How to Prevent Color Bleeding in Clothes

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Have you ever put a red blouse or some socks together with white clothing into the washing machine? Remember the shock you had when you suddenly saw the load of laundry turn pink? Regardless of what you do, colors will eventually bleed, particularly on their first wash – which is why people wash the colored clothing separately.

But why do colors bleed – and is there any way for you to stop that from happening? Well, yes and no. As we said, colors will bleed to some extent – especially the very bright colors. That being said, there are some ways for you to lessen the damage, as long as you understand how color dyes work and what exactly makes your clothes bleed.

Differences in Color Transfer

First things first, in order to understand exactly what color bleeding is, you must know that not every transfer can be called a bleed. Here is a basic terminology so that you may not confuse them:

  • Crocking: Color transfer that happens when the fabric starts rubbing against something else, such as a shoe or even your skin. This typically happens because the dye has not adhered to the material.
  • Color Fading: Occurs after wearing a piece of clothing for a longer time and washing it frequently, causing it to lose its strength. 
  • Color Bleeding: Happens when the clothing is wet during washing and the dye is extracted from the fibers. During this process, the dye will transfer to other clothes.

As a result, not every color transfer is a color bleed. This occurs during washing cycles, compromising your other clothes as well.

Reasons Why Colors Bleed

There are various reasons why your colored clothes may start “bleeding” all over your other items. Here are the most common:

  • A bad technique was used to dye the material
  • The dye was of a very poor quality
  • The dye was qualitative, but the incorrect dye was used for the fabric type
  • Excess dye was used, which was not rinsed properly after the dying process
  • Mordant was not used to bind the dye to the fabric or was washed out after hot water was used
  • Wear and tear
  • Exposure to chemicals such as bleach, which break down fabric dyes

Once you understand the reason for the color bleeding, you may begin to address the problem.

How to Prevent Fabric Bleeding

To prevent color bleeding, there are two things that you can do: buy pieces of high quality or use the right things to try and maintain the color. If you already purchased the item, here are the things that you can do:

1. Wash with Cold Water

Whenever you wash something with hot water, it opens up the fibers and lets the dye loose. It breaks down the bond, causing it to bleed into the water – and then onto your other clothes, with fibers just as open, welcoming the new colors. To prevent this from happening, you may want to use cold water instead. This will protect the fibers and keep the color locked in. 

2. Use a Color Catcher

Nowadays, you can easily purchase color catchers from a convenience store. They can help catch the loose dyes, sealing them into the catcher and preventing them from transferring onto your clothes. They act as magnets for loose color, trapping the dye in the sheets. 

3. Use a Color Fixative

Unlike color-catching sheets, color fixatives will fix the colors into the items themselves, preventing them from bleeding in the first place. This can also help prevent early wear and tear, which is particularly useful for vintage clothing. 

4. Wash Off the Excess Dye

Sometimes, colors will only bleed once, after you purchase the item. To prevent it from bleeding all into your other clothes, you may wash the excess dye. You should repeat the process once or twice. Once you do that, dampen the item a bit, take a white cloth, place it over the colored clothing, and iron it dry. If the white fabric is still white, then you’ll no longer have to worry about bleeding. 

5. Separate the Colors

This is an oldie-but-goldie technique to prevent color bleeding. So, you may want to wash the colors separately – especially the reds and blacks. This way, you will be certain the colors won’t be transferred to other clothes.

The Bottom Line

Color bleeding may be frustrating, but the right technique may help minimize the damage. If you suspect the colors might bleed, you should wash the items separately – being particularly careful about not putting white or light colors into the washer. 

FAQs About Clothes Bleeding Dye

Red garments typically bleed owing to the dye used by commercial clothing makers. Direct dye is available in different hues that also bleed. It’s usually used with red apparel. Red apparel bleeds more than other colors.
Hot water opens fibers to release color, whereas cold water closes them to prevent bleeding. Using the cold setting on your washing machine helps reduce color bleeding and help garments last longer.
When in doubt, you can get your clothing dry-cleaned if you are very concerned about preserving the colors and protecting your other garments.

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