How to Fix Fabric Bleeds


The pattern seen in this post is Nordic Triangles. You can find it here in the shop!

Hi, I’m Dr. Suzy, and welcome to Quilting Medical School. Today’s class will be about a special sort of quilt surgery: fixing fabric bleeds.

Fabric bleeds are one of the most common quilting “emergencies,” and they can be pretty traumatic. Sadly, I speak from experience. One cold November morning I discovered a quilt-sized box on my doorstep. My high-flying joy plummeted into stabbing fear when I realized that the top of the box was soaking wet...and not just water wet. Oh no. Soapy wet.

My freshly longarmed quilt had been soaking for hours in spilled cleaning solution from a box that was sitting on top of it. GASP! and NOOOOOO!

The following 24 hours were a harrowing life and death fight for my quilt's survival. I tried to recall all of my fabric dyeing knowledge from my time as a fiber arts major in college as well as researching eeeeeverything the internet had to offer. This is a photo my husband took of me the following morning. PTSD is not pretty.

How to Fix Fabric Bleeds | Suzy Quilts

Just like a medical injury, fabric bleeding can be both treated and prevented. Today, we’ll talk about both. 

Fix Fabric Bleeds: First things first

If you’re here in a panic screaming “SAVE MY BLEEDING QUILT!” at the computer screen, don’t worry. I’m here for you in mind, spirit and quilt. Just because one (or more) of your fabric colors have run and dyed other parts of your quilt, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Put on your gloves, and let’s get to work. (Really, go get some gloves. We’re going to be using some very hot water.)

  1. Tub Time. To soak a bleeding quilt, you want a looot of water; more than your sink or washing machine can handle. That means it’s bathtub time. Fill your bathtub up with as hot of water as you can (different people have different limits set on their hot water heater, so if your hot tap water is sort of meh, add some pots of boiling water. Boiling water is hot! I know! This is why you need gloves!)
  2. Add Some Suds. This part is important. Though people get all excited about Synthrapol (and it does work well, so you may want to keep some on hand), Dawn Ultra Pure dish detergent will do the trick, too. Add as much as half a cup of the good stuff. Oh, and make sure your quilt is in there, too. Did I miss that part? Now swish things around for a good ten minutes. (Note: if the water gets REALLY dark REALLY fast, you’ll want to drain the water after about 10 minutes or so, and refill.)
  3. Let it Rest. We’re talking about a good long sleep, here. Make sure every bit of the quilt is underwater (so none of the water dye sticks to the quilt at the water line), and give it a full 12 hours. (But what if you want to take a bath? TOO BAD. Your quilt needs some R&R.) Don’t worry if things are looking very dye-ey up in there – the soap’s job is to keep the dye suspended in the water, and not in your quilt.
  4. Rinse and Repeat… if necessary. It’s time consuming, but if you really want to heal your precious quilt, keep repeating the process until the water is clear for about 6 hours or so.

When things are looking clean and clear and under control, go ahead and give your quilt a final cold-water rinse. This is also a good time to add some Retayne to the water to firmly lock in the remaining fabric dye. Now carefully remove your quilt to dry.

Disclaimer: This process may not be 100% successful 100% of the time, but every medical procedure has risks. It’s the best, most effective method out there, so it’s worth a shot, especially when a quilt’s life is at stake!

Fabric Bleed Prevention:

Now that the crisis has been handled, let’s talk about some preventative measures you can take to prevent this from happening again!

  1. Pre-Wash. Now, we all know that we should prooobably pre-wash and press fabrics before cutting… but do we always do it? Don’t worry, we’ve all had the temptation to jump straight into cutting. Resist! Form a support group if you have to! Pre-washing your fabric, whether it’s commercial or hand-dyed, will set you up to have minimal to no bleeding if and when the quilt gets wet. If pre-washing all of your fabric just simply cannot fit into your schedule, try to at least pre-wash vivid colors like navy, red and purple. Using a color catching sheet can also save your life, so go ahead and toss one into the wash while you're at it. Here's a blog post with more wonderful pre-washing info.
  2. Test. The best way to know if your fabric is going to bleed or be absorbed by another fabric in your quilt is to actually give it the chance. Stick a swatch of each fabric together in a hot water wash, and see what happens. (Hopefully nothing too exciting!)

Congrats! You’re now a certified Quilt Doctor. Go out and do no harm! And be sure to let me know what has worked for you!

Check out my favorite sewing gear and supplies!

How to Fix Fabric Bleeds | Suzy Quilts

226 thoughts on “How to Fix Fabric Bleeds

  1. Rhyomi says:

    Sighh alright, I guess it’s finally time to start pre-washing my fabrics. I’ve always avoided it out of stubborness and laziness but I suppose it’s time I start doing things right. Do you recommend in the washing machine? Or will a quick run through hot water in the tub do the trick? What kind of detergent?

    • Corinne says:

      Thank you! This post saved my son’s red, white and black turning twenty. It was my first ever quilt, and though I SHOULD have known to prewash the red, I didn’t do it. I did put about 10 color catchers in the wash, but it wasn’t enough. In a panic I called everyone I know, and they all said I was outta luck. In desperation I turned to Google and found this post. The quilt is soaking now, and I feel good about the results. (I may have burned my knuckles a bit- I didn’t have gloves & can’t get them from the store due to COVID quarantine.) Thank you for your helpful advice!

      • Ruth Alonge says:

        Hello – I washed my favorite king size red & white bear claw quilt last night in cold water with several dye catchers and boy was I sick after. I cried and cried and didn’t know what to do-couldn’t call any friends as it was 11pm. So I googled what to do and found this “Fix Fabric Bleeds”. I immediatly put in tub with hot water and Dawn Dish soap and water right away turned deep red. I drained and went to do it again but ran out of the dish soap. I left in empty tub overnight so I could run to store first thing to get more soap. I’ve now put into tub 3 times and it’s working. The water is a little pink in color but waiting for 6 hours then I’ll do it one more time. I feel much better now but talk about getting sick over this. I can’t believe how this is working so far. Thank you so much.

  2. Anne Beier says:

    Great post, Suzy. I cannot underscore enough the importance about the pre-wash process. It’s annoying and time-consuming, especially because ironing is required after the fabric is dry. But it is worth it, because you don’t have to worry about bleeding again.

    But I have a question. What do you do with pre-cut jelly rolls and charm squares? Pre-washing them is not a great option, because they fray too much and crinkle in the dryer, making ironing very difficult. I tried this with a few jelly roll strips, and because of the fraying, they became 2 1/4″ strips, or less. Probably, have to wash the quilt when it’s finished with a color catcher? Just guessing here. Your thoughts? Thank you.

      • Anne Beier says:

        I’m glad you had the same responses; 1. Don’t pre-wash anything smaller than a fat quarter. And, 2. Everything you said in your more deets article. I feel as though we’ve been down this road together now. lol. Great suggestions, Suzy. Thanks again.

      • Lynn Gorges says:

        Suzy, I am a textile conservator who does lots of wet cleaning of antique quilts. I think your article needs to be very clear that this method is not best for all quilts. I would never put a quilt in super hot water. I would also double check to make sure it is all cotton. Wool can’t even take very warm water. It will felt. Some vintage/antique quilts have dye break down over the years. Be careful. Test the dyes.
        Most of all please clarify that your method of using HOT water and soaking for hours and hours should only be done in a dire situation. The water the quilt is washed in will also affect the washing. Well water? Town water with lots of chemicals?
        I love Color Catchers. Always use those when washing dyed textiles if you worry about bleeding.
        When drying quilts it is best to put toweling/sheeting underneath and on top of the quilt and change when wet to more dry sheets/toweling. Those covers will attract any loose dyes and dirt/stain that might still remain in the quilt.
        Dawn has enzymes in it and attacks oily stains. There are other chemicals that work to remove acids, proteins, etc. In most home situations it is best to use ALLFREE or Arm and Hammer detergent that is free of perfumes and brighteners.
        Many of the “antique wash” products have in it oxygen based products, Borax, baking soda, etc. in them. Unfortunately cleaning products are not required to list ingredients so people need to be careful. Clean today could mean very yellow in a few months.
        I hope this info has been helpful. Washing textiles with bleeding and stains can be a very complicated topic.
        Glad your quilt came out well. I totally identify with your panic.

        • Amy says:

          Lynn, may I ask if there are any conservation wet cleaning techniques I could try at home? I have an antique quilt with turkey red and yellow-dominant over-dyed green on a white background. Several areas of white have ghosty pink transfers from being folded up with the red areas. I would prefer to spot treat rather than soak the whole quilt if possible thanks for any suggestions!

