How to Prevent Fabric Bleed

To stop quilting fabric from bleeding in your finished quilt, be sure to machine wash your fabric (sorted with like colors) and dry before cutting. Yes, that does mean you will have to iron or press your quilting fabrics as well!

I tend to be that person who never washes their fabric before I begin a quilt. That is to say, I never used to be a person who pre-washed fabrics.

gold star stained new I once had an incident in my home where water started leaking through an air conditioning vent in a rain storm. Unfortunately, I happened to have a quilt stand directly below it. I moved the stand and evaluated my quilts immediately – and was horrified to find that the color from the green flannel backing had run to the front of my quilt!

If I had pre-washed and pressed my fabrics before I began this quilt, I wouldn’t have this issue of bleeding colors. Just a little bit of water staining that could easily wash out.

shout color catcher But what would I do to fix my current situation? Solution: Shout Color Catchers. These things are miracle workers. I threw my quilt into the washing machine with two of these sheets and was simply amazed when I took it out of the washer.

gold star without stain edited You guessed it – the stain was gone! I was so relieved. The best news is that this product is inexpensive and can be found in the laundry section of your local grocery or big box store. I recommend keeping a box in the laundry room for just such emergencies.

I should point out too that I typically do not wash my quilts – I like to preserve them as heirlooms for future generations and washing in the machine can cause wear and damage over time. This particular quilt however was badly damaged so I had little to lose. Check out my article on cleaning and caring for quilts to learn some of my preservation tips.

Always remember, to prevent quilting fabric bleeding simply pre-wash your fabrics. If damage does occur, try this little product and you can hopefully save your quilt!

What are your experiences with fabric bleed?

You might also be interested in:
Cleaning Heirloom Quilts
Wash Appliquéd Quilt Top?
Should I Prewash My Batting?
Should I Start Prewashing My Fabric?

Get in touch! Leave a comment or email editor@nationalquilterscircle.com.

Comments
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39 Responses to “How to Prevent Fabric Bleed”

  1. Roxanne Schulze
    Roxanne Schulze

    I have purchased some 1900 flags that were part of a gift in cigar boxes to make a quilt. I learned they are not colorfast, water will make the colors run. How can I pervert this? Thank you, Roxanne Schulze

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Roxanne,

      Generally I would recommend a product called Synthrapol:

      https://www.dharmatrading.com/chemicals/synthrapol-detergent.html

      Synthrapol is used as both a pre-wash and as an after-wash. A “must have” for dyers! New – low foam version is also available.

      I would recommend, however, trying this out on one first to ensure it works before washing all of the flags.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C9131

      Reply
  2. JANET FETTING
    JANET FETTING

    Recently had a quilt that I used a flannel backing on, and after I finish a quilt I always wash it and did throw in a Shout Color Catcher. Regardless the turquoise on the front bled to the flannel back and made some spots. I threw it back in for a second and then a third wash, both times with Shout and Carbona Color Grabber sheets. The Color Grabber sheets were much darker in color than the shout and were grabbing more of the dye. I didn’t get all of it out but most of it. I am convinced tho that Color Grabber sheets are much better than Shout and will use them from now on.

    Reply
    • Sharon
      Sharon

      I have used color catchers and they have worked very nicely. Also, I have used Biz (I like the liquid best) and it works really well on all kinds of spots,stains including blood.

      Reply
  3. Raenyl jecmen
    Raenyl jecmen

    Synthrapol has worked well for me with bleed from purchased hand dyed fabric used in small amounts for applique highlighting details. Good luck

    Reply
  4. LaVaughn M Parkin
    LaVaughn M Parkin

    I also use Shout before I sew my fabrics. I had a t shirt I had purchased years ago, and when I washed it the logo made everything pink. I rewashed it with a shout sheet and it camr out right away. Have some on hand always.

    Reply
    • Debra Ruffing
      Debra Ruffing

      I have used everything. It is Bali fabric…a batik. It is still bleeding after three catchers from Bounce and vinegar, salt, etc.

      Reply
  5. Debra Ruffing
    Debra Ruffing

    I am on wash two with Bali 2 pieces of red fabric…different fabrics. The first wash was bright pink on color catcher, second wash was lighter pink. It is in for third time. I am getting high blood pressure. Ugh! Waiting to see what happens this time becaue I dumped salt and vinegar in. I need this fabric! I have $200 of dark blue and dark green Bali’s for another quilt. I am worried sick. I use my quilts and wash them at least one time a year in washer.

