How to prevent fabric colour bleeding and fading?

Unfortunately, clothes do not always hold colour so well. Whenever washed, they might bleed colour or fade. There are several reasons for that and even though it seems impossible to prevent, it is not. Let’s look at the difference between those terms and how to prevent that from happening.

Crocking – That is the colour transfer that occurs when fabric rubs against something (furniture, shoes or skin). This happens when the dye is not properly adhered to the fabric.

Colour Bleed – Occurs when the fabric gets wet and dye leaches out of the fibres. This usually happens in the washing machine and can result in colour transfer between items.

Colour fade – When the fabric has lost most of its dye and now lacks vibrancy or depth.

Common reasons for those happening could be:

  • poor quality dye
  • incorrect dyeing technique
  • incorrect dye used for he particular type of fabric
  • excess amount of dye was used/ the fabric was not rinsed out properly
  • manufacturer has not used mordant and the dye has not set in the fabric
  • mordant has washed out of the fabric and does not hold the colour anymore

You may have heard that if you wash your clothes in vinegar or salt, they will set your colour in and it won’t go anywhere. This however, is not true. Mordants are the substances used to set colours in fabric. We will share some ways that actually work for fixing colours into fabric. Those methods are also used by professional cleaners.

Use a colour fixative : Colour fixatives can help set loose dye and prevent bleeding of colour. They are particularly popular with quilters in order to prevent colour transfer between different patches. Keep in mind that they work best on natural materials and not on polyester or acrylic materials.

Wash colours together : Wash similar colours together. Organise your laundry loads by colour, no matter how old the garments are. The mordants might wear off after a few washes so it is always good to be safe and wash particular colours in separate loads.

Wash delicates sparingly : Do not overwash your clothes just because you feel like you need to. If they are not dirty and only have been worn, air them out. Try spot cleaning and only wash clothes when they really need it. Especially delicates.

Use cool water : Hot water tends to open up the fibres of fabrics and encourage dyes to escape/bleed out. Use cold water to prevent that from happening. make sure you are using a detergent that is suitable for cold water washing.

Minimize friction : A lot of friction causes micro-breakages in fabric and results in dyes bleeding out. In order to prevent that from happening, wash heavy items together, close all zippers and wash items inside out (works especially well with jeans).

Use colour catcher sheets : There are colour catcher sheets you can find in the shop. They are designed to absorb and trap colours. Keep in mind that they are not 100% effective all the time and colour separation is the only way to fully prevent colour transfer.

Do not let wet clothes sit : Do not let wet clothes sit in a pile or in the washing machine. That way colours will have time to leach out.

Dry in the shade : Direct sunlight can act as a bleach and cause your clothes to fade. Instead of putting them in the sun, try drying them in the shade.

In general, by simply turning your clothes inside out when washing and drying, you will prevent colour fading and bleeding. Your clothes will be much paler only on the inside while the outside will be as bright as ever.

Crocking, bleeding and fading of colours in jeans

We have all experienced the embarrassing moment when our new jeans stain our legs, socks, shoes or a light coloured couch we have been sitting on. The indigo dye used for jeans is applied by a special technique called ring dyeing. This method dyes the outer ring of the cotton fibers, leaving the core white. As we wear out jeans, the white inside is exposed. This allows us to achieve that perfect ‘’worn out’’ look. This method is also used on jeans that are sold as pre-washed or pre-worn because it is easy to achieve an instant age effect by applying very little abrasion.

The reason why so many jeans bleed and crock is because they are probably poorly dyed. Indigo is a hard dye to work with, especially when it comes to cotton. Cotton garments must be repeatedly dyed with it in multiple colour baths. A lot of the time, manufacturers spare themselves the effort or maybe don’t have the correct equipment which causes crocking later on.

How to prevent crocking and bleeding in jeans?

Even though earlier in the article we said that you should avoid washing clothes with hot water, washing new jeans in really hot water will help prevent crocking in the future. The hot water will help the fabric release any loose colour that has not attached properly. Keep in mind that you should only do that for the first wash. Otherwise frequent hot washing might cause your jeans to fade faster.

How to remove colour run and bleeding from fabrics?

Do not rush to throw the clothing that got stained on the ‘’only wear around the house’’ pile. There are ways in which you can remove bleeding from fabrics and now we will share some with you. Keep in mind that dark colours are particularly hard to remove.

Do not put the piece of clothing aside to deal with later. The longer you let it sit, the deeper it sets and it will be much more difficult to remove later.
Treat the item with colour safe oxygen bleach. Do not mistake it with chlorine bleach.

How to:

  1. Mix ½ scoop of oxy bleach with 2 cups of warm water
  2. Apply this on the stained area and let it sit for 5 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, dissolve 2 scoops of oxy bleach into a bucket with a little warm water
  4. Add 4 liters of cool water in the solution
  5. Place your items in the bucket and leave for 1-5 hours (depending on the stains)
  6. Repeat if needed
Thank you for submitting your requestA representative will be in touch with you within 10 minutes!