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Bright Ideas · How To Stop Denim Dye From Bleeding
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How To Stop Denim Dye From Bleeding

Is there anything better than finding a great-looking pair of jeans that fits just right? It’s like finding the Holy Grail. We love denim jeans because they’re low-maintenance, comfortable, and versatile. But even when you think you’ve found the pair of your dreams, there’s one “wild card” factor with the potential to cause you some major headaches – colorfastness.

I personally don’t usually stop to consider how colorfast a pair of jeans is before I buy them, but I probably should. I’ve pulled on a number of new pairs of jeans, and later discovered that my hands have turned blue from rubbing up against the denim. Not only does “bleeding” dye have the potential to stain your other clothes, but can also cause the overall color of your jeans to fade rapidly. But by taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that your jeans will look great for a long time to come.

Related: 3 Surprising Reasons You Should Always Wash New Clothes

Test for Colorfastness

There’s an easy way to test for color-fastness when shopping for a new pair of jeans, or when you bring a new pair home. Just rub a white piece of paper agains the denim. If the paper comes away with any discoloration, that’s a good sign that you’ll end up with blue residue everywhere if you wear them immediately!

Setting Denim Dye

A vinegar soak can help “set” the dye of dark denim. Fill a bucket with cold water and add a cup of white vinegar. Turn your jeans inside out, and submerge them in the bucket for at least an hour, up to overnight.

After soaking, place the item in your washing machine. Add either a cup of vinegar, or the recommended amount of a detergent formulated for dark clothing. Wash the jeans with on the coldest water setting, then allow them to air dry.

General Tips for Washing Dark Denim

  • Use a color-catcher each time you wash your denim. Color-catcher sheets trap loose dyes that get suspended in the wash water. They don’t stop your jeans from fading, but they can help keep the denim dye from staining other clothes.

Read More: Make Your Own Laundry Color Catchers

  • The washing process involves a lot of friction against your denim, and friction can lead to color-loss. You can reduce problematic friction by turning your jeans inside-out before each wash.

  • Another way to reduce washing machine friction is to select a shorter or gentler wash cycle than you typically use.
  • Always wash your denim in cold water. Hot water opens up the fibers in your denim, where color can be washed away. Cold water helps the fibers stay closed, trapping the dye inside. Plus, washing in cold water can extend the life of all of your clothes, not just your jeans.

  • Because heat promotes color loss, it’s also a good practice to air dry your denim. Your dryer may be faster, but air-drying will keep your denim looking newer, longer.

Desparate Denim Measures

Sometimes you end up with a pair of jeans that seems determined to stain everything you own, even after multiple washes. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you may want to try washing them in HOT water.

I know, I know, I just barely explained why hot water is not good for denim. But if your jeans are refusing to cooperate, it may be a good “last-resort option.” The hot water will help remove some of the dye from the exterior fibers of the jeans. Yes, they’ll probably fade a bit (and may even shrink some), but at least they’ll stop turning everything blue.

Accepting Troublesome Denim

In rare cases, whether because of the dyeing process, the dye itself, or some other variable, denim will bleed no matter what you do. At this point, you have two options. You can decide these jeans aren’t worth the trouble and replace them, or learn to live with them.

If you’re really attached to a permanently troublesome pair of jeans and are determined to keep wearing them, avoid wearing them with light-colored items. That includes light-colored boots, tops, purses, jackets, etc. And definitely avoid sitting on lightly-colored furniture!


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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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