Moths and rust are amateurs
Wednesday October 27th 2010, 8:56 pm
Filed under: To dye for

You know you lead a privileged life when you can worry about such things. And yet.

It’s the perfect sweater, for a machine knit: the perfect length, the perfect classic style, the perfectly-soft that is the best cashmere can be, and without being too-young too-tight, it goes in at the waist just enough rather than being a plain downward tube. It’s my very favorite store-bought and my husband loves it when I wear it.

I need advice. Badly.  Fellow fiber types, help me out here.

So. I have this offwhite cashmere sweater. Got a good deal; had no idea that looking it up later would show a replacement cost well above $300.

I bought a reddish-burgundy fleece vest from the well-regarded O—- company (the color was on close-out) and the weather being what it is, took it straight from the box and put it on over that sweater. I was horrified, taking the sweater off later, to find it had turned slightly pink across the upper back and definitely pink under the arms.

I contacted O—-. They said get it drycleaned, email us the receipt for that and we’ll refund it. Was it an O—- sweater? (They asked hopefully.)



What if that doesn’t do it, I asked.

Uh… (he came back in a moment.)  Let’s try first and then we’ll see.

Okay, fair enough.

So, I took it to my regular drycleaner and explained. The woman waved her hands in front of her face to ward me and it off: no, no, no can do, is dye, will not come out, do not give it to us, so sorry.

Now, I’m of the mind that if you have dye that loose that it can rub right on then it can come back out again. I hope.  If I do it right.

Do I… wash it with Purex undyed unscented laundry detergent gently by hand in tepid water? Which, by the way, is how I always wash my animal-fiber sweaters. Ignore the dry-clean-only tags–that’s a cop-out, put there because they can’t put all the information you would need on that tiny tab, as TSE Cashmere is my witness. (Click on their “About” and go to “Cashmere care”–they’re not letting me link directly to the page, sorry.) Drycleaning chemicals harshen and yellow the fibers.

So I wasn’t quite sorry when the drycleaner refused it.

I know Dharma Trading Company sells Synthrapol. I have no experience with it.  I did actually buy some awhile ago–and after reading the warning labels and that bit about prolonged exposure causing brain and neurological damage, and not even being sure it’s what I need for this problem…

I think I need to throw it back in O—-‘s court before I try anything. I need to take pictures first, definitely. And one of the reasons I contacted them was simply to let them know what their (yes it’s made in China) product was doing.

I find myself with a heightened sense of appreciation for my non-damaged sweaters, so, that’s good.

19 Comments so far
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Don’t know if it will work, but you could test by dabbing from the inside of the sweater over spare towel to see if the dye even comes off.

It’s heartbreaking to mess up a sweater you love. Before I knew much about knitting, I washed a much-loved sweater in the machine with disasterous results.

Comment by anne 10.27.10 @ 9:42 pm

I’m thinking something like Eucalan, where you don’t have to rinse it. [If it weren’t cashmere, I would say Oxyclean. I soaked some of my ceremonial clothing in Oxyclean, rinsed the daylights out of it, and was quite pleased with the result.]

Crocking: the bane of quilters who love red.

Comment by Lynn 10.28.10 @ 4:08 am

I can’t remember the exact name but Amway had a product that took a stain out of a garment that was impossible with anything else and left it looking like new. Don’t know if it is “green” friendly.

What a shame that would happen to your beloved sweater. Good luck!

Comment by Joansie 10.28.10 @ 5:08 am

My daughter uses Oxyclean for everything and it even removed blood stains! Do you have any walnut sized balls of cashmere lying around that you could use as a guinea pig?

Comment by Jody 10.28.10 @ 6:40 am

Oh, I am sorry. Red anything is very dangerous. One of my undergarments came out of the washer pink. I never did figure that one out but I had to get rid of it.
A little boy I knew was getting a drink of soda and told me “I can’t have red”.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 10.28.10 @ 6:51 am

In my world, the solution would be “always wear the sweater under that vest”. Cop-out!

Comment by slimsdotter 10.28.10 @ 7:02 am

I’m just sick for you. I’m glad there are others with ideas; I’m no stain removing maven. I’ll just sit here hope one of those tips restores your lovely to its original state.

(We won’t talk about the lovely, hunter green formal in my closet that I can’t part with, despite the MAUVE stains me and my deodorant made when I last wore it. I love that dress and hope that someday, someone will know how to fix it.)

