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How to Set Color and Stop Dye Bleeding in Clothes

Sometimes you think you have found the perfect pair of jeans— until it bleeds in the washing machine, taking all your other clothes with it. Washing colored clothes can be a real challenge especially since their dyes tend to bleed onto other clothes. However, there are a few life hacks you can use to set dyes on your clothes and prevent color bleeding.

First, let us familiarize ourselves with these common terminologies:

  • Crocking – this is a form of color transfer that occurs when fabric rubs against something else, such as shoes, furniture or even skin. This happens when the dye has not fully adhered to the fabric.
  • Color bleeding – this happens when fabric gets wet and dye is extracted from its fibers. Often occurring when washing in the washing machine, this tends to transfer dye into other clothes.
  • Color fading – this happens when the wear and tear of the fabric has happened and the dye has lost its vibrancy and strength.

Here are the reasons why your fabric dye may be crocking, bleeding or fading:

  • Poor quality of dye used in the fabric
  • Incorrect technique used in dying
  • Incorrect dye used (different fabrics have different fibers which also require different kinds of dye)
  • Excess dye that is a result of improper rinsing in the dying process
  • Absence of mordant or a fixer that binds the dye to the fabric, or the mordant getting washed out due to excessive use of hot water in washing
  • Wear and tear among fabrics
  • Exposure to commercial products such as bleach that weakens the vibrancy of fabric dyes

So, how do we really set the dye and stop it from bleeding? Here’s how:

Salt and vinegar won’t do the trick.
Although there is a popular belief that using salt and white vinegar to set dyes in your fabrics work, it actually does not. The acid in the vinegar helps set the dye, but is only essential in the dying process and does not really work for cotton dyes. Similarly, salt allows the fibers to absorb the dye during the dying process but it does not prevent the dye from running or crocking after it has set. Although it wouldn’t hurt to do these two, you would only be wasting your effort and resources as it does not really step up to the job.

Sort your laundry before putting them in the washer.
Old but gold, as they say. This is a common household technique to prevent your clothes from bleeding. Putting together all white clothes and colored clothes can save you from the dilemma of undoing the horrors of dye bleeding.

Wash off excess dye.
Excess dye does not necessarily mean that it has not been dyed well; it just may have fiber reactive dyes that needed to be washed away. Wash repeatedly and perform a simple test to know if all excess dyes have been washed off: dampen the dyed item and iron it dry while pressing it against a piece of white fabric. If it stays white, your dyed fabric is good to go. Normally, the most popular fiber reactive dye, Procion MX type dye, requires at least one washing in cold water (without detergent, unless it's Synthrapol), followed by at least two washings in hot water, WITH detergent, to remove the last bits of unattached dye. Hot water is much more efficient than warm water at removing the last bits of unattached dye.

Wash dyed garments with cold water.
A few changes in your washer settings can just do the trick for you. Sometimes washing your clothes with hot water can damage them, especially with modern laundry detergents. When you use hot water, the fibers open up and may cause loose dyes to bleed while cold water closes them up and even helps your clothes last longer.

Use a color catcher.
When all else fails, this would not. For example, Shout Color Catcher sheets help catch loose dyes in your clothes, preventing them from bleeding and transferring. These are dye magnets that look like fabric conditioner sheets, but better.

Leave it to the experts.
Got no time to try all these methods? Don’t worry, you can find a dry cleaning service near you that can do the work for you. Rest assured that these are experts who know exactly what to do with your clothes so you can relax with the thought of fresh, clean clothes without worrying about dye bleeding.

Worry no more as these laundry tricks can help you get out of your dilemma. Laundry can be tiring, but when you’ve found the perfect tools to help you out, it will be a piece of cake.

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