Bleeding Dyes

At our January meeting there was interest in products to address bleeding of dyes in fabric. This site gives a good description of the difference between Synthropol and Retayne and when to use them:

This is a dyeing site that goes into more technical detail and recommendations for excess dye removal:

There is some concern about ingredients in Synthropol being carcinogenic. Dharma Trading has come out with an alternative:

In all cases it seems that:

  • these products work on some dyes and not others so it is important to test your fabric
  • hot water is the key to success
  • fabrics should be treated before being sewn into a project
  • on a completed quilt that has bled these products can help if used in the correct order

With the move worldwide to using dyes that are less toxic to our environment and therefore more likely to bleed, it may be better to err on the side of caution and wash all fabric before using it in a project that will be washed. For fabrics that have saturated colour—i.e. red, purple, navy—once washed in hot water without detergent it may be prudent to use a fixative such as Retayne to further reduce the likelihood of dye running and ruining your quilted item.

Colour Catchers are also a handy product to throw in the wash. While there is no guarantee they will prevent a bleed completely, they can mitigate the damage and in some cases prevent it entirely. This site has a recipe for making your own colour catchers using washing soda ( or you can buy colour catchers in the laundry section of your grocery store.

Dianne Ritter