          • Laura Hopper says:

            Hi Amy! Here’s my two cents as a museum professional specializing in textiles. For complex wet cleanings, you can find a conservator in your area using the American Institute for Conservation’s website. It’s always best to leave the most complicated textiles to the exerts, especially vintage textiles which can have unpredictable reactions 🙂

        • Grace Giuoco says:

          You mention oxygen-based cleaning products. Are you saying they are good or bad? Also, please give us more information on what causes yellowing of a quilt.

      • Ashley Pugh says:

        What if the fabric was not colorfast? I was washing a dog bandana I made for my sweet Chewy who passed away last year. It was one of her best bandanas and very sentimental to me. It’s the the first attempt at washing it, white background with pink and red hearts. I was washing it alone in the sink in a drop of oxy clean and warm water. It was in water maybe 3-5 seconds and everything turned pink. I immediately grabbed it and pink water ran out of it. I thought maybe rinsing in plain water would help but a couple seconds of rinsing made it more pink everywhere. I bought carbona color run remover, but noticed it’s not for use on non colorfast fabric. It’s not a quilt, but it’s JoAnn fabric and I saw another person mentioned it’s not colorfast in a review online. Is not being colorfast treated differently than color run? I just want Chewy’s bandana back to normal color, but scared to try to fix with Dawn if the colorfast thing is not like color run. I thought I was being very careful to not use the washer and just a drop of Oxy in my clean sink. Mere seconds were a devastating disaster.

    • Tinilou says:

      I have run into this dilemma and this is how I solved mine. I opened up and soaked the jelly roll flat in the bath tub in very very hot water with retayne. After it cooled off I did it again. If you have a real bleeder pick that one out and continue to treat it as if it is a naughty piece of fabric and put it in another batch of retayne and Very hot water until nothing bleeds. Good Luck

      • Leesa says:

        I’m going through the process now, dark green bled all into the white on my quilt when I tried to wash it 😖😰 I have a couple questions. How do I keep this quilt submerged? How do I dry it once it’s this wet? It’s so heavy. Do I need to keep changing the water to keep it hot? If I can stand to have my hands in it does it need to be hotter? PLEASE HELP!

        • Suzy Quilts says:

          You can keep it submerged with any kind of weight on top of it. Even dark wet towels on top of it would work. When you are ready to dry it, ring it out and either dry it on low heat, gentle cycle in your dryer or air dry it laying flat on a bed of dry towels. You do not need to continue changing the water to keep it hot. Initially, make the water really hot, though.

    • Grace Squires says:

      Suzy, you saved it!!!!! I love to sew quilts with flannel, which tends to frayyyyyy! So, I didn’t prewash. Red was the color (and was what I was seeing). The other colors were, you guessed it, white and light swowy gray. Usually I buy the higher quality flannel (Not sure we’re the red came from), so prewash isn’t usually an issue. I can thank you enough! You are now in my favs!

  3. Dianne Patterson says:

    Excellent, excellent blog info!! I ALWAYS prewash my fabrics, even white. Yes, white can bleed onto dark colors in your quilt, ask me how I know 😣!
    I have a similar question. The quilt top my grandma was teaching me how to quilt on (we only had one border left) recently came back into my possession, with an oil spot on the background fabric. I have no idea what to use and the fabric is orange, really orange and old. Any suggestions? Thank you!

  4. Belinda says:

    You can also cover up any bleeding areas with color catching sheets (pin them with saftey pins), then wash in cold water as usual. May take a couple of washes, maybe with fresh color catching sheets, to get it out. That worked for me.

  5. sally says:

    great info. I prewash in washing machine (warm water)with a color catcher sheet, one or more depending if there are lots of reds, dark blue or purples, darks period.
    Pre-cuts. I have just started using them. I serge the edges of FQ’s and then wash, in fact I serge the edges of all my yardage. I haven’t used jelly rolls yet. 5 and 10 inch squares I do NOT wash but wash the finished quilt in warm water with color catcher sheets.
    Note: I started sewing as a garment sewer and one always pre washed fabrics and zippers or you were really sorry so I guess it is easier or me to think of pre washing as the first step.

  6. Merikki says:

    Thanks for this article Suzy! I always prewash my new fabrics, fat quarters and smaller pieces as well either by hand or in the washing machine and I don’t mind fraying, just cut the edges clean again if necessary. Haven’t used jelly rolls yet though. For oil stains I got Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover at Hobby Lobby on my last trip to USA and it worked so well that I can wear the trousers which had an oil stain again! Glad I do fabric prewashing as I lately bought a bright pink fabric from the local fabric shop and that fabric bleeds like crazy! I went back and complained about it to warn others who might use the fabric and not wash it before. My advice is to buy at least the dark fabrics you want to use from well known manufacturers, a similar colour from Makover did not bleed at all!

  7. Kim says:

    Do you really need to wash your fabrics in a washing machine? I thought the point was to determine if the fabric bleeds and to get it wet so that you are preshrinking it. If that is the case a five minute soak in the bathroom sink would work or am I missing something? Of course if a fabric does bleed I can see going through the washing machine process but why put all your fabrics through that?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Soaking in the sink would work just fine. If you have a lot of fabric, however, throwing it in the washing machine would probably be easier. I say, if what you’re doing is working for you, keep doing what you’re doing. 🙂

      • Tan says:

        I did just this with northcott red and white fabric (for a red and white quilt). No bleeding of color, so threw both fabrics into washer, along with 2 or 3 color catchers. Result: the white turned pink. Had to wash the white several times using different ideas, finally ended up using bleach. I can still see the light light pink shade if I look hard enough.

  8. Charlene Cairn says:

    I always pre-wash, even small scraps given to me by others, according to a system told to me by a friend years ago. I use containers from 500g to a 9 litre (4 gallon) bucket, depending on amount, and separate colours into groups as far as possible, i.e. red, purple, blue, green etc., and soak in salted hot water until the water is cold. Then rinse until the water is clear. I then put them all into colour-separated bags or pillowcases if there’s a lot, and put them in a cold wash with the rest of my washing. I dry them out on the clothesline and if possible iron while damp. I wash my quilts when they are finished and I haven’t had any colour runs. Hope this helps.

  9. Shirley Peters says:

    I have to say that in 18 years of quilting, I have never pre washed my fabrics. Also I have never had them bleed when washed later, even very bright colours, and a navy single sized quilt. If you want to wash, then do it after making something. Of course you could spot check dark colours.

    • LD Mueller says:

      Yes! In 20 years of quilting with high quality quilter’s cottons and batiks, I have never pre-washed and never had a bleed until….

      Until I worked on my daughter’s wedding quilt with a white grunge fabric and a ton of batiks. There was one red fabric that bled and ruined the quilt. Ugh!

      I am trying this method tomorrow! Prayers are so appreciated.

  10. Sally Morgan says:

    Another reason to pre-wash is so that the sizing and finishes are removed. Many people are sensitive to these finishes; no surprise, when you realize that things like formaldehyde are used in the manufacturing process. Also, with the exception of batiks, all cottons will shrink some, and they will shrink unevenly in length and width. Subsequent washing may leave you with distorted seams.

  11. Lin Hilgendorf says:

    A friend of mine used Retro Clean on an old garage sale find with big old, very old blood stain in the middle. Worked fabulously and even took out old age spots. Brightened up the whole quilt.

  12. Linda Cox says:

    Hydrogen Peroxide has never failed me. And, I have had what could be devastating experiences. Before trying any other method. No water, no spit, no anything. Soak with hydrogen peroxide. Even if the blood mark has dried. I don’t call it a stain, because with this method, it is not a stain. No, it will not take the color out of your fabric. I carry a small bottle in my hand sewing kit just in case. It has worked with very large blood spots and very small ones.

