How to Get a Color Transfer Stain out of Polyurethane

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Things You'll Need

  • Mild liquid laundry detergent or liquid castile soap

  • Rag or microfiber cloth

  • Baking soda


Keep polyurethane away from direct contact with new fabrics and leather items to avoid the risk of color transfer. For example, new sweat shirts, jeans, and certain fabrics that aren't colorfast can transfer dye, even when they're dry. Moisture and perspiration can increase the risk of color transfer stains.

Polyurethane generally has a fabric backing or other material as support. Unlike vinyl, it has a soft, porous surface. Rinse soap off thoroughly and blot gently with a clean rag or lint-free cloth such as microfiber to remove excess moisture. Rough rubbing can damage the material's surface.


Don't use bleach on polyurethane. It isn't safe to use bleach on certain materials. Don't use detergents that contain bleach on polyurethane. Using chemical stain removers could damage the the material and may be unsafe to breathe.

Test detergent and any other cleaning agents on an unobtrusive area of the garment or object to check the effect.

Some dye stains won't come out.

Laundry detergent helps remove color transfer stains.

Polyurethane's soft texture absorbs color transfer easily. It's commonly used as imitation leather in watchbands, wallets, belts, faux suede and handbags -- in addition to covering furniture from sofas to bean bag chairs. Dye from clothing, leather or any item that isn't colorfast can transfer to the polyurethane, leaving a stain. The challenge of removing a stain from polyurethane lies in removing the color transfer without damaging the material. Prompt action and the right supplies increase your chances of completely removing a color transfer stain out of polyurethane.

Step 1

Apply liquid detergent on the color transfer stain. Leave it on for 20 minutes. Rub the polyurethane gently with a rag or microfiber cloth to help remove the stain.

Step 2

Reapply the soap or detergent if any of the stain remains. Leave it on for at least 20 minutes and then use warm water on a clean rag to clean the stained area.

Step 3

Make a paste of equal parts of baking soda and water, if the stain has penetrated the polyurethane and isn't coming out fully with the soap treatment. Test the baking soda on an unobtrusive area. The slight abrasive quality of baking soda can help remove the stain, but may leave the finish looking dull.


Gryphon Adams

Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.