Since I posted about my process for handling bleeding fabrics I've had some feedback and want to share some of the questions. So we'll call this the FAQ and I'll update it over time as I get more questions and results. I'll also share any results that you want to send me with before and after photos. I'll take the good and the bad! If the process didn't work we will try to analyze it and see why.
- Can I use other detergents? You can use any detergent that you want. I shared the specific products that I tested to explaining the specific results that I got. If you are using some other detergent you should do some testing before you use it on a quilt. If you have scraps of the fabrics in your quilt (or project) you can snip some swatches and soak them in a sink or bucket to see how the fabrics react with your detergent and water.
- Do you wash all of your quilts like this? I don't do this process unless I've had a problem. I normally wash my quilts in the washing machine with warm water and only do this soak if that wash resulted in fabrics bleeding.
- Does the water matter? Probably but I could only test with my water. Maybe as I travel around I will create some swatch sets that I can take with me to test. My water is well water that goes through a softening system. If you have hard water you can get Calgon or some other softener to add to your water before soaking.
- Will this work on thread that runs too? As long as the thread is also cotton you can use this method. Check out Carole K's results below.
- What about fabric of other fiber content? I haven't tested soaking any other fabric in really hot water for 12 hours. I expect that linen would be OK. Wool might felt and silk is a totally different thing all together. I'm not sure that the hot water would be good for silk. Before you try this on something made of silk you really need to test and I would recommend testing with cool water on silk instead of hot.
- When you say soaking in very hot water for 12 hours, do you keep changing the water to keep it hot? No, I just start with it hot and let it cool naturally. I think the hot water encourages the dye to release faster.
- How much Dawn do I use if I am doing the soak in the washing machine? It all depends on your water. You need enough soap to get a good amount of suds. Hard water takes more. When I am doing a big quilt in the bathtub I'll use at least 1/4 cup. That might be overkill but I'd rather do more rinsing than not have enough soap. For the washing machine you will just need to make the judgement based on your washer and how hard your water is. Use the amount of laundry detergent as a general guideline.
- Okay, but what do you do if you discover a "bleeder" while the quilt is in progress? I used two commercial red batik fabrics in an applique project that I've been working on for 10 months, and I just realized that the batiks bled dye onto other fabrics when I prewashed them initially (I put all the reds through the wash together, and only just now did I notice that the white selvages on the commercial prints turned pink when I washed them with the batiks). I don't feel like I could soak or wash the individual blocks or an assembled but unquilted top without creating new problems of stretching, distortion, and fraying. If I continue as planned and wait until the project is quilted and bound, then what would my best option for dealing with the dye problem be?
I'd recommend that you soak one block in the sink just to see how the red fabric is going to respond. Or make a small sample block to test with. Start right away with hot water and a squirt of Dawn if you are doing one block in a sink. I have a friend who does applique and she soaks her blocks as she finished them. She treats them gently (no wringing) and dries them flat and it works great for her. If you have scraps you will really benefit from being able to do some testing. If the Dawn doesn't work try another detergent on another sample.If you do not want to soak the individual blocks or the unquilted to then do the test so you will know what works when the quilt is done. Start the soak with hot water. You can use the Dawn in a standard washing machine but I just don't think you get enough water for a large quilt. It would be fine in a standard washer for a lap quilt but a queen or larger needs more water.
Can I use my HE washer? A HE washer isn't going to work at all. You can't get enough water in one of those to soak anything well. The volume of water is really important.
Carole's placemat had been washed, dried and ironed. The thread that ran is rayon. She soaked it using a detergent for silk and wool. All of the excess dye was removed after the first wash. She says that the red fabric did fade some also.
Meredyth pretreated the bleed spots with some OxyClean and then did the soap for about 8 hours. She reports that all of the dye bleeding is gone.