  13. Sylvia Bryan says:

    I did an Americana quilt a couple of years ago, using cream fabrics, blues and reds. Most were scraps. The red I used in all the sashing strips and a couple of borders – I remember buying it at garage sale – great price $2/yd. NOT! I could tell it felt stiffer than other fabrics – sure enough, later I saw it at JoAnne’s – I don’t buy quilting fabric there. When the quilt top was completed, A friend suggested washing it using 1/4 cup Synthropol in washer and 3 color catcher sheets. The color catchers came out absolutely MAGENTA. The quilt didn’t appear to change much in the areas that had bled – certain white prints picked it up more than others. Once the quilter was finished, she suggested using Suzy’s method from “Save my bleeding quilt” website. Only tub is on 3rd floor in my house. Filled tub up with hot water and added the Dawn. Put quilt in and after an hour, could tell water had color in it – not red but blue. I drained the tub and started to fill again – by this time I was out of how water. I started boiling pots of water on my stove, which is on 2nd floor. I carried up pot after pot after pot of hot water to the tub and managed to fill it again, added Dawn and the quilt. It soaked for 10-12 hours. My drain does not hold well – the water started draining out way too soon and I finally stuffed the corner of the quilt under the drain plug. After quilt came out, I figured I had done everything I could to remove the bleeding areas, so went ahead and dried it, bound it. Won second place ribbon at the fair without any comments from the judge which surprised me. I figured this quilt will not be a showstopper and will live with it. However I’ve never heard of Retro Clean that Lin suggested or the Perisol that someone else suggested, can’t find that post now. I do have Grandma’s Stain Removed but did not research how much to use or how to dilute it or if I should put on every stain area straight from the little bottle. I figured if the hot water and Dawn method didn’t work, then there’s probably nothing else that will work.

  14. Carol H. says:

    When using color grabber sheets I find it best to pin them onto an old t-shirt. This prevents them from inadvertently getting clogged into the washer’s drain. This did happen and I had to have a repair man figure out why I had such a terrible odor coming from the washer. The color grabbers got stuck in the pump. Now I know better.

      • Kathy Fain says:

        I have completed a quilt with bright batiks and white fabrics. I have tested the colors and white with hot water and soap you suggested and the process of 12 hours but white turns a little blue after 4 tries. I have also tried the color catcher method and seems to work better
        My question is if I wash it with the color catcher sheets and it doesn’t work, can I then wash in hot water process?

  15. Berniece Sayer says:

    This process worked for me,after 6 years hand applique and hand quilting,I washed the quilt to get the quilt markings out,horrified the blue and the greens bleed,A friend told me about the Dawn trick,after24 Hours the quilt was perfect.
    I have just spent the last 2weeks of washing all my fabrics in the really hot water,I was amazed at the amount of dye that came out of the fabrics,I even ironed them,in doing this I discovered fabric I had forgotten about.

  16. Livia Boggs says:

    I too use Grandma’s spot remover! This is some great stuff! I also have used peroxied. My daughter bought a used wedding dress, after she got it home we realized that it had spots all over it ! ( Like someone had dropped something and it splashed on it.) I used peroxied with a paper towel under the fabric to catch anything that came out. It worked ike a charm! Had it dry cleaned and she looked beautful!

  17. Eleanor L. says:

    I know that fabric can “bleed” but did you know that thread can, too. The quilt was quilted with a cranberry colored thread and while I was setting it out to dry on the deck, I noticed that the thread was bleeding. I immediately washed the quilt with color catchers, 4 times, and I used the whole box of Color Catchers. But it worked. So now, be careful on the color of thread you use.

  18. Jo Acuff says:

    Great stuff, Thanks! I have used everything but the Dawn soap thing. I’m allergic to it-and need to use the nitrile gloves. Retro Wash has removed OLD stuff from several of my customer’s quilts. Be careful of the lining in old trunks. The varnish stain is impossible to remove. You may lighten it but be careful-extra careful if the quilt is really old, it may fray.

  19. Kathie says:

    I pre-washed some patriotic fabric as I would the finished product and the red bled into all the white spaces. I went and got the Rit color remover. Worked after about 3 soaks but it also bled out the blue. Now I have red, white and sickly yellow fabric!

  20. Jennifer says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for this blog!
    This morning I washed a newly quilted throw that contains some reds and blacks. I threw in a few colour catchers and the oddest thing happened. All my white squares were still perfectly white (yeah!), but one series of squares that have some white in them all went dark pink – eek! Like yourself, off to the internet I went in a panic. I am currently soaking the blanket in my bathtub. It’s only been two hours and already about 75% of the pink colour has come out. In fact, a couple of squares I’d say have about 90% of the dye out!
    Hopefully it all comes out, but even if this is as good as it gets I’d be thrilled 🙂

  21. Christine says:

    Thanks for the post! I had a devastating color bleed on a quilt that I just finished. First time in 20 years of quiltmaking that this has happened to me! Instead of freaking out, I went to Google and I found your post. I grabbed the Dawn (I just used the standard blue Dawn because that’s what I had) and I filled the tub and soaked the quilt all day and overnight changing the water a few times. It worked! Good as new! And now I have color grabbing sheets and Retayne on hand. Thanks for saving the day (and my quilt)!!!

  22. Elaine MacKay says:

    HI. I have an old tapestry that bled. The green from the trees went into the white clouds. It’s quite old, I think from the early 1900’s. Any advice for making the clouds white again. I would like to try the remedies you have suggested but am afraid to make it worse. Thank-you for your help. Elaine

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      That’s a tricky one. If it were me, I would only spot clean the area that has been effected by the green bleed. In a small area of the bleed, first test to see if you’re going to make it better or worse. I would saturate the area with water and then scrub a tiny bit of Dawn. After scrubbing, rinse that off. If that seems to be helping, keep doing that until the bleed is gone. If that’s not working at all, you may need to try a stain remover that is a bit more heavy duty such as Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover or OxiClean. I have also heard that is you combine equal parts vinegar and baking soda into a paste, you can scrub that into the fabric as a stain remover. Baking Soda can be kinda harsh, though, so only do that if the clouds really are white. My best advice is to test in a small area before scrubbing the whole thing. Good luck!

  23. Nancy says:

    I have color bleeding from a tshirt quilt I just washed for the first time. I assumed those shirts had been washed a hundred times and bleeding wouldn’t be an issue. So if I get the bleeds out after bathtub soaking, will that prevent it from happening again?

  24. Rhonda ONeal says:

    I Have a maroon 9 patch quilt set together with white blocks. The white blocks have collected maroon dye from a new Maroon sheet that was being used on the bed. Kind of rubbed onto it. Would your tub method work as well on this type of bleeding?
    Thanks in advance.

  25. RACHEL says:

    So, I haven’t yet prewashed any fabrics, and have put together about 7 quilt tops–Aside from a couple of older things I’ve done, I have gotten no farther than basting so far! All of these tops have vivid colors. The one I am putting together now is for my daughter’s birthday and I want to have it actually layered and quilted in a week, not left as a UFO. All very rich, heavily dyed batiks. Does it have a chance to survive even a single washing? If I follow the instructions above with the bathtub or pinning the color catcher sheets to it, will that work?

  26. Dott Moeller says:

    Oh my—you are a wonderful and funny young woman! (And I have a feeling you know what you’re talking about. I recently bought 3 beautiful handmade quilts at a garage sale, and forgot to wash on gentle-cold cycle. Thanks, so much, and happy blogging!!!!!

  27. Beverly says:

    Suzy. Does this need to be done immediately? I just had this happen. Not putting in the dryer but don’t have dawn here. Can I hang the quilt and do this tub method tomorrow? Or do you think that will be too late

  28. Deanna Chitwood says:

    Where do I purchase all the products mentioned to help with stains and dye problems in quilts? I have the Dawn dishsoap

  29. Lisa says:

    Thank you so very much for this post!! It worked, I used palmolive dish soap because it was 7pm and I live about an hour plus round trip from a grocery shop. I made a red and white quilt for my niece for graduation and even in cold water with color catchers it ran horribly!! I have never has issues, but I did use pieces from scrap bags, stash packs. Live and learn.

  30. Rhonda says:

    So silly question about the tub idea. How do you actually rinse? Do you let the water out and fill up again or do you run the quilt under running water? I prewashed the fabric for a quilt I made for my daughter. She took it to college. She got sick so she washed her quilt. She put in several color catchers, 5 or so, but there are still a few small spots where the red fabric bled on the light gray and white. I’m considering trying your process but don’t want to have a bigger mess than I started with. I also like the pin color catchers to affected area as well. Thanks for all of this!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Not a silly question at all! To rinse, drain the water in the tub and then fill a little back in. Jostle the quilt around and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. If the water remains clear, then you can fully drain the water and more on. However, if it looks like some of the dye has leaked into the water, you’re still dealing with the bleed issue and it’s not quite time to pull the quilt.

  31. Kate says:

    I’m not a big fan of pre washing, mostly because I use lots of pre cuts and like the crinkle look that happens after you wash a quilt for the first time. Because of that, bleeding is something I always worry about. This method is exactly what I’ve been using as my “first wash” for years and I’ve never had any permenant bleeding situations so it’s a great preemptive measure as well as emergency method. Thanks for sharing Suzy!

