How to Prevent Laundry from Bleeding

Three Methods:Before You WashWhen You WashBefore You Buy

Bleeding laundry can be one of the biggest problems you will encounter while trying to wash your clothes. If you can prevent laundry from bleeding, you can spare yourself the headache of trying to remove dye stains. Get started with Step 1 below to learn how to stop laundry from bleeding and how to keep it from ruining other items when it does.

Method 1
Before You Wash

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    Evaluate clothes before you wash them. Always expect bleeding with the first wash of any item. Expecting the worst will keep you from accidentally turning everything in your load pink and once you know the item is safe, then you can wash it as normal without worrying. When you evaluate clothes, look especially for very bright colors. These have more dye and are thus more likely to bleed. Colors like jewel-toned red, green, and blue tend to be the most unstable and special attention should be paid the first time washing clothes like this.
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    Separate your loads. A good basic precaution is to always separate your loads. Wash whites, lights and pastels, similar bright-colored items, darks, and towels all in separate loads when you can. If you do this, you will at least guarantee that a bleeding item does not discolor the other items in a load of clothes.
    • Keeping separate dirty hampers for each load type will help you in organizing and staying on top of your laundry.
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    Minimize friction. When fibers encounter a lot of friction, they will develop micro-breaks which can release dye trapped within the fiber.[1] This is one of the reasons why you see fading in clothes over time (especially in cottons). Reduce friction by washing heavy items (like jeans) in a load together and be sure to zip all zippers and fasten any hooks.
    • You may also want to turn items inside out, to reduce friction on the side which shows. This is particularly effective with jeans.
    • You can also try using the permanent press cycle on your machine, which is gentler than the regular cycle. This can help preserve your clothing.
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    Test for colorfastness. You can also test for colorfastness (or the durability of the dye) before washing the item. Place the item in a sink full of soapy water for half an hour. If the water becomes discolored, the item bleeds and will need special care when washing.

Method 2
When You Wash

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    Do not add salt or vinegar. You may find advice elsewhere telling you to wash clothes that are prone to bleeding with salt or vinegar (we’re looking at you, Pinterest!) but this advice is generally bad.[2] Some dyes are set using vinegar, which is where the idea comes from, but those dyes are relatively uncommon. Even then, vinegar can actually harm other types of dyes, so in general you don’t want to add these items to your clothes. Not only will they not help, they might actually hurt!
    • Vinegar is, however, great at removing strong odors. Save vinegar in your laundry for items like standard underwear, socks, gym clothes, and towels.
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    Wash your laundry in cold water. Back in the day, when clothing detergent wasn’t quite so effective, it was a good idea to wash in hot water. It was necessary to get clothes clean enough. However, these days detergent is pretty effective and washing with hot water is really only a good idea when washing bedding, towels, and white items. Cold water can be used to wash everything else.
    • You may need to adjust if you live in a very cold area. Water may get too cold during the winter, so if you know that it’s extremely cold outside, it may be necessary to set the washer to “warm” instead.
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    Use color catching sheets. If your clothes still tend to bleed, you can use color catcher sheets, which are available at most stores that sell laundry products. These will catch any dyes that bleed, saving your other items from a future of embarrassing discoloration.
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    Handwash items or take them to a dry cleaner in the future, if they bleed very badly. If your clothing items are still prone to bleeding after one or two washings with the changed routine, you will want to handwash those items or take them to a dry cleaner. Both choices can help preserve your item for as long as possible.
    • If you want to do a basic cleaning on an item but you don't have to worry about removing stains or dirt, then you can use steam to clean the item. This will kill bacteria and eliminate odors, but it cannot take off dirt.

Method 3
Before You Buy

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    Choose clothes with more durable materials. If you really don’t want to deal with bleeding or complex laundry routines, when you buy clothes you should try to choose clothes that are made of durable materials that hold on to color better. Polyester is the king of colorfast fabrics, rarely fading even after years of use. However, jersey knits and heavy, quality cotton are also decently durable when it comes to holding dye.
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    Feel clothes for "crunchiness". When you’re buying new clothes, feel the clothes thoroughly before you purchase them. Do they feel sort of “crunchy”? You’ll know the feeling: it’s similar to when you put too much soap into your wash cycle or when your bathing suit or clothes dry out after a dip in the ocean. This feeling on clothes in the store signifies that there may be some extra dye left in the clothes that was not properly removed.
    • You can still buy items like this, just be sure to wash them by hand the first two or three times that they need to be washed.
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    Read the label for warning words. When you’re looking for new clothes to buy, look at the clothing labels for some particular words. “Turn inside-out to launder,” “Wash in cold water,” (when the item is not a dark color), and “Color may fade,” are all signs that even the manufacturer knows the dyes are unstable.[3]
    • Seeing words like this shouldn’t keep you from buying the item, it just should put you on alert so that you can take precautions to keep the item from bleeding.
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    Be wary of very expensive clothes. The funny thing is that really expensive clothes may be more prone to bleeding than cheaper ones are. A good example of this is silks vs polyester. Silk is nice looking and feeling but holds dye very poorly as compared to polyester. This is because clothing manufacturers often have to balance durability with attractiveness, and durability loses out when it comes to making more expensive clothes.[4]


  • Durable fabrics, like cotton, may be more resistant to bleeding than more delicate materials.
  • Dark clothing utilize dark dyes and dark dyes can be especially difficult to remove after they have been transferred onto other clothing.


  • Don't wash whites with any type of colored clothing. No matter how light the colored clothing is, if it's washed with white clothing, there's always a chance the dyes in the fabric can transfer to your white clothes.

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Categories: Laundry