How To Remove Hair Dye With Laundry Detergent [Explained]

Laundry detergent is strong enough to dissolve dirt, oils, and stains from clothes. It’s natural also to wonder if it can remove hair dye. Find out more below.

How To Remove Hair Dye With Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent contains powerful surfactants that can remove hair dye. However, be careful when using laundry detergent to remove hair dye. The harsh chemicals can damage the hair cuticle.

While this allows more dye molecules to escape, it leaves your hair dry, weak, and brittle.

Is Laundry Detergent Bad For Hair?

Ever wondered why people use shampoo instead of laundry detergent?

After all, the goal is to remove dirt, grease, and buildup, which laundry detergent can effectively do.

The truth is, laundry detergent is too harsh on hair.

It contains powerful cleansing agents that leave clothes spotless but cause damage to hair fibers.

The reason for this is found in the structure of hair:

  • The cuticle. This is the protective outer layer of hair. It resembles flattened roofing shingles that are packed tightly to trap moisture and protect the inner layers of the hair. Certain products like laundry detergent can lift and damage the cuticle leaving the hair shaft vulnerable to more damage. 
  • The medulla. This is the middle layer of the hair shaft that’s sometimes not present in some hair types.
  • The cortex. This is the major component of the hair fiber and the innermost layer. The cortex determines the hair’s structure and pigment. This is the layer where permanent hair dyes become lodged, meaning you have to bypass the cuticle before you can strip permanent dye from your hair.

How Laundry Detergent Damages Hair

Laundry detergent is different from regular shampoo because it contains more surfactants and harsher chemicals.

So, using laundry detergent will leave your hair squeaky clean, but it also produces the following results.


Unlike shampoo and hair cleansing products, laundry detergent doesn’t contain special ingredients that add moisture to your hair.

Instead, it’s designed to strip oils from clothes, so it will remove moisture and healthy oils from your hair.

Laundry detergent also has a high pH that upsets the pH balance of your hair.

It lifts and damages the cuticle allowing moisture to escape and leaving your hair dry, dull, and coarse.


Laundry detergent can cause flyaway hair due to the lack of moisture that results in the hair shaft.

When the cuticle is open and damaged, beneficial moisture escapes while unwanted moisture enters the hair shaft. This causes swelling and creates an irregular and rough texture.


Raised cuticles create friction between hair fibers, resulting in knotted, tangled hair.

Hair damage

Overall, laundry detergent is bad for hair.

It even contains enzymes used to break down stains and oils on clothes. These enzymes also break down hair fibers.

What’s more, the harsh chemicals in laundry detergent can irritate your scalp, causing dryness, flakiness, and dandruff.

The damaging and sensitization effects of laundry detergent are often supported by the warnings on the product’s label.

Does Laundry Detergent Remove Hair Dye?

Does Laundry Detergent Remove Hair Dye

If you have noticed how laundry detergent can cause color bleeding in clothes, you probably already suspect that laundry detergent can remove hair dye.

Laundry detergent can indeed help remove hair dye, especially semi-permanent hair dye.

Semi-permanent dye washes off easily because it adheres to the outer surface of the hair shaft, so it’s quickly stripped away by the strong surfactants in laundry detergent.

In addition, you can use laundry detergent for subtle color removal if you have permanent hair dye.

Laundry detergent can remove hair dye because of its high/alkaline pH.

A high pH causes the hair cuticle to lift so the detergent can wash away the permanent dye molecules hidden in the cortex.

In addition, the detergency action of the product is highly effective at removing unwanted stuff from your hair, including grease, dirt, oils, and dye molecules.

The bottom line is laundry detergent helps with dye removal.

However, given the damaging effect of laundry detergent, consider alternative natural fading methods to help maintain your hair’s integrity and length.

How To Use Laundry Detergent To Remove Hair Dye

How To Use Laundry Detergent To Remove Hair Dye

Here’s the method to use when fading hair color using laundry detergent:

  1. You need one spoonful of washing powder or liquid detergent. Lather and massage the detergent before applying it to hair as you would with shampoo. (Note that laundry detergent doesn’t lather as much as shampoo, but it’s still effective at cleaning and stripping stuff from your hair).
  2. Avoid getting the laundry detergent into your eyes, mouth, and nose, as it can irritate the skin and sting badly.
  3. Leave in for a few minutes – too long, and you risk damage to your strands due to the harshness of the laundry detergent.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with comfortably hot water. The hot water opens the hair cuticle even more, which helps to get all the unwanted dye molecules out.
  5. Apply a deep conditioning treatment and leave it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing with cold water. The cold water helps close the cuticle, sealing in conditioner and protecting your hair fibers.
  6. Allow your hair to air dry and check the results. 

Tips And Warnings for Using Laundry Detergent to Remove Hair

  • Never skip out on the moisturizing conditioner after using laundry detergent on your hair. Otherwise, the detergent will dry out your hair, causing tangles and frizz.
  • Also, consider rinsing your hair with sulfate-free, repairing shampoo to prevent further damage.
  • Laundry detergent and bleach are harsher methods of removing hair dye. You can consider natural methods, such as lemon juice and vitamin C. Although they can only lighten hair by a few shades, they won’t cause considerable damage to your strands.
  • As with most dye removal methods, there are no instant results. Color fading is only evident after several applications. 
  • In addition, short of bleaching, there’s no guarantee that you can fully remove the hair dye. Laundry detergent can only fade the dye.
  • While it’s tempting to use a laundry detergent that contains bleach for better results, remember this will cause significant damage to hair.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.


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Dee Poulsen

Dee has been following the Curly Girl Method for over four years and is our in-house Curly Girl expert. She has a keen interest in natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She has a photographic memory of most sulfate and silicone-free hair products available on the high street and she's always happy to recommend you her favorites.