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Customer concerns about washing fabric- To wash or not to wash is the question.

April 22, 2008

The Fabric Maverick is taking a break today. She is working on something for her posse. Customer Service does a great job of fielding questions about fabric problems.  Every once in a while they request assistance on a question.  The Fabric Maverick is not the only person who can answer these issues.

The customer has this question: I have a quilt I bought with beautiful colors of red, green and white. I have washed the quilt and the reds have bled into the white.  What can I do?

I wished the lady had asked before she washed the quilt.  At this point, I know of nothing that will remove the red dye from the white.  I have heard from several customers that Carbona Dye Magnets are great in grabbing the dye and not depositing in onto lighter colored fabrics. This will prevent any further dye bleeding.

Back to the beginning...If you have a quilt that you did not receive washing instructions for you want to check for color fastness..  A quick way is to take a wet white cloth or paper towel and rub it across the surface of the fabric. If color comes off, it has the potential of bleeding.  You may need to dry clean.

Quilting fabrics that have vivid colors such as reds and purples should be tested for dye fastness. Here are the steps to performing a "Bleed Test"

  1. Cut a small piece of the fabric and submerge in soapy water. Water should be the same temperature as you will normally wash fabric.
  2. The fabric should sit submerged for 30 minutes.  If dye has discolored the water, then there is a potential to damage other fabrics.
  3. If the water is clear, then try one more test to make sure the color will not transfer to other fabric.  Remove fabric from soapy water. Do not rinse.  Lay the fabric on a white paper towel. Wait for a while and check to see if any dye has transferred to the paper towel. If it has, then there is a chance the dye will transfer to other fabrics.
  4. Rinse out the fabric and let it dry. If it bled the first, perform the test again and see if it bleeds again. If it does, it is not a good candidate for a quilt.

You may have your heart set on using this fabric. You can try soaking the fabric in white vinegar or purchase a commercial dye fixative. Then perform the bleed test again. This may sound like a lot of work, but what is more heartbreaking than making a quilt and have the fabric bleed onto the other fabrics.

General rules of fabric preparation for all fabrics:

1. If you want to wash a fabric and it says dry clean, always test a sample to see how the fabric reacts. Does the fabric shrink? Does the color fade? Is the finish changed? Then you should have the fabric dry cleaned.

2. Do not wash a whole 10 yards of fabric to find that you cannot wash it- test a sample.

3. Do not apply laundry detergent directly to fabric. This may cause fabric to discolor. Detergent should be mixed with water before the fabric is added.  This also applies to clothes.

4. Do not use a fabric softener sheet in the dryer with the fabric. Fabric softener sheets may deposit spots on the fabric because they are usually petroleum based.

5. Do not assume because a fabric is 100% cotton that it is washable.  Finishes have been applied to Home Decor fabrics to give them that nice finish.

I hope that these tips will prevent any unhappy surprises in your sewing.

Now, don't you think I did as well as the Fabric Maverick?

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What has worked for me in the past when this kind of color bleed has happened is to wash the item in ammonia. Warm to hot water in the washing machine. Add about 1 Cup of regular household ammonia. It's an old trick my mother-in-law taught me. It's never failed me. I don't know how or why it works, but the ammonia takes the bled over dye off. The first time I did this was on a striped romper my daughter had when she was a baby. It was hot pink and white stripes. The hot pink bled onto the white stripes. I had washed and dried the romper several times since it had bled like that; it was a play outfit for a 1 year old. My DMIL said try this. So I did and viola!!! We were once again back to hot pink and white stripes!! ;)

I ALWAYS prewash fabrics before I sew and this is never a problem on garments I make. It has always only happened on RTW garments. Guess that tells us who pre -washes and who doesn't.

I wanted to ask a question and am hoping you can tell me....does natural gas discolor fabric rolled on cardboard bolts? I have a quilt shop and my fabrics are discoloring along the front and back edges of the bolts. It looks like fading from the sun/lights but the fading is also on the back side and all the way through the entire bolt to the cardboard. My fabrics are not near the windows. I have experienced this many years ago when I had a small shop using propane heat and have since moved and this shop also has natural gas heat. I am thinking right now of moving all my fabrics (worth $1000's) into storage. Please Help! Thanks!

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This page contains a single entry by published on April 22, 2008 8:30 AM.

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