How to fix fabric bleeding on clothes

Updated November 22, 2016

A brightly coloured item of clothing can become a dark spot in the laundry when the dyes bleed onto your other clothes in the wash. To fix fabric bleeding on clothes, you need to single out the item responsible for the bleeding and treat it, either individually or with other bleeding clothes to stop the dye from running. After the dye is fixed, the fabric shouldn't bleed again, leaving the rest of your clothes safe from bleeding colours.

Avoiding dye bleeding

Presoak items individually or together in 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of water mixed with either 130 g (1 cup) salt or 118 ml (1/2 cup vinegar). Push the clothes down into the mixture until totally submerged. Leave the items to soak for 30 to 60 minutes.

Rinse the clothing in cold water to remove any vinegar or salt residue. Wash the clothes in your machine using washing powder and cold water.

Check the water as it leaves the spin cycle of the washer to be sure it runs clear. If there is a colour tint to the water, then the clothes did not fix. Repeat treating the clothes with vinegar or salt and wash until the water runs clear.

Dry the clothing on a heat setting suitable for the type of material. Don't dry any clothes that are still bleeding dye. Only dry the clothing after you're certain the bleeding is fixed and it is not running colour any longer.

What to do after bleeding

Separate out any clothes from the wash that have been bled on as soon as you notice the problem. If possible, don't dry any of the clothes that have had dye transferred onto them.

Fill the washer with enough hot water to cover the amount of mistakenly dyed clothes. Add 237 ml (1 cup) of colour safe bleach to the water. Use regular chlorine bleach only if the clothes you're treating are all white.

Add in the amount of detergent necessary for the clothes you need to treat. Add in the dyed clothes. Set the machine to wash with high agitation and allow it to wash and fully rinse the clothes with hot water.

Inspect the clothes to be sure the dye has been removed and rinsed away. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 if any of the clothes still have transferred dye on them. Dry the clothes which are now back to normal as recommended on the tag.


Add a dye magnet sheet to mixed colour wash loads if you don't know which item is responsible for the bleeding. Run the laundry as normal to allow the sheet to grab any dyes from within the water. A good rule of thumb is to separate coloured clothing from lights to avoid dye transfer until you're sure the coloured clothing doesn't run. Wash clothes that bleed in cold water separately to minimise dye being released on other clothing.

Things You'll Need

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Table salt
  • Washing powder
  • Colour safe "all fabric" bleach or chlorine bleach
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