How to Set Dye in Fabric That Bleeds? – (+Tips)

Last Updated on August 5, 2023

Learn how to set dye in fabric that bleeds effectively: If you enjoy quilting or working with fabrics, you may come across materials that have a tendency to bleed dye. This can be a frustrating experience, as the bleeding colors can ruin the look of your finished project.

How to Set Dye in Fabric That Bleeds
Image Source: National Quilters Circle, Canva

However, with a few simple tests and precautions, you can prevent this from happening. Here, we’ll show you how to test for dye bleeding and how to set the dye in fabrics that tend to bleed.

To Wash or Not to Wash? – A Personal Preference

Before we begin, it’s important to note whether you choose to wash your fabrics is a personal preference. Some quilters prefer not to wash their fabrics, as they like them to be crisp and new when used in their projects.

However, certain fabrics, particularly batiks and dark-colored fabrics, have a higher chance of bleeding dye. So, for these fabrics, it’s essential to perform a simple test to determine if pre-washing is necessary.

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How to set dye in fabric that bleeds?

How to set dye in fabric that bleeds
Image Source: National Quilters Circle

To set colors and stop dye bleeding in fabric:

  1. Fill a bowl with cool water and add a quarter to a half cup of salt.
  2. Soak the fabric item for about five minutes, then fill the bowl again with cold water and a quarter to a half cup of white vinegar.
  3. Soak the fabric for five more minutes, rinse well, and hang to dry.
  4. Always test fabric colorfastness before washing and avoid hot water for bright colors.

How to Test for Dye Bleeding?

How to Test for Dye Bleeding
Image Source: National Quilters Circle

To test whether a fabric is prone to dye bleeding, follow these steps:

  • Fill a bowl with hot water. Make sure the water is as hot as you can handle.
  • Take a small piece of the fabric you want to test and immerse it in the hot water.
  • Place a white paper towel or cloth nearby to observe any dye bleeding.
  • Gently squeeze the fabric in the hot water to see if any color transfers to the paper towel.

Repeat the process a few times if needed to see if the water becomes discolored or if the dye transfers to the paper towel.

Interpreting the Test Results

  • If the fabric doesn’t bleed and the water remains clear, it is safe to use it without pre-washing it.
  • If the fabric bleeds and the water changes color, it’s essential to pre-wash the fabric before using it in your project.

How to Pre-Wash Fabrics when Dying That Bleed?

How to Pre-Wash Fabrics when Dying That Bleed
Image Source: National Quilters Circle

If your test reveals that the fabric is prone to bleeding, follow these steps to set the dye:

  • Separate the bleeding fabric from other fabrics to avoid color transfer.
  • Use the hottest water setting your fabric can tolerate (check the fabric care instructions) and wash it separately.
  • You have two options to prevent the dye from bleeding in the future:
  • Use a product called Synthrapol, which is specifically designed for dyed fabrics. It helps to remove excess dye and set the remaining color.
  • Alternatively, you can use dye catchers in grocery stores or supermarkets. These sheets absorb excess dye during the washing process.
  • Consider washing fabrics that tend to bleed with other fabrics of the same color to prevent color transfer.

Dealing with Batik Fabrics

Dealing with Batik Fabrics
Image Source: National Quilters Circle

Regularly printed cotton typically does not bleed, but batik fabrics can be an exception. However, not all batiks bleed; it mostly depends on the fabric’s color and design.

  • If you have a batik fabric with dark colors, reds, oranges, or purples, it’s best to test for dye bleeding before use.
  • Tone-on-tone batiks are more likely to bleed, so it’s advisable to pre-wash them to set the dye.