  32. Vicki McKeown says:

    Thank you for this. I do pre-wash all my fabrics before I use them, despite people saying the “new” fabrics don’t need it. Am teaching my granddaughter and the first thing I did with her new fabrics was show her how to hand wash them. However – I do not have a bath – have not had one for 35 years and this could be a problem. I have one area of one quilt which my new rescue cat decided to disgrace himself on, so soaked it – and the red colour ran! There is still a noticeable mark. Any suggestions?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      You could spot soak the area in a sink or bucket. Just follow these same instructions, but only in that one area. My one alteration would be to not let it soak, rather keep moving it around. I would hate for you to get a dye ring around the area of the fabric that is not in the water.

  33. Fay says:

    Will the tub, color catchers and dawn work on an applique quilt that was washed and dried about six years ago? It has several places where the fabric bled on the top and on the back. Also some of the lines from my marking pen did not come out. Was afraid to wash it again because I didn’t want to make it worse. I also have never washed a quilt in the bath tub.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hmmm…interesting predicament. I think if the dye stains are bugging you, it’s worth a shot. Since I wouldn’t want any of the appliqué pieces to come loose, I would say to only scrub very lightly on the dye areas. You could also try spot treat it with hot water and Dawn soap.

  34. Suzy Quilts says:

    Hi Vicki, and thanks for visiting my blog! It’s been a few years since I’ve had to deal with a bleeding quilt, so I can’t say for certain whether or not I read your blog post when looking into various ways to fix a quilt. I can say, that after working towards a fiber arts degree in 2008, I became well acquainted with dyeing fabric as well as the unfortunate fabric bleed. These techniques explained in my blog are not unique, but in fact, they have been used by hundreds of textile artists around the world. I was using them over 10 years ago in Kirksville, Missouri where I got my degree.

    I am sorry that you feel I’ve plagiarized. I do work very hard to write these posts in my own unique voice and I take plagiarism very seriously. I have now read your blog and see enough differences to feel confident that they both can happily exist on the internet without fear of copyright infringement. Like many other bloggers out there, a lot of us write about the same thing, and in many instances, our conclusions and tutorials are also similar. Many unique voices spreading crafting information are one of the reasons we are having a wonderful renaissance in quilting! If you have more concerns please email me.

  35. Sue Dunlap says:

    I’m working on a hand-appliqued quilt that I started years ago – while I was basting the edges of the applique pieces and using freezer paper, I decided to try gluing some of them instead. Now I find that the glue has hardened, making it hard to get the needle through. I used a damp cloth to soften the glue and I see that the dark red fabric started bleeding! I’ve got quite a bit of applique to complete before I have to wash this quilt – I don’t know whether to do the top before it is quilted, which might ravel if washed, or wait until I quilt the queen-sized quilt and then have to try and handle a heavy quilt in the bathtub. Any suggestions?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      That’s quite the predicament! Let me think…If dabbing the fabric with water created a bleed, washing the quilt will be a little scary. The main consolation with washing the entire quilt is that with the power of good soap and color catchers, the excess dye may all magically leave the fabric and attach to the color catchers. Let’s hope for that. In the mean time, I would finish appliquéing. Like you said, the appliqué might unravel and ruin the quilt design.

      Once the quilt is finished and washed, if there are any bleed spots that just won’t go away, could you place more appliqué pieces on top to cover the incriminating areas?

      On a different note, I think glue will still work if you use just the tiniest amount. It sounds like it got a little globby during the application process. Have you tried a fine tipped applicator such as this one? Or even a glue stick?

  36. Lynn says:

    Suzy, Thank you for your post and newsletter. I like the rest here am having a problem with a quilt top bleeding. I haven’t had it quilted yet, but some of the material got wet and the red started to bleed onto the white. Thank God I have time and I found the material to rip it out and start again. But I am curious if you would rip it out or try your method of fixing a bleeding quilt. Would it make any difference if it is a top only compared to a quilt.
    I too would rather not prewash anything, but after this I will prewash everything. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’m hesitant to ever wash a quilt top before it’s quilted because I worry about all of those raw edges. What’s even worse than a bleed is a bunch of weak seams that will quickly turn into holes throughout the quilt. I think in the future, you’re always going to be safest by pre-washing at least your dark, potentially “bleedy” fabric. Another option I may try too is even if the quilt top has bled, gently spot clean only that section with Dawn detergent. Then go ahead and quilt it. Once the quilt is bound, submerge the entire quilt in hot water and work on the bleeding fabric some more.

  37. Claire says:

    You saved a quilt today! Black (well, the dirty purple dye) into white fabric. All gone! Thank you so, so much. Disaster averted. (Used Fairy dishwashing liquid).

  38. Melba says:

    Thank you so much for your help on fabric bleeding quilts. I never knew about color-catchers, or “Grandma’s spot remover,” or Retayne so I have a whole new education on cleaning quilts. I also appreciate your advice about soaking and using Dawn once the fabrics have bled. I finished a quilt I had been working on for years (off and on because it was hand-quilting). The colors were maroon, dark blue, and beige with off-white backing. When I started to spot clean the quilt pencil markings on the dark fabric, and the blue pencil on the off-white, the maroon and blue bled on all the surrounding fabric and the backing! I was scared I had just ruined the quilt, it looked terrible! I used the Grandma’s solution and the color catchers in my front loading washer on the delicate setting. It took three tries after rubbing in the Grandma’s solution and using fresh color catchers (3) each time. It worked! The off-white is once again clear and the quilt looks great. The stitching has also held up so I feel very lucky to have read your blog and Thank You so much.

  39. Rebecca says:

    this worked wonderfully for my friend Leslie. It was a handpieced quilt that she made along side her mother, who has since passed away. She prewashed her fabrics so did not expect the reds to run. Well they did and she was heartsick thinking her quit was ruined. Well she now has a quilt free of red bleeds. Also the black in the fabric also was present in the tub water. She thanks you for saving her quilt

  40. Carol says:

    I didn’t previously but now I always prewash all fabric, including precuts that were given to me (I don’t usually buy them). Most don’t run, but enough of them do to assure me that it’s necessary. I do this also because a good friend of mine found that a backing fabric shrunk considerably more than the quilt top after laundering, leaving a less than desirable effect. I have also found that sometimes the fabric you don’t expect to bleed, is the one that does.

  41. Christina says:

    It’s a Christmas miracle! Yay! Your post saved a quilt I’m gifting to my brother in a few days. The top is a mix of red and white prints with a large white appliqué logo, and after the initial wash there were pink streaks on the white logo. I used boiling hot water in my tub, Dawn dish soap, and soaked the quilt for only 3 hours, but it totally worked! No more pink, and the color catchers I threw in the machine for the final wash had no color on them, so the soaking did the job. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this!!

  42. Janet says:

    Curious if this is something you have experienced. I just helped my daughter make a navy blue suede skirt that will be attached to a metal cart for a trade show. Turned out great. We did not prewash….now… white sewing machine, which is a plastic surface is stained blue. Really bled. My hands, tape measure. You name it.
    Any suggestions. I used a little 409… I used a clorox wipe…some results

  43. Molly says:

    I ran across this post while frantically searching the Internet for a unique situation I find myself in—I purchased a canvas play tent secondhand for my daughter and decided to wash it before setting it up. Well long story short, half of it is red and the other half WAS white, but now of course, it’s a streaky pink. I am tempted to just try washing in the machine again with Oxiclean, but if the bleeding isn’t done, I don’t want to make it worse. Would your run soaking method be a safer alternative?

  44. Bonnie says:

    Help, I made a Christmas quilt out of red and white fabrics ( of course ) I attempted to wash it before gifting with color catchers in cold water thinking that would be all that it would require. well, I have bleeding. I will use your method, but my question is does it have to be the Dawn Ultra Pure dish detergent? Can I use regular Dawn that is blue?

      • Bonnie says:

        Thank you so much for sharing this information. Whew, It worked to get the majority of the red bleed out! There are a couple of small spots that I can live with. Now, should I do a final rinse with retayne to set the dye? and should I use cold or hot water? The bottle calls for hot water when pre-washing the fabric, but this is a finished quilt.

        • Suzy Quilts says:

          Since you’ve been using hot water to release the extra dye that was bleeding, I would rinse with warm or cold water at this point. The more you wash your quilt with hot water, the more the fabric will begin to fade.

