Does Polyester Bleed?

Do you ever get a stain on your shirt and wonder how to get it out? Chances are, if the stain is oil-based, such as from food or lotion, you can treat it with laundry detergent. But what if the stain is polyester? Will laundry detergent help remove it, or will it make the problem worse? Keep reading to find out!

Yes. Polyester, like all fabrics, will bleed when they are washed or wetted if the water is not treated with color-safe bleach. And like most fabrics, polyester is colorfast when it has been treated with color-safe bleach.

If you are making a project with these fabrics, it is best to prewash them before you start sewing. Also, do not mix your dark fabrics with your light ones in your washer or dryer—always wash dark and lights separately.

How Do You Know if Clothes Will Bleed?

Sometimes you may not know if your fabric will bleed. For example, most cotton prints do not bleed. But what about a new print on polyester? It’s always wise to test the fabric before committing yourself to it for a project.

To test your fabric:

Fill a sink or bucket with cool water and several drops of liquid detergent; Use an old towel or scrap piece of material (cotton) and wet it in the soapy water; Rub the damp cloth over the wrong side of the fabric—do NOT rub hard; Rinse out your