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How Can I Remove Easter-Egg Dyes Consistently?

Alan Spielvogel |

Q: Easter is always the time I get lots of frilly, child-sized dresses with smudgy pastel stains on their sleeves and bodices, which I can only assume resulted from these girls dying eggs or eating dyed eggs in their Sunday best. I’ve had good luck and bad removing these stains, and every time I can’t remove the stains, the parents complain that they can’t pass these special dresses on to other kids. What’s the secret to getting rid of these stains completely, every time?
A: Food coloring is actually a water-soluble dye. It’s also found in artificially flavored drinks and deserts, such as fruit punches, Kool-Aid and Jello. Food coloring can usually be safely removed with mild oxidizing bleaches such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate.HYDROGEN PEROXIDE
Hydrogen peroxide should be used at a concentration of 3% 10 volume on the spotting board. It can be purchased in stronger concentrations, but since it can affect dyes and weaken fabrics in higher concentrations, it has to be diluted. Its action is accelerated by light, heat and alkali (ammonia). Hydrogen peroxide can also whiten some fabrics.
On the spotting board, first apply the hydrogen peroxide, then apply ammonia to accelerate the process. Heat and flush the stain with the steam gun. If yellowing occurs, neutralize it by applying acetic acid or a prepared tannin formula. Finish by flushing the area with the steam gun.
When using hydrogen peroxide in a bath, use 3% 10 volume hydrogen peroxide at a rate of two ounces per gallon of water. Use a lubricant for penetration, and try to keep the water at 85ºF-100ºF. Rinse well.SODIUM PERBORATE
Sodium perborate is a mild oxidizing bleach primarily used in baths. It’s slow-acting, so several hours of soaking may be necessary. It contains alkali, so souring or neutralization may also be necessary. Sodium perborate also whitens older fabrics and is safe on wools and silks.
On the spotting board, wet the stained area, apply the sodium perborate, and heat with the steam gun to accelerate the action. Flush with the steam gun, and apply acetic acid to neutralize the area. Flush with the steam gun to finish.
When using a bath, use two ounces of sodium perborate per gallon of warm water. Add half an ounce of synthetic detergent per gallon of water. Soak times will vary according to the fabric type and degree of staining. Rinse well, then neutralize in one ounce of acetic acid per gallon of water. Soak for 10 minutes and rinse.SODIUM PERCARBONATE
Sodium percarbonate is similar to sodium perborate in characteristics and usage. It dissolves easily in water, so it can be used in cooler water. It can be used in place of sodium perborate when temperature considerations dictate.RULES FOR BLEACHING

  1. Use bleaches as a last step for removing stains.
  2. Never bleach dirty garments.
  3. Always test fabrics and dyes before using any type of bleach.
  4. Always keep bleaches away from metals.
  5. When using a bath, always use a non-metallic bucket.
  6. Every 18ºF increase in temperature doubles the action of the bleach.

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About the author

Alan Spielvogel

National Cleaners Association (NCA)

Technical Director

Alan Spielvogel is technical director of the National Cleaners Association (NCA).

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