  45. Stefanie says:

    Ok…it’s not a quilt but it is quilters cotton. My mother made my three girls Dr. Seuss dresses from fabric we bought at our local quilt store. I am well trained (mom quilts) to pre-wash. I pre-washed all the yardage and dried in dryer. My husband washed the dresses in cold with the same detergent and machine as the prewash. One of my prints….white backgroundwith colorful book titles bleed on itself. I hung them to dry as not to set anything. Is this normal? And, I am assuming this method will work on dresses too? Thank you for this post too…everything else I found was a red sock in the whites kind of thing. Not helpful.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      What a bummer! I can’t say that fabric bleeding on itself is normal, but depending on the quality, it’s not uncommon. It sounds like you got this fabric at a quilt store, though, so I would assume quality is not the issue here. Try soaking the bleeding dress as the article says. If there’s still some bleeding after that, you could attack the spots with your favorite stain remover. Last week a friend of mine was able to fix water damage on a quilt with Shout stain remover.

  46. Rebekah says:

    Hello! Thank you for this post. I have hope now! I had pre-washed red fabric but it still ran on one of my finished quilts. Now I’m uber paranoid. I have already started on an Irish Chain quilt with color scraps and white….. so now I’m wondering if I should soak my color patches in the tub but just be gentle? I’m afraid they will fray but I don’t want the color to bleed onto the white. Suggestions?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I would suggest holding off on soaking or washing blocks with raw edges. I think your instincts are right and they will fray. If you are worried about bleeds, once your quilt is finished you can hand wash it in the tub following these instructions with cool water (no need for hot if there isn’t an active bleed) OR just use a lot of color catchers in your washing machine.

  47. Beth says:

    Hello! If the dye collects at the water line during this process, how do you get the quilt out of the tub to avoid that dye resettling on the quilt? I’m imagining letting the water out first, but then as the water line lowers, won’t the dye land on the quilt? Or, I can imagine picking the quilt up out of the tub while the water is still there, but the quilt would pass the water line that way too. I guess I’m asking for clarification on how to get the quilt out of the tub. Thanks!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question! Keep the quilt in the tub until the water runs clear. You will end up draining and filling the tub for this to happen – possibly multiple times. As long as the quilt is wet and you do this relatively quickly (don’t hurt yourself rushing. lol!), the excess dye won’t stick to the quilt. If there is excess dye, it will escape into the water on the next fill. The soap will also trap the excess dye so it won’t remain in the quilt.

    • Lisa says:

      How do we get all the water out if the quilt? Do we squeeze it by hand or can it be run through the spin cycle in the washing machine? Do we air dry it or can it go in the dryer? Thank you

      • Suzy Quilts says:

        Great question! I would first ring it out by hand to get as much excess water out as possible. If you think the bleed has been resolved, you can then lay it on a bed of towels to air dry or run it through your dryer. I suggest using a low heat setting because that’s easier on fabric.

  48. Tiffany W. Brown says:

    I bought a comforter and on one side of the sham and the converter is red and white stripes and the other side is navy. On the shams, it appears the navy has bled or transferred on the white stripes. I did not want to wash it in fear that I would mess it up worse and the company would not take it back. They are sending me another one and I don’t want it to happen again. Do you have any advice?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hopefully the company sends you one that doesn’t have an active bleed. When the time comes to wash it, use cold water and Shout color catchers. You should be fine. 😉

  49. Carol Cramer says:

    I washed my quilt with color catchers, but it still bled. it is soaking in the tub now. Do you think that these newer washers that never fill the whole tub are the problem?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Great question. I think if you are dealing with fabric that bleeds, that part of the equation is inevitable unfortunately. However, if your washing machine does not fully fill with water, soaking your quilt in the tub is the way to go.

  50. Shirley says:

    Our Quilt Club did a fabric patch exchange with nickel squares. Someone did not wash a red fabric block, and this fabric bled into the white patches, when grandson spilled his water. This hand quilted quilt by those ladies, is priceless. My question is, after soaking in the bathtub and dawn to set these two blocks, how would you dry a KING size quilt? In the dryer? Put in the washer to spin?

  51. Elizabeth M. says:

    My grandmother made me a beautiful red and white throw quilt for me that has great sentimental value. After about five years of use I wanted to give it a cleaning. I know she prewashes all her fabric, so with impunity I threw it into a fresh tub after a successful cleaning of another quilt of hers. Big mistake. Pink water and pink fabric immediately appeared. Unsure of what to do, I took it out of the water and laid it on the carpet to evaluate. The backing was the problem, so as the wet white unaffected areas touched the wet red, it was slowly turning pinker. This blog post was a godsend. It’s on it’s third soak in five and a half hours, and I think I’m getting out of the dangerous part. My grandmother, who has quilted all her life, and myself were very skeptical at first since dishsoap and boiling water sounds like the opposite of what you want to do to delicate fabric- so I tried it on a corner, and immediately saw the dye leaving the white sections. A woman at my local fabric store recommended lemon juice as well. If I could post a before picture I would. We’re still in this major surgery but I think things are looking bright!

  52. Cyndi Jacobson says:

    Thank you! Your method works! You saved a Christmas quilt I put a ton of work into, the reds bled into my shirtings. I was just sick! I used your method and it took about 14 hours but the reds faded. My quilt is saved! Thank you so much!!

  53. Samantha Shafer says:

    I have a white duvet cover and the embroidery bled when I washed it. I’m soaking it now but it is looking worse than when I started. Is that normal? Should I keep repeating? Will it eventually clear up?

  54. Pam Frazier says:

    Suzy! Thanks a ton. Your instructions on red dye and bleeds just saved a Christmas table runner for a party exchange. It’s drying now. I can finish it up just in time for the party. I do know to wash reds before I make a quilt with them. Apparently, I am forgetful.

  55. Shannon McMaster says:

    THANK YOU SUZY!!! I’am new to quilting and over the summer I did my first Christmas quilt. I did this from a quilt kit and didn’t prewash the fabric since it was thin and fell apart easily just sewing the block. I was devastated to see that the reds bleed into the whites….this trick worked. I do have a question though, when pre-washing should you pre-wash in hot water? I was always told to stay away from hot water with fabric since it causes it to shrink.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’m so glad this helped your bleed! Prewashing with hot water is not necessary, however can be a good preventative to future bleeding fabric. As you now know, hot water will loosen fabric dye. If you have fabric prone to bleeding, it’s preferable for it to happen during the prewashing stage. Aside from preventing fabric bleeds, the other purpose of prewashing is to give the fabric a chance to shrink before sewing with it. This will lessen the crinkle effect once quilted. You can read more about prewashing here –

  56. Trish says:

    Just had a very expensive, hand quilted quilt that was a commission piece bleed. I have over 300 hours in this quilt. I pre-washed the batiks til they ran clear. I washed the finished quilt in cold water with shout color catchers. After I lay the quilt on the drying surface, I noticed it was starting to bleed( dark turquoise into a super pale yellow). I have NEVER had a fabric do this. I even sprayed water on to the quilt on these two fabrics earlier to remove pen marks and it did not bleed. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m in process of Suzy’s removal method. Will let you know how it turned out. I may start using Retayne on all my fabric for safety.

  57. Nancy says:

    Dear Suzy
    I used your tub method but did not leave my quilt in more than 4 hours because my water kept draining out.
    After filling the tub three times I finally took it out because the water looked clear.
    Should I do it again only this time in a large bucket. It’s a lap quilt so it will fit.
    Also what temperature should the water be to add the Retayne?
    I read 140 degrees but am hesitant to do that because you said once to someone previously that it’s a good time to add the Retayne when doing a final rinse.
    Thank you!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Unless the bleed is better, I would keep working on the quilt. Retayne locks dye into fabric, so don’t use it unless your fabric bleed is fixed. If you still have a fabric bleed issue, keep soaking in really hot water and working specifically on the problem area with Dawn soap.

  58. Trish says:

    UPDATE: So I tried the Dawn process, and it did not remove all of the excess dye, but weirdly enough, the blue dye was mottled across the yellow fabric instead of being in the seam line like it was originally . It just looked like any other batik. On the back of the quilt (which was muslin) the blue dye stayed in the muslin but only in the location of the Blue fabric on the front, creating a design on the back. It was incredible and unbelievable. I presented the quilt to the client, explained what had happened. He thought it was beautiful and thought that the back side had a stained glass effect. He loved the quilt-even gave me a bonus!!! The process (which I did twice) worked for me -not in the way that I had hoped-but in an unusual way that created a one of a kind quilt that could never be duplicated. Thanks for putting this info out there!!

