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!

Quilting Color Theory

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?

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Quilting Color Theory

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26 Responses to “How to Prevent Fabric Bleed”

  1. Peg

    If you use Color Catchers, always put them in a lingerie bag. I didn't and it clogged my washer and ended up needing a new washing machine. In tiny print on one of the sides of the Color Catchers box, it recommends using a lingerie bag. They do grab all the loose color in the wash.

  2. Pat

    Retayne is not available in michigan. I've previously used it until it disappeared. Now, I use vinegar-a lot cheaper.

  3. Pat

    I always prewash, so I can prepare for any problems. I want my receiver to not be afraid of washing it. If there are any problems, I want it to be on me not them.

  4. Nancy Bernhardt

    Put epsom salt (a handful) in the washer and that should set your colors

  5. Nora

    I pre wash my fabric in the kitchen sink with water and white Distilled Vinegar❤️ 3/4 warm water and 2 cups vinegar then I let it soak about 15 minutes and move my fabric around in the sink, and depending on the bleed (usually reds, seldom black And navy) line dry Never in dryer, then iron! Awesome fabric

  6. Susan C Ramsay

    soaking dark fabrics, which are the most likely to run, in heavily salted water will help, also. I don't know exactly how much salt, but I'd guess a cup to a gallon of water.

  7. Barbara Przybylski

    I always prewash my fabric and also put a cup of vinegar in the water to set the color.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!