Hello friends! Today we’re discussing the sad topic of fabric bleed. It’s happened to the best of us and I’m sharing my tips on how to prevent it and how to fix it if it happens to you!

Watch my video on how I fixed my Winterberry quilt and restored it back to white!

Let’s start off by talking about how we can prevent this travesty from happening.

Prevention Tips:

Tip #1: Pre-wash your fabrics. If you have a questionable fabric on hand (reds, browns, navy’s I’m talking to you) you may want to pre-wash it. This will release any residual dye that might otherwise be absorbed into your finished quilt, and possibly save you a lot of heartache in the end. Keep in mind that pre-washing will also cause your fabric to shrink a bit, so you’ll also want to pre-wash the other fabrics you’re planning to use in your project, I just wouldn’t pre-wash them together if you get my drift.

Now I have to confess that I NEVER pre-wash my fabric for quilting because I prefer how it feels straight off of the bolt. It’s nice and smooth and I just feel like it’s easier to get crisp accurate cuts. I guess I just like living on the edge. So I mean, you do you.

Tip #2: Purchase quality materials. While I normally purchase quilting fabric, I decided to save a few bucks on my Winterberry quilt. I needed some solid fabric and so I purchased a fairly inexpensive solid red from a big box store, which shall remain unnamed. I saved about $10-$15. I do NOT recommend this, I would gladly have paid a few more dollars so that my quilt remained beautiful and white. Instead I ended up crying over my bathtub one night as I watched the hot pink water swirl all around my beloved quilt.

So take it from me, buy decent quality fabrics. I’ve never had a quilt bleed like this before, and I always do high contrast quilts typically with a white background. So, learn from my mistakes and save yourself and your quilt.

Tip #3: Wash your quilts in cool water and always include a color catcher if they are high contrast like mine. This method has worked for me for years and I’ve literally never had a quilt bleed before! But then again, I always purchase better quality quilting fabric, except this time….sigh…, and obviously the bleed that came out of this lower quality fabric was just too much for my poor little color catcher to handle.

Now let’s talk about how to fix fabric that has bled.

I’m in the “no quilt left behind” camp. So when I pulled my red and white Winterberry quilt out of the wash and saw all of the horrific hot pink splotches all over my white fabric, I did what any normal person would do and I cried. After that I got mad. And after that I got determined. And let’s just say I wasn’t about to give up on her! I immediately did some research and found a method that I think worked quite well.

I recommend doing this process in your bath tub. You’re going to need a LOT of water, and your washing machine just can’t handle that. So forgo your spa time and give up your tub, your quilt needs it more than you do!

  • Step 1: Fill a bathtub with HOT water. Normally I avoid hot water on my quilts, however in this case we actually WANT the fabric dye to release from the quilt.
  • Step 2: Dissolve about 1 cup of Dawn Dish Soap. I prefer ultra pure, but I was out, so I just used the regular kind.
  • Step 3: Completely submerge your quilt and swish it around. A LOT.
  • Step 4: Let your quilt soak for 10-12 hours, or overnight.
  • Step 5: Rinse and repeat steps 1-4 until the water runs clear. Mine took about 5 soak cycles.
  • Step 6: Use Synthrapol if the dawn isn’t doing the trick!
  • Step 7: Wash in cool water on gentle cycle and tumble dry low.

Unfortunately I was so distraught that I didn’t take a picture of my quilt at the start of this process. But just imagine a bunch of horrible hot pink splotches all over my lovely white. Here’s a picture of my quilt after the first soak, as you can see the white fabric is very pink, but the first soak did get rid of the hot pink splotches, so that gave me hope.

I mean just look at all of the dye that came out in during the first soak. I can’t even believe it!

I mean seriously.

That water is so pink, I just can’t even.

But with each soak it got lighter and lighter and so did my white background fabric. Interestingly enough, the white faux fur I used on the backing didn’t take the dye at all. It stayed super white throughout this process.