  59. Shannon says:

    I’m on soak number three in an hour due to the darkness of the water! My grandmother made a wonderful paper piece in navy gold and white, with red accents. The red bled on a cold wash with 10 COLOR CATCHERS but the kicker is it only bled onto one of the other fabrics (moda’s grunge In white.) super bizarre it’s midnight, so I’m stuck with Palmolive and my electric kettle for boiling water, but we might be out of the woods by this time tomorrow. If anything atleast the bleeding is in one section so it can pass as if it’s supposed to be there

  60. Lisa says:

    Hi Suzy,
    My mother in law made us a huge queen sized quilt. Our cat puked on it and so I put it in the washer in cold water on gentle cycle. I tried to fix this before finding your blog so I’m thinking I may be out of luck. The only information I found at that time was to use Clorox bleach which I did not do because I had no way to safely test the red patches as the other side of the quilt is grey and white (now pink, grey and white). I tried vinegar in cold water and that did not work. I then dried my quilt in the dryer. Is it too late to try your method now that the quilt has been put in the dryer? I’m afraid to do anything to this quilt because my mother in law put hours into it. Please advise.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hi Lisa, it sounds like red dye has bleed into the gray and white fabric in your quilt. Even though you have put it through the dryer, I still think you’ll be able to improve the situation, if not mostly fix it. Use this method and allow yourself three whole days of rinsing and repeating. Sometimes it takes a while for the dye to come out. Good luck!

  61. Glenda says:

    I’m looking for advice on a quilt that bled and then machine dried. OUCH!! I didn’t do it but have volunteered to help. I have a front loading washing machine and no bath tub or sink large enough to soak the quilt so I’m thinking about going to a laundromat. I have Synthropol and color catchers. Chances of success are limited given that the quilt was dried right after the quilt bled but I’d like to try. The quilt was to be a Quilts of Valor. I welcome your thoughts. Thank you

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I highly recommend finding a large tub or bucket so you can soak the quilt in hot soapy water. That will be the best thing for the bleed. Unfortunately putting it in a large washing machine won’t saturate the fabric enough to release the dye.

  62. Ramona says:

    I have a a wool coat that is over 60 years old that belonged to my grandmother that bleeds. Do you recommend this method for wool? I am having trouble finding information on wool.

  63. catbee says:

    I came upon your article here while looking for a solution to remove red dye bleed in a vintage piece of clothing I recently (GENTLY) washed but bled during the drying process.
    I don’t even quilt but I think that after reading your story, I have a tinge of PTSD myself (not to make jest about PTSD in general, folks). I have a friend who quilts…DANG! The amount of time and toiling that goes into making a quilt is unbelievable! So that is why, when I read your story, I nearly rolled up into a fetal position. Thanks for sharing your story so that the rest of us can be spared the agony. Oh, and please give your DH a thumbs up for the great shot of you the morning after….a picture speaks a thousand words.

  64. Beth Jerome says:

    You are HILARIOUS! What a find to come across your helpful and entertainingly EDUCATIONAL site!!
    Thank you Suzy!!
    PS CUTE baby boy!! Blessed you!

  65. Carol Gunn says:

    Another good reason to pre-wash is that warp and weft threads often shrink at a different rate. I chuck my fabric in the wash as soon as I get them home from the shop, so they are ready to go when I am.

  66. Stephanie Hironimus says:

    Dear Suzy, I’ve had a bleeding disaster which I too survived thanks to internet research (& Dawn dish detergent)… but have you heard anything about wide backing being different than other fabric? I used all Moda fabrics in this particular quilt… navy and cream precuts for the top & a navy wide backing. It was the backing that was the problem… I thought I read somewhere that wide backing is made or dyed differently… do you have any insight on this??? Thank you 🙂

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you too have experienced a bleed! I haven’t heard that about extra wide backing. Based on my knowledge of the fabric making process, I don’t know why it would be different, especially if it’s a 108″ wide that is part of a collection of 42″ wide. I would think the process would be the same so the colors would be the same.

      I have heard that identical fabric from different bolts can act differently once washed. I would still assume that the dye-setting process would be the same, but through anecdotal evidence it seems to be true.

  67. Ellen says:

    Suzy, Help. I have a California king size quilt made with batiks. The center has about a 36” square paper pieced hummingbird with flower. One of dark blue materials on hummingbird wing bled. I tried to soak just that part with Dawn in a large roasting pan and it then it started to run more so about 20” has bled but fairly light but very noticeable in focal point of quilt. I’m thinking I didn’t soak it long enough or didn’t agitate it enough or change the water enough. Will a king size quilt fit into the bathtub as it will be folded over on itself and will that cause dye smudges. Is there a way to prevent that. I’m also not sure how I will dry it as all our floors are hardwood. Can’t do outside as it’s winter. Suggestions? Can I just try to soak the affected square again? I did not dry in dryer but air dried with the bleed still on it.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this, Ellen! The annoying and tricky thing about bleeding fabric dye is that it will travel where the water travels, which is probably why you have a 20″ ring around the central fabric. The one way to get around that is to fully submerge the quilt. It will be heavy and cumbersome, but I think it’s what you should do at this point. Since you have hardwood flooring, line your floor, or even your bed, with towels and let it dry on those. Once the bleed is better, you can also take it to a laundromat and use one of those large dryers.

  68. Mary Glahn says:

    Great site! I’m working on a quilt that is dark red, dark royal blue & cream. I’d gotten the top 2/3 pieced when one of the red & cream stars bled when I starched & ironed it. None of the other stars of the exact same fabric bled when they were starched & ironed. Now I’m paranoid, so I washed & air-dried & ironed the red fabric for the remaining 1/3 of the top. Sounds like I’ll need to do your tub treatment once I get the quilt finished. I had been wondering about doing it before I went any further, so I’m glad I saw the comments about waiting.

  69. Kathy Thompson says:

    Bless you! I was anxious to get started and didn’t prewash my reds. Of course when I came to my senses and washed the top with color catchers it bled. This was scary, but worked wonderfully. Thanks so much.

  70. Kathleen says:

    My mom is in the midst of a quilting emergency. As a wedding present for my brother she’s finishing a snowball quilt she pieced together while she was pregnant with him 26 years ago… when she apparently forgot to prewash her fabrics. Now her snowballs are all pink after she put the quilt through the wash. The question is, does the bleeding removal process cause the colored fabrics to fade?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I have yet to hear about that being reported, however I would not leave a quilt to soak for more than 24 hours. If you are nervous about that, you can drain it often to check. I also think those Mr. Clean magic erasers could probably scrub it off. Those things really are magical 😉

  71. Rosie says:

    Made a baby quilt using high quality current fabrics in primary colors. Shop owner said not necessary to prewash as they are colorfast. Want y to o wash before I gift. What do you recommend? There is some white in the quilt also.

  72. Malena says:

    Hello Suzy, I am writing from Peru! I think I am leaving this post twice but I don’t see the previous one so here I go.
    I just washed a quilt that had red, cream, green and white fabrics in it and put two color catchers. The red didn’t bleed but the creams became pink. It doesnt look ugly but I would like the original colors. Would the same procedure work?
    Somebody told me about Clorox for colored fabrics!!!

    Thanks a lot

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hey Malena, if your cream became pink, it sounds like your red fabric bled into the water and then was absorbed by the cream fabric. This procedure should help to get rid of that, however, unfortunately, your cream might always be a little pink.

  73. Helen Foulkes says:

    I am in tears here…. my Mam’s quilts and my Nana’s quilts are usually stored in our airing cupboard. Yesterday we had two sudden fractures in a cold water copper pipe in our airing cupboard. The water soaked all my quilts and I am heartbroken as there are red/pink stains on my quilts (most are blue and white as that was my Mam’s favourite style). Last night I put the blue and white quilts in washing machine with a washing tablet and a scoop of Vanish on a “delicates/silk” 20oC wash and it hasn’t helped. I am probably too late to save my quilts so I wanted to share on this thread – CHECK YOUR AIRING CUPBOARDS!

    Moral of the story – don’t store quilts near water pipes. 🙁

  74. Cort says:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t prewash my reds on my red white and blue quilt. My whole backing is red. My quilt got a little wet and bled in 3 smaller spots. I found your thread through google and tried it. It was going good. I rinsed it multiple times with hot water and dawn for 10 minutes each until the water was clear and then filled it back up and let it sit for 2 hours. Came back to check it. My water was pink. So I drained it to refill. 🙁 when I drained it….. everything was very much stained pink. So now the whole quilt is red pink and blue. I want to cry so much. This was supposed to be a gift for my significant other’s family. This definitely didn’t work for me.