Tips from TheSewingStuffs Team

  • Always perform a test: to check for dye bleeding before starting your project. Prevention is key!
  • If you encounter fabrics that bleed even after pre-washing, continue to wash them separately until the bleeding stops.
  • Be cautious when washing quilts or fabric projects: Always follow the fabric care instructions to preserve the colors and fabric quality.
  • Hand Wash Separately: If you know a fabric is prone to bleeding or running dye, it’s best to hand wash it separately. This prevents the risk of staining other clothes during the washing process.
  • Sort Like Colors: When doing laundry, sort like colors with like colors. This prevents any accidental dye transfer between garments.
  • Avoid Hot Water: Hot water can encourage dye bleeding and fading, especially in bright colors. Stick to using cold water for washing colored fabrics.
  • Never Trust Completely: Even if a fabric has stopped releasing dye during the initial washing, it’s best to remain cautious. Continue washing it separately from other clothes to prevent any potential mishaps.

FAQ – People Also Ask

Should I wash my fabrics before using them in quilting projects?

Washing fabrics is a personal preference. Some quilters prefer not to wash fabrics to keep them crisp, while others wash them to prevent bleeding.

 How can I test if a fabric will bleed before using it in a quilt?

To test for bleeding, place a small piece of the fabric in hot water and press it against a paper towel. The fabric may need pre-washing if the water changes color and the dye bleeds.

Which fabrics are more likely to bleed?

Batik fabrics, especially dark or those with red, orange, purple, black, or navy colors, are more likely to bleed.

 How can I prevent bleeding in fabrics that require washing?

Use products like Synthrapol or dye catchers when washing fabrics that may bleed. Wash similar colors together to prevent bleeding onto other fabrics.

 Do all printed cotton fabrics bleed?

Most regular printed cotton fabrics do not bleed, but it’s always a good idea to test dark colors or fabrics with red, orange, or similar tones.

 Can I wash fabrics that may bleed with non-bleeding fabrics?

It is advisable to wash fabrics with similar colors to prevent bleeding onto other fabrics in the same load.

 What’s the recommended water temperature for pre-washing fabrics that may bleed?

Use the hottest water possible when pre-washing fabrics that may bleed to help remove excess dye.

What is the benefit of not washing fabrics before quilting?

Not washing fabrics can result in a crisp and fresh appearance, making them easier to handle and sew. It also preserves the fabric’s original texture and sizing.

Are there any disadvantages to not pre-washing fabrics?

One potential drawback is that unwashed fabrics might shrink or bleed after the quilt is made, affecting the overall appearance and stability of the finished project.

How can I prevent bleeding in fabrics that have been pre-washed?

Adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle can help set the dye and prevent bleeding in pre-washed fabrics.

Can I use a color catcher even if I have already pre-washed my fabrics?

Yes, using a color catcher during the first wash after quilting can help catch any residual dye that might still be present in the fabric.

What should I do if I accidentally mix fabrics that bleed with those that don’t?

If you accidentally mix fabrics that may bleed with non-bleeding fabrics, use a color catcher in the wash to help prevent the dye from transferring onto other fabrics.

Are there any specific care instructions for quilts made with fabrics that may bleed?

It’s essential to wash quilts made with potentially bleeding fabrics in cold water and with color catchers to maintain their appearance and prevent dye transfer.

Can I use a dye fixative on fabrics to prevent bleeding?

Yes, you can use a commercial dye fixative or make a homemade fixative using salt and vinegar to help set the dye in fabrics and reduce the risk of bleeding.

Can I use fabric softeners when washing quilting fabrics?

It is best to avoid fabric softeners as they may contain chemicals that can affect the fabric’s dye and cause bleeding issues.

How can I maintain the vibrancy of the colors in my quilt over time?

To maintain color vibrancy, wash the quilt infrequently, avoid direct sunlight exposure, and store it in a cool, dark place when not in use.

Can I use cold water when pre-washing fabrics to prevent bleeding?

Hot water during pre-washing is recommended, as it helps remove excess dye more effectively and gives a clearer indication of potential bleeding. Cold water might be less effective in this regard.

Are there any alternative methods to test for bleeding in fabrics?

Besides the hot water test, you can also try rubbing a damp piece of white fabric against the suspect fabric to see if any color transfers.


So, following these simple steps, you can avoid unpleasant surprises with bleeding dye and ensure that your quilts and fabric projects stay vibrant and beautiful for years to come. Happy quilting!

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