually not very good and since these are summer clothes…

    I’m so sorry. One of the worst nightmares :(

  15. Right – Let’s start from the premise that it can’t get any worse and move forward from there. DH worked in the rag trade for years and (thinks) he knows everything suggests peroxide. You need whitening agents NOT bleach which by his reckoning may have already ‘burnt’ the fibres – hence the continuing pinking. Now I can’t promise that this will work but go to a chemist (pharmacy) and see if they’ll sell you some peroxide for the job, they may even be able to help with ratios and dosages and stuff like that. Good luck.

  16. maybe i have an idea – but it would not help to get the withe back: householdfabrics are bleached to be white. fashion fabrics often dyed white……. with the bleach you removed the white and the darker natural color came out.
    i would wear pink and make same new whitys.

      • it is a white coat around the fiber……… for that reason its so easy removeble with some chemikals or harsch washing. the red color you used is real dye or? so the red goes thru micro-gaps in the white coat IN the fiber…. then the bleach removed the white coat – you have more pink.

  17. Oh no!! I have nothing useful to add, but I’m so sorry to hear you’re having problems. The dread started to really stack up as I scrolled through all the lovely white garments you’ve been making lately. :( I hope you can find a solution from one of the peeps here.

    • Thanks Heather… I think that’s what got me, too… I also had the Birds on the Wires tee in there and the funny black and white striped one with the shaped hem… Sigh.

  18. I’m so sorry that I have no suggestions, other than contact the manufacturer of the dye and see if they have any ideas. Fingers crossed you can sort this out! X

  19. Do you have a product called oxyclean down there? It’s a peroxide-based cleaner. The bleach might be a bad idea, since it already caused further problems. http://www.oxiclean.com/

    I never use my machine to dye, because I have a front loader. I use a rubber tub. To ensure an even color, I time the agitation carefully, especially during the first 15 minutes or so. This might help in the future.

    What a bummer!

    • Yes- there is something like that here. I think that will be the next thing I try…

      I have a front loader and have dyed in it more times than I can count and it was ok. Just not this time, it seems.

  20. I second Ruth’s suggestion about peroxide. I do quite a bit of dying of wool and fabric, and have picked up some enormous pots from Op shops so that I can do the stove top method. It has a few difficulties, in that I prefer not to do it when the kids are home and requires careful stirring, but it is one way to avoid this happening again. I’m so sorry to read about your current disaster, though. Those garments are so beautiful!

  21. I’ve had very good success with removing colour (from bright silk) using thiourea dioxide plus soda ash (sodium carbonate):
    I got the thoiurea from Dharma, and I’m giving you the links so you can read about the process & chemicals – I have no doubt thiourea is available somewhere in your country…. Soda ash is easy to get, it’s washing soda, I was able to get a huge tub for just a few bucks. You may actually get a good result with the soda ash alone – I use it to boil my fine table linens (yeah real irish linen) – it gets everything brilliant white beautifully, even old stains, red wine and curry disappear completely.
    The mix takes a while to work – best in very hot water for half an hour or so.
    As for dyeing…. I always use the stovetop method, with a dedicated not-for-cooking pot.

  22. Oh dear, all those pretty garments… your lacewing top! Ack! I have no dyeing experience but I hope you find a solution.

  23. oh no! What a nightmare. I do hope you manage to get your whites white again – god I sound like a 50s ad….
    Seriously – I don’t trust machine dying. I have a front loader like most people here and i once did a refresh black dye on a bunch of clothes. It took ages to get the black out from the rubber rim and I didn’t dare do any light washes for ages – I just let them build up and did dark or coloured washes and solitary rinses until the rubber went grey again.

    Anyway – from my limited experience, I second peroxide. I also prefer to soak in a big tub rather than try to do that type of thing in a mchine. That way I can agitate, check out the state of affairs, blabla.

    Best of luck….

  24. This is just terrible! I would recommend rinsing the items again to make sure all detergents and chemicals are removed (you don’t want any reactions). Then, I agree peroxide is likely your best bet, though I’ve not used it this way myself. If this does get the pink out, it’s not unlikely that your items will be slightly off white. As Beata said, most “white” fashion fabrics are dyed white or “blued” so, you may have to repeat this treatment once the pink is out. (I agree with her that the bleach likely removed the white which is why the pink became darker. Bleach has also be known to turn whites a slightly yellow/cream color for this reason.) I have seen a “white” dye from Rit or you could search for washing blue. These should help make your pretty tops bright again.

    Good luck!!!

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  26. Satan leaves you alone unless you are actively working for good in the world. I know that doesn’t help with the pink laundry situation, but at least it is confirmation that you are firmly in the camp of Goodness and Light.

  27. Sending you some Charlies soap today – enough for 2 soaks… Cant promise anything but I have had it remove idye (when I didnt want it to!) It is great stuff for soaking, I use if for nappies, just google it for all the info :)

  28. Oh nos, what a disaster! That is a huge loss in one load of washing. I hope some of the suggestions here pan out. I’ve only tried dyeing a few times, not extremely successfully. I think I will stick to stovetop if I try again.

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