Comment by Channon 10.28.10 @ 7:03 am

oh dear — I’d try a cold water soak in the Oxyclean (the bucket usually has instructions for a small volume amount) — or you might call Dharma and talk to one of their most excellent customer service folks — they’ve helped my friend with this kind of issues before

good luck!

Comment by Bev 10.28.10 @ 7:18 am

There are new products on the markets that help take care of “fugitive” dyes. They should be available in the supermarkets now. You add them to your wash and they absorb whatever dye floats out of the fabric.

Perhaps something like that, coupled with your patented animal-fiber-washing method would work?

I know what you mean. When I was in college I had a gorgeous bottle-green top (cotton) and whenever I wore it (even *after* it had been washed a few times), it would dye my chest and shoulders green.

I always wound up looking like the Wicked Witch of the West 🙂

Comment by Robbyn 10.28.10 @ 7:30 am

Whatever you use to wash it, I’d suggest putting a dye catcher in the water. If the dye is loose enough to wash/soak out, you certainly don’t want it to settle again elsewhere on the garment.

Comment by Barbara-Kay 10.28.10 @ 7:32 am

Synthrapol might well help, and it helps with keeping the excess dye suspended in the water so that it doesn’t redeposit. I personally don’t worry too much about all the warnings they have to post due to California laws, but then again, I don’t have the health issues to deal with either. Could you get your daughter or husband to stick their hands in the water for you while your supervise over their shoulder?

Comment by Barbara S. 10.28.10 @ 7:52 am


I am so sorry for you. I love the color red, and have generally just had to live with pink underwear or grayed clothing when I make a mistake. I’ve never owned cashmere (see I love the color red!), so I’m unfamiliar with any cleaning process, but your own method sounds fairly gentle.

Given its easy transfer to your sweater (still cringing), I bet it would come out.

Comment by Patricia Day 10.28.10 @ 7:55 am

Maybe this page about Synthrapol would help? It’s got some useful explanation of how detergents work.

And if worst comes to worst and you can’t get the dye out…how do you feel about a pink cashmere sweater? You haz mad dying skillz, after all….

Comment by RobinH 10.28.10 @ 11:27 am

Um . . . I’m afraid I belong to RobinH’s camp. If all else fails, dye it.

Comment by LauraN 10.28.10 @ 11:49 am

For embroidery, the advice is to soak it in *your favorite soap here* and cold water, changing the water daily until the stain is gone.

Comment by Meri 10.28.10 @ 12:14 pm

I got something from Dharma onetime called iDye Color Remover to take dye out of something (now I can’t remember what!) that had accidentally been dyed.

It worked great, and at this point, you probably don’t have anything to lose.

Comment by Renee 10.28.10 @ 12:52 pm

Do speak again with the company who ruined the sweater first. They owe you a replacement sweater for the fugitive dye disaster. That is a real bummer.

I wash my cashmere sweaters exactly as I wash my wool ones. I use the detergent that I am not allergic to (Tide Free/Natural) at the moment. I Do one hot water wash and two rinses. I spin it out in the washer and then lay it flat to dry.

I am not sure washing alone will get rid of that dye–it has the potential to just spread it around more! Try one of the dye removers, or consider soaking it in soapy water and then dyeing it yourself, you are good at dyeing! (A nice pink or purple will do…)

Good luck. That is a really stinky situation…I feel bad for the sweater and for you by extension as its loving owner!

Comment by Joanne 10.28.10 @ 2:13 pm

That is heartbreaking! I would by a dye catcher or a package of dye catcher sheets (I always throw one in when I wash pinks or reds) then soak it in Oxy Clean. I have removed stains I never thought would ever come out with that stuff. Once I knew it was dye free I would then wash in Eucalan or a mild shampoo (recommended to me by my Aunt who always washed her Handmade Irish Fishermans sweater in shampoo with a touch of hair conditioner). Whatever you decided document the damage first! They need to see what damage was done!

Comment by Sue 10.28.10 @ 3:11 pm

If 100% cashmere, you should be able to machine wash and dry it. No guarantees, but my recent cashmere washing and drying experiments resulted in absolutely no shrinking, though the garment got softer and more haloed. Perhaps a wash along with a dye catcher sheet would do the trick?

And if not, I am thinking an overdye in a purple/pink. Good luck!

Comment by twinsetellen 10.29.10 @ 6:44 pm

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