    Reply
    • Jean E Frederic
      Jean E Frederic

      i too just washed a dark bright blue basic for the second time. Quilt store said i didn’t need to wash it, but washed it anyway with a little salt, laundry soap and a Shout color catcher. The catcher came out dark blue, second wash with white vinegar and another Shout. Came out lighter blue but now afraid it will still bleed onto white quilt block. Sooo happy that I didn’t take the quilt stores advice but any advice would be appreciated, maybe can’t use it :/

      Reply
    • Jean E Frederic
      Jean E Frederic

      i too just washed a dark bright blue batic for the second time. Quilt store said i didn’t need to wash it, but washed it anyway with a little salt, laundry soap and a Shout color catcher. The catcher came out dark blue, second wash with white vinegar and another Shout. Came out lighter blue but now afraid it will still bleed onto white quilt block. Sooo happy that I didn’t take the quilt stores advice but any advice would be appreciated, maybe can’t use it :/

      Reply
      • Grace Sortland
        Grace Sortland

        Use Retayne or Synthropol. I use it with all my batiks and it sets the dye and gets rid of the excess. I don’t bother much with color catchers with batiks, as it would take forever to get them to be white. I use the other products and have washed quilts with red batiks and have not had any runs. I do wash my quilts, as they are used!

        Reply
        • Pam Wood
          Pam Wood

          How much Synthropol do you put in washer to how much water? Regular wash? With soap?

          Reply
          • Customer Service
            Customer Service

            Hello Pam,

            Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions located on the bottle of Synthrapol itself, or this can be found wherever you purchase it from -whether that’s in store or online.

            Cheers,

            Ashley
            National Quilters Circle Video Membership

            We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.

            https://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C15797

            Reply
        • Stacey
          Stacey

          Retayne does work really well to fix dyes – I had a piece of fabric that I loved but it just kept bleeding after 5 or 6 washes using both color catcher sheets and a salt/vinegar wash. Retayne finally took care of it, but I am NOT going to put it with white fabric in the quilt just because I don’t trust it.

          Reply
          • Doreen Canning
            Doreen Canning

            When tie dying I use salt to bleed the colour & make the unique design, salt doesn’t stop the colour run it causes it. to stop colour

            Reply
    • Corrina Clements
      Corrina Clements

      I did a queen size Grandpa’s Buzzsaw quilt in red and 30’s fabric. It bleed so I used a whole box of Shout color catchers on the second wash. This took out every bit of red out of the white and pale colors.

      Reply
  6. Betty
    Betty

    Does this just have to be done at the beginning and then it’s safe to give the quilt as a gift? Or ongoing?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Betty,

      Typically you should only have to do this once and then it will be safe. However, if you are still worried about fabric bleeding when washing you can contine the process for the first few times it is washed.

      Cheers,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.
      https://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C15672

      Reply
    • Stacey
      Stacey

      If I am giving a quilt as a gift, and I have any doubts at all about colorfastness, I give the recipient a few color catcher sheets along with a photo of the box so they can order more to use when they wash it. After that, it’s up to them to use those when they wash the quilt.

      Reply
  7. Keo A,. Teghtmeyer
    Keo A,. Teghtmeyer

    Color Catcher catches color but it does not necessarily stop bleeding–for example a red I had and a purple a friend had. I treat all my commercial fabric with Retayne which is a fixative for commercially dyed fabrics and have not had a problem with bleeding.

    Reply
  8. rhonda
    rhonda

    Thank you for this tip! I prewash everything I sew but I some how end up with fabric blending once in a while. I will try these Shout Color Watchers.

    Reply
  9. Dorothy Stella
    Dorothy Stella

    I had some red batik which bled terribly. I used Synthrapol, Shout color catchers and vinegar and water to no avail. Sorry to say I pitched it.

    Reply
  10. Cynthia
    Cynthia

    I have been told be my sister-in-law that you could also if you have not washed you material before beginning a quilt that once the quilt is all assembled and you need to wash it cause it got soiled that you pour 2cups of vinegar in with the quilt in the washing machine with you regular detergent and it will keep you colors from bleeding also. I then tryed it myself and it did work. So if you forget to wash or don’t like to wash you material before making your quilt then you still can wash it after it’s made with the vinegar and the colors won’t bleed. Saves time. Oh and it doesn’t smell like vinegar after washing.