  75. Kathi says:

    Dear Suzy,
    I love your sense of humor. I just found your site and could spend all day learning about quilting.

    My lovely friend gave me a scrappy quilt pattern and pieces of materials form her stash for my first quilt; she even cut some of the fabric for me! what a blessing!
    I gave it to my daughter for Christmas and the green in it bled when she recently washed it. It has many different colors in it, do you think this method would make the others bleed?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      This method will most likely “loosen” other dyes that have the potential to also bleed causing those saturated fabrics to fade slightly. You could try spot cleaning the areas that have bled if you don’t want that to happen.

  76. Laura says:

    This post just saved my heart. I had a mostly red and black quilt that had white fabric with red roses on it that my grandmother made me. I had a complete panic when I took it out of the wash and the white was pink. You helped me save it. It looks good as new. Thank you for saving my heirloom!

  77. Renee says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! I foolishly washed a quilt my grandmother made about 45 years ago (I remember her appliqueing/quilting when I was a child). Back in the day, it had won several awards, was featured in magazines. Deep, dark colors on white. Ugh. Found this nice writeup, and it is SAVED! (I used really hot water and Dawn Ultra). I only had to soak it for a couple hours.

  78. R says:

    I used Open Nature (brand) concentrated dish washing liquid dye & fragrance free, along with some shout color catcher sheets. It worked for me. Open Nature has similar ingredients to dawn. I looked for dawn free & clear everywhere & could not find it. This also removed the heavy overly crusty starch, which ordinary laundry soap did not remove.

  79. Nila says:

    I know my red and cream quilt with wool batting will bleed when I wash it. Should I use retayne or synthropol in the first wash? I don’t think I can put the wool in hot water. So don’t want to use your Dawn method if I don’t have to. Help, please!

  80. Janeen says:

    By pre-wash, do you mean washing each fabric separately? I usually put 10-12 fabrics together and they come out fine. But today I put 10 fabrics through a warm rinse cycle and one fabric (I suspect the batik) bled onto two other pieces of fabric. I discovered this when I was ironing each piece. Would you recommend the dawn wash process or something different? Also, I’m reluctant to use the batik in the quilt. Would washing with a color catcher make it safe and would I have to use the color catcher every single time I wash the finished quilt?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Batiks are notorious for bleeding, especially the dark ones. It’s a good idea to use a color catcher in the wash the first two times you wash the fabric – first during the pre-wash (and yes, I wash a full load of fabric at once) and then again after the quilt is completely finished.

  81. Jacqui says:

    I am SOOO glad I found this page. I am a quilter, but also a collector of vintage embroidery. A recent purchase was an unfinished piece, which a friend kindly completed for me. Although never used, it did have stains, so I soaked it overnight. The stains came out, but the red embroidery threads bled into the cream coloured linen. I was understandably devastated… We don’t have Dawn here in Australia, so I just used the detergent I had, which cuts through grease very well. 10 minutes soaking in almost boiling water got rid of all the bleed. I’ve now got it sitting in a salt/vinegar solution so hopefully it won’t bleed again! THANK YOU!!

  82. Joyce Mccartney says:

    I have just completed red, white and black Labyrinth quilt. (80″ x 80″). While soaking a few areas to remove the marking lines, the red immediately ran into the white leaving several pink stains. The fabrics were pre-washed and I have never washed the quilt. However, the batting is wool so I’m wondering if I can use the hot water soak in the bath with Dawn method to improve the situation

  83. Jayne says:

    I am a sporadic quilter but decided to make one as a wedding gift for my son and his new bride since we couldn’t attend the wedding due to COVID. I’ve never had a problem so had to learn the hard way about pre-washing. The front is all pieced and will be fine, I think, but there’s quite a bit of white and lighter colors. The dark back that I selected bleeds onto my fingers as I sew. I’m not at a point where I can wash just the back now. So after reading this, do I understand correctly that I could use the hot water / Dawn / soak method to remove the excess backing color (which hasn’t bled yet) and then resoak with Retayne to fix everything? Or should I just soak the hotel thing with Retayne? I’m thinking that since the color rubs off on my fingers, it would be best to remove what I can before it bleeds anywhere. Any advice is welcome.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      The first thing you said is correct. First remove the excess dye. Once the water runs clear you can proceed as usual in a washing machine and use color catchers and/or Retayne.

  84. Jeannette Nicholson Hooper says:

    My turn. I just washed and dried (in the dryer) a quilt I was going to give to my son and new daughter-in-law this Christmas. In my case, I had pre-washed the fabric before piecing and when I did wash it after quilting, I used three color catchers. Therefore, when I proceeded to fold it and noticed blue streaks, I was horrified! It is now soaking in the tub. My question for you is this: after this process, do I have to rewash it in the washing machine or can I just air dry it and give as a gift? I would give them clear instructions to use color catchers anyway and wash in cold water.

  85. Janelle Poirier says:

    Sigh, I’m Very Discouraged. I finished my quilt on Dec 23 and washed it that night to give as a gift the following day. I threw about 6 colour catchers in with it, but to no avail. The red backing I used was from a destash and unknown origins – my Snowflake quilt is now pink. I’ve been changing the water and Dawn soap on it now every 12 hours since (it’s now the 29th, ha) and it still looks like someone was murdered in my tub, likely since it was the entire back of the quilt and not just a piece. Is there an end in sight? Are there bigger guns I can pull out (I also read about Dylon SOS Colour Run but fear it, too, might not be powerful enough. And it looks like Dawn is just as effective as Synthropol)? Or do I just need to trust in the process and ride out my hot water bill? Pray for me (and my quilt).

    • Avril says:

      My situation is the same as yours. The entire back of my quilt is fuchsia, and it has bled throughout most of the front. The whites are all pink ! I’ve just started soaking, and I’m really curious to know how you made out with yours…… Hopefully the soaking worked !

  86. Maggie says:

    This is fantastic information to be sharing BUT I do know the person who did the initial testing to hone in on this method. Out of fairness and honesty, you really should be including her name, Vicki Welch. Her work and subsequent publishing of this information was done years prior to this blog posting.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Hi Maggie, thanks for sharing more information about bleeding quilts! Quilters have been testing different methods of wet cleaning and treating bleeding as long as there have been quilts – everyone’s grandma had a favorite method, and everyone today does too! In fact, textile conservation specialists and textile scientists have probably spent the most time figuring out techniques for wet treatments of quilts. They’re definitely our unsung heroes. We are so fortunate to be part of a community where knowledge about quilting is passed down from generation to generation, including using dish soap, which has been a favorite technique of countless quilters since at least the 1970s!

  87. Dawn says:

    Thank you SO much for this information! My situation was perplexing: pre-washed my red fabric with Color Catchers (5! of them) plus a capful of the Synthrapol prior to cutting/sewing. It has white cats all over it, and it came out of the wash without bleeding, so I thought I was good to go! Imagine my distress when it was completed & I put it in the washer, again with both the Color Catchers & Synthrapol. And out it came with PINK CATS! Eeeeek! Washed it again the same way & the cats were a bit lighter, then read your method & did it this morning. First tub fill the water was dark red, so did it a 2nd time & left it to soak. In 2 hours, the cats were white, so put the quilt into the washer with Color Catchers, which did still come out pink. Put it into the dryer & it’s perfect! I’ll be supplying my granddaughter (the recipient) with plenty of the Color Catchers for when she needs to wash it. Thanks again!!

  88. Lynn Van Mierlo says:

    Help! I am soaking all the fabrics individually for a baby quilt I need to start sewing this week (white, gray, & various purples, some batiks). One of the red-violet batiks turned a sinkful of cool water light pink after soaking 1/2 hour. Can using salt or white vinegar in the soak water stabilize the color? Do I have to discard that fabric and just use the ones that do not bleed?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I would definitely wash that fabric until the water runs clear so you aren’t dealing with a bleed later. You can try using some Retayne in the wash to help lock in the dye.