Just keep at it, remember all of that hard work you put into your quilt. Don’t let all of that go to waste, get in there and do your part to save her! After all she deserves to shine!

And here is my quilt after about five soaking cycles. I kept at it until my water ran clear and then did a couple more for good measure. I also did two rinses that were just plain water to help get some of the soap out before putting it back into my machine.

Here’s an up close picture, you can see the pink splotches are mostly gone, and the background fabric is back to a nice creamy white.

And that’s it friends! Just a little bit of time, about three days, and some hard work swishing and swirling my quilt in the bathtub, and thankfully that pesky pink was gone! I was so happy to see that the dawn really did the trick. My quilt does have a very slight pink tint to the white if you look very close, but it is 1000 times better than when I started!

And I’m so happy that all of that hard work I put into my quilt wasn’t wasted on cheap fabric. Now, I know I’ve really harped on the “cheap” fabric bit, but I do want to say that I have heard of higher quality fabrics bleeding as well. I’ve never had that happen with my fabrics, but I still think that a little prevention will go a long way to keeping your quilts happy and the right color. And by right color, I mean white. Because that’s pretty much what I use for all of my backgrounds, and I want my whites to stay that way.

So those are my tips for preventing and fixing fabric bleed. I hope they’ve helped you out, and remember, don’t give up on your quilt! Just a little bit of love can salvage even the pinkest of bleeds!


  1. Hi! My mom crocheted some doilies that have red and green in the center and white all around. The doilies were washed by hand and the red bled all over the white. Do you think this technique would work on the doilies. Thank you

  2. Erica,

    Thank you so much for this information. The quilt I use in the camper ended up staying in the washer overnight. Usually I pull it immediately. And Yes, I used color catchers. When it was pulled from the washer, the reds had run. This quilt has been washed before, plus the fabric pieces had been washed. Sigh. . . I will be trying this method soon. I am encouraged by how good yours looks. Thank you again.


  3. Erica, thank you for your tip on soaking to remove the bleeding. I have always been careful with reds, browns, and some dark greens, but never thought of navy blue. I used a remnant I had of a heavier weight broadcloth to use as a backing on a picnic quilt I am making for a silent auction item for fundraiser at work. GRRRR. It seems to be working. I did wash it with color catchers, but……

  4. Erica, Will this method work if the quilt has been in the dryer? I made a Fourth of July quilt that bled a lot. I washed it with 4 or 5 color catchers. I bought the red backing from a quilt store (paid premium price) but it still faded so much! It’s been over a year since it’s been washed and dried. Yet, every time we use it I grieve the bleeding you can still see.

  5. Thank you for posting this! I tried your method of soaking in Dawn Dish Soap and had the best results. The bleeding faded to “so faint only I know it’s there”. I was thrilled and will definitely use this technique again in the future should I have the misfortune to need it!

  6. I always pre-wash all my fabric before cutting. I wanted to make a red and white quilt. After washing the reds, I had a big problem. My mixed prints with red and white now looked like pink and red. Urrrg. I tried your method and now my prints look red and white again. It took only about an hour with 3 washing in the tub, lots of water for rinsing and Dawn soap but what a relief. I’m so glad they were not sewn into my quilt before I washed them. The red and white fabric was of the cheaper variety and also I have a front end washer the is HE and doesn’t use a lot of water which might have contributed to my problem.

    I’m going to also try to set the color with vinegar and salt.

    Thanks, again.

  7. I see where you have stressed buying quality fabric from a quilt store. I have bought fabric from all places and have had them bleed, (I just loved on fabric and I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding and it was from a well known Canadian quilt shop). I am a great believer in prewashing just for that reason. I start with checking them in a large gallon jug in the hottest water you can get from the tap and vinegar. If I can’t get the water to run clear I’ll use Retayne to set the dye. I also set precuts. Very carefully mind you. The only fabric I don’t do this with are small scraps I get from my quilting friends (I will wash using color catchers with them) but I have a friend who washes them too. Thank you for sharing this as I have a quilt my mom made and it ran. Going to see what happens.


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