    Reply
  11. Jan
    Jan

    Is it ok to preshrink instead of prewash? I put each fabric piece is in a separate bowl. I then soak fabric in very hot water (as hot as I can get it) and let it cool. I then take out each piece, wring the water out and look at the color. May be a bit yellow (from the sizing) but mostly clear. If the fabric bleeds color I repeat it again. (Still bleeding color? Then usually need to use Synthropol for blues, reds and blacks). I don’t like mixing fabric in the washer before knowing if they will bleed. Any thoughts on prewashing vs preshrinking?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Jan,

      This is a great idea, and is definitely something you can do. Many people pre wash as a way of pre shrinking their fabric, so you are essentially taking care of both steps at the same time.

      Cheers,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      Reply
  12. Fran
    Fran

    Use a cup of white vinegar ALSO in the cold water wash… it will help set the dye color and gives the fabric a nice ‘feel’ when dried.

    Reply
  13. Charlene
    Charlene

    ‬ Can you recommend an article for cleaning an old quilt that has wool batting? I have several of these and they recently go wet when the lower level of our house flooded. I dried them flat, but there is a slight odor to them. Thank you!

    Reply
  14. Lucy Primeau
    Lucy Primeau

    I don’t prewash my fabrics before making a quilt. Actually I haven’t washed very many after completed either.

    also, I have a top-load machine and find it doesn’t do a great job of cleaning, find there isn’t enough water to wash a large quilt

    Reply
  15. Mary Samson
    Mary Samson

    starting quilt wwith red hearts on white and not sure how to wash red before starting to cut, how do i wash the reds?

    Reply
  16. Dawn
    Dawn

    I disagree with all of this. Just hearsay. Saying you don’t ever plan to wash a quilt so it can be an heirloom is ludicrous. Washing and drying from normal use DOESN’T harm your quilt. Prewashing your fabric not only alerts you to colour runs but allows you to permanently lock the colours with Retayne, it shrinks the fabric and it removes the chemicals the manufacturers put on our cottons to make them look nice. Colour Catchers are a waste of money as they only catch loose dye but can never cause it not to run again!
    You really need to research the subject before writing such an uninformed article!

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Dawn,

      Thank you for your feedback. I have forwarded your comment to the proper department. We value your opinion, and it will help with the development of our online streaming community. We will continue to listen and work hard for your complete satisfaction.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  17. Gloria
    Gloria

    I prewashed 5 yards of RED fabric for backing and binding.
    I have used a total of 24 SHOUT ColorCatchers (the full box).
    The sheets were very red the first 5. The remainder 19 sheets have a medium to light pink.
    How many catchers/boxes do I need to make this work.
    RED is my favorite color but with this piece, I will never be using red again.
    I believe I will be wearing out the fabric from washing before I red the bleeding completely.
    Thanks for response that will help me out.

    Reply
    • Gloria
      Gloria

      OH!!! The first wash I used 3 catchers.
      The 2nd wash, I used 2 catchers.
      The 3rd wash I use 4,
      4th through 8th I used 3 at each wash.
      What next, please.

      Reply
      • Customer Service
        Customer Service

        Hello Gloria,

        Thanks for contacting the National Quilters Circle with your question. I too love red and after creating a fun patchwork top I understand the desire to make sure there isn’t any “bleed” after the quilt is complete. There are other methods that can be used. Since the quilt is not completed yet, Retayne can be used to set the color(red) and avoid dye migrating to other parts of your work. It can usually be found at your local quilt shop or ordered online.

        If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

        Sincerely,

        Sarah
        National Quilters Circle Video Membership

        Reply
      • Marci Baker
        Marci Baker

        When I first used ColorCatchers, I used multiples in a single wash. However, I now use only one, not to catch all of the dye but to indicate how much dye is still running.

        Reply
  18. Polly Stahl
    Polly Stahl

    I never prewash my fabrics but when I finish a quilt I wash it in cold water with a color catcher and I have never had any bleeding issues. If it’s a large quilt I use 2 color catchers.

    Reply