  89. Cathy Hill says:

    So…..I have a vintage quilt top that may be a “ribbon quilt”, made out of fabric ribbon saved from funeral flowers back in the depression. This is just the top, no batting or backing yet. They did used a stabilizer fabric (light/cream color) on the back of each square. There is some bleed from the burgandys & browns on it that I would call vintage as well. This fabric is satiny / silky type fabric with a few cotton strips. I am now getting more comfortable with the idea of soaking it before it gets quilted after reading up on what to do with bleed, but still apprehensive with the idea of the hot water. I believe I will try cool to lukewarm water with dawn and see how it holds up to that and then I can move up to hot water. Are there any negatives to that? Also, can anyone provide more information on ribbon quilts so I can figure out if that is actually what I have? Cathy [email protected]

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Cathy! Your quilt sounds so interesting! You might want to consult a professional textile conservator since wet cleanings of vintage quilts that have condition issues like dye bleeds or weak fibers are best handled by them. You can search for one in your area on the American Institute for Conservation website. If your quilt is made of vintage ribbons (is it a crazy quilt?), it’s very possible it may not withstand a wet cleaning unless done by a trained conservator 🙂 Proceed with caution!

  90. Sam says:

    Thank you so so much 🙏🏼

    It wasn’t a quilt you just helped save but a my new cotton throw blanket. I literally came to this post in a panic and I a now at ease.

  91. Jeanne Anderson says:

    Suzy, I know I’m late to the party but I’ve never had fabric bleed even after prewash. But after I finished this quilt, flannel quilt, I washed with a color catcher. The color catcher was rust and there was still rust color in my quilt. I followed your instructions and it’s in the second tub fill. As I sit with sweat falling down my face and on my glasses, please tell me how to weigh down this quilt below the fill line. I’m flummoxed. My heavy stainless pots even float????!!’

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Jeanne! If you’re using pots or other containers that are full of air, just fill those up with water so they start to sink. Once there’s water in them, they’ll start to sink like a boat that takes on water! Good luck with your bleed 🙂

  92. Gayle Brown says:

    I had a little different problem with color bleed. I layer my rows of fabric on a bed partially pieced in my tiny cottage sewing space. My dog peed on the fabric and the one orange batik rain into the off white background. So I took the tows affected and put in the sink to get using out. Only the batik ran. I thought what do I do now? So I finished the quilt . No bath tub. Three months later took to winter home and now it is soaking in our tub. Hope this works!

    • Gayle Brown says:

      Outcome of my fabric bleed. It was only one fabric in three areas on the quilt. I soaked in tub with dawn and hot water I kept adding to all day. After 12 hours took out of tub, wrung the best I could and put in a washing machine. On light with cold water. Happy to report bleed is gone! You all saved my quilt! Thank you Suzy!

  93. Marybeth says:

    Thank you so much for this tip. I used it to remove dye from new black sweats that are ruining my manicure & leaving dye in my hands and legs. I soaked them with the dish soap and it immediately started bleeding, deep purple water! I would never have thought of using dish soap! Thanks again!

  94. Marti says:

    THANK YOU!! I spent hours creating Christmas table runners with appliques. I DID prewash my red backing fabric, but when I washed them, they bled all over the place! Had it not been for this post I never would have been able to save them. This was very valuable advice. THANK YOU!

  95. KalicoSunflower says:

    I’ll join the party with another success story. I’m not even done yet, but I can already see that it is going to work. For me, it’s not a large quilt but a pair of decorative Christmas bath towels that are bright red, each with a quilted square appliqued on it. The quilt square has a white background with red and green pieces. I used them every year for probably 5 years and since they were only on display for a few weeks at a time, I did not wash them. I just shook them out, folded them, and sealed them up for storage. Well, one year I decided it was time to give them a wash. The white fabric and the white stitching all turned pink. Not just a tinge….totally obviously seriously PINK. I figured they were done-for, but I loved them and I didn’t want to toss them out. I thought maybe someday I’d figure out a way to salvage them. I dried them and put them away. I don’t know if I air dried them or put them in the dryer….my gut would be to air dry them, but I was so frustrated and assumed they were toast, so who knows. That was probably 3 years ago. I look at them every year and put them back in the box. Well, this time I decided that they either have to be fixed or thrown out. I googled, found this post, and set up a small version of the bathtub scene in a pot on my stove. Got the water super hot, added soap, and stuck the quilted part in the water. INSTANTLY it was deep red. But after only 10-15 minutes I checked the quilted part, and sure enough….the color is coming out! Further testing confirmed that the red is coming from the towels, not the red fabric on the quilt squares. So I am soaking each towel in its own mondo-sized canning pot on the stove and will keep soaking and rinsing until they are clear. It may take days, but I BELIEVE!

  96. Barbara says:

    Thank you Suzy, your guidelines saved my beautiful Christmas quilt. My Mom made me a queen sized quilt, which I previously machine washed before as she always pre-washes her fabric. However, not sure what happened this time, but the red bled onto the off-white, and turned it pink… my heart sank when I removed from the washing machine. It’s now been day 3 and have been regularly noticing less red/pink water…I continued to change the water using boiling water. I ordered the product you recommended, which will arrive tomorrow (by the quickest delivery) and used a plant based dish soap which has helped in the meantime. I am will with gratitude that I found your site…THANK YOU! Wishing you a blessed and Merry Christmas!

  97. Tracy says:

    This absolutely saved me. I bought this beautiful dark blue batik from a quilt shop, and I even asked: Do I need to worry about this bleeding? No, no, never, never, I was told. Still, I should’ve pre-washed! But I did not.

    Cut to me taking my quilted pieces out of the washing machine and it all looked like some summer camp tie-dye project gone horribly wrong. (The opposite side of the quilt was a cream color, or at least, it had been, before it went in the washer…) I had several Color Catchers in the load, but that didn’t seem to make a difference.

    I panicked. I sprayed Oxy-clean over the whole thing. I tried Tide stain remover. I washed it again. Nada.

    Then I found this post and holy moly, after just 20 minutes in the tub with Dawn, it was completely fixed.

  98. Cathy Isaacs says:

    Thank you so much for your post! I made my grandson an ABC quilt the year he was born (he’s 5 now). It’s mostly just hung on the back of the baby bed all this time. I discovered yesterday that his baby brother threw up on it. I put the soiled part in the sink, checked it a few minutes later and, of course, it had bled. I used your method and it totally worked! I’ve been pre-washing for the last couple of year, but hadn’t done it. I definitely will from now on and will tell all my quilting friends!

  99. Ellen Hartinger says:

    Question: Will this also work on fabrics that have been pre-washed? I pre-washed the dark green backing for my nephew’s HS Graduation quilt – prior to making my quilt sandwish. I spent quite some time finishing the quilting, and washed the quilt – WITH SEVERAL color catchers – but the green has altered my light cream background to a kind of dirty/paley/greeny cream. (My son said it looks antique now!). In any case, before I make the situation worse, should I go ahead and try this….? Or does anyone have any other suggestions?

    • Suzy Williams says:

      Hmmm…Maybe first wash the quilt one more time in your machine using hot water, gentle detergent, and more color catchers. If that still doesn’t work, and you really don’t like its appearance, you can try more extreme measures. Good luck!

  100. michaelene23 says:

    Help! I just washed and dried a t-shirt quilt. I never would have thought the T-shirts would bleed, but they did. Do you think there is hope since I dried it already?

    • Catalina Urias says:

      There is always hope! With a little luck, the bleeds can be improved, if not completely fixed! Use this method and give yourself time! 2-3 days of rinsing and repeating. Sometimes it takes a while for the dye to come out. Good luck!

  101. Liz says:

    Thank you!! This is working for me now- but with cold water.

    I bought a vintage skirt – it has a rust, orange and black print in a white ground. Mostly cotton. I thought nothing of throwing in the washing machine on a cold delicate cycle. Hung it to dry- came back 2 days later to find dark blue marks all over a white shirt hanging next to it and dark blue marks all over the skirt! It was dry…thought it was ruined. A day later I found this post.

    I was skeptical. I used my farmhouse style kitchen sink and cold tap water so as not to damage any non-cotton fibers. When I put the skirt into the water, the bleeding got even worse. I put dawn directly on those areas and lightly swiped over to suds it up in the water. Went to bed with it still stained and resting in grey water.

    Lo and behold this morning…it’s like it never even happened! I’ve changed the water a couple more times and am giving it another long soak. The water still isn’t clear, though it’s now very light gray and I can’t see any more bleeding.

    Does the water have to be completely clear before it is safe to dry? I don’t have retayne- is that a must before drying it and ever washing it again (by hand only now) or should I stick to dry cleaning it?

    • Catalina Urias says:

      Hi Liz! It may be worth it to do another soak to get the water a little clearer, aka less dye likely to be released when you wash the skirt. You don’t absolutely need Retayne but it might be a good idea to wash your skirt alone (in cold water) and throw in some color catchers for good measure. Good luck! 🙂

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