Bleach... Noooooooo!
September 7, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I negate or minimize the effects of bleach on my clothes?

I work in a bar, and at the end of the shift, we have to put bleach down the drains. When I'm tired and not paying attention, I sometimes get some splash back, which has left large bleach stains on a couple pairs of pants that I'm very fond of. Is there a way to fix this?
posted by outlandishmarxist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No. Chlorine bleach degrades the dye. Short of getting your pants re-dyed the damage is permanent.
posted by nickhb at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2012

There is nothing I am aware of that you can do to prevent bleach from harming your clothes. You could wear an apron to protect your clothing while pouring the bleach, and you can dye your clothing back to it's original color (easiest if it's solid black!).
posted by insectosaurus at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

What color and material are the pants? Light will fare better than dark, especially if the spot has turned an off color (like orange) instead of just lightening the wash.

Also, no. Not really.

You could always attempt to dye them (using Rit or similar), but you'd have to dunk the whole thing, and you would always see the spot. It would just (hopefully) be less noticeable.

In the future, one trick you can use is to aim at a flat part in the sink instead of directly in the drain. No lips to catch on and splash back from, so it's a less risky pour.
posted by phunniemee at 10:32 AM on September 7, 2012

Grab a trash bag and throw it over yourself when you do the bleach. Cheap, easy and can be re-used many times.
posted by pearlybob at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're pretty much screwed in terms of restoring the pants to original. The bleach isn't a 'stain' that can be removed; it's actually changed the fabric. You may have luck coloring in the spots with permanent marker or (better) fabric marker. You can also try dyeing the entire garment; I'd recommend black or another very, very dark color.

In the future, pay attention and don't get any bleach on your clothes.
posted by carsonb at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only thing I found that worked consistently was to not wear clothes I cared about to my messy/bleachy/dirty jobs. They could still be work-appropriate and look nice/fit the dress code, but I wasn't going to wear my favorite pants when a different pair of black pants bought for $15 at Target or somewhere would fill the same need.
posted by rtha at 10:35 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What about a professional dye job? How much would that cost me?
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:38 AM on September 7, 2012

A pvc apron would be good for preventing splashes in the future.
posted by humph at 10:42 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can wear polyester, it doesn't bleach.

No idea where you'll find a professional who would claim to be able to make the pants look like it had never happened, the color will usually be a little off unless you want to bleach the whole thing first, and that would weaken the fabric.

If you want to give it a shot yourself, you can order dyes here.
posted by yohko at 11:25 AM on September 7, 2012

Since bleach is a chemical process that removes the dye from the fabric, there's no post-bleach treatment you can do other than finding a similar dye to treat the bare spot and/or the whole garment.

However, the chemical reaction with the dye molecules is not an instantaneous process. If you drip undiluted bleach onto a piece of black-dyed cotton, you can watch the dye lighten in a few seconds, and the spot will be a light color in a minute or so. With most sterilization jobs, though, you're working with diluted bleach, and that slows down the chemical reaction quite a bit. When you're intentionally lightening clothing (to age a pair of jeans or fade a colored shirt) the instructions are usually a cup of bleach in a couple of gallons of water, and monitoring the color as it changes slowly over a half-hour or so. If you realize just as the bleachy water splashes onto you that you've done something careless (like not wearing an apron, working in your good pants, not pouring carefully, etc) then the spot will be much much less if you can rinse the bleach out immediately. Not just "dab at it with a wet paper towel", take off the pants and run water over the spot, wring it out and rinse again - the goal is to get all those chemicals out before they interact with the dye molecules.
posted by aimedwander at 11:29 AM on September 7, 2012

Other "fix" option is to turn the spots into art. Applique or embroidery will cover small spots; large spots you're kind of out of luck unless you emulate tie-dye and bleach out other areas to create something funky and artistic. Those pants will not be the same favorite pants you used to have, but they'll still fit just as well, while filling a different niche in your wardrobe.
posted by aimedwander at 11:32 AM on September 7, 2012

Best answer: i work in kitchens and I Understand.

if the spots are small and in unnoticeable areas, you could use a sharpie to fill in the blanks (naturally too much of this will leave you looking a bit shabby). dyeing is probably not worth it. humph is right about the pvc apron - see if your bosses will buy you one (if there aren't already some hanging around in the dish pit, if your work has one of those) to prevent wardrobe malfunction. it would be a totally reasonable request.

i don't know why you're pouring bleach down the drains but i assume it's to thwart fruit flies or something of that nature? anyhoo, if it's just to disinfect, you don't need to use full strength bleach. everybody's always overbleaching things when in fact it can be stretched much farther.
posted by quiteliterally at 11:33 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not quite an answer to the question you asked, but relevant nonetheless: would your bosses be willing to buy bleach gel? It's more expensive but way easier to deal with. I have just discovered this and it has been awesome for pouring into a washer with a bleach container that is way too high for me to comfortable pour into otherwise. Does not splash or spatter.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:57 AM on September 7, 2012

Depending on what your pants are made of, having someone overdye them for you might end up being more than buying a new pair. Different fibers require different kinds of dye, and if your pants are a cotton/poly blend, the spot will never dye pure black with anything generally available to the home dyer (poly won't take the dye, and you'll get a heathered grey instead of black).
posted by catlet at 12:30 PM on September 7, 2012

Best answer: The sharpie trick is the bomb. Find a sharpie that is nearest the color of your pants. Fill in the bleached spot with it. Be careful around margins. Repeat after washing, as sharpie ink will fade in the wash.
posted by Lynsey at 2:47 PM on September 7, 2012

Best answer: Besides taking out the color, the spots of bleach are likely to weaken the fabric. I've ignored bleach spots on shirts that I wear around the house, but pretty soon the spots turned into holes.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2012

Since this is happening in the course of your job, tell your boss you need them to either provide you with a protective apron or provide you with a uniform so that you don't have to buy new pants every week.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:39 PM on September 7, 2012

If you are going to go for the art thing, it's not just tie-dye or applique. There is a whole art scene that uses bleach on colored t-shirts to make really intricate artwork. Look around, and see if you can incorporate some of this on your pants.
posted by CathyG at 10:15 AM on September 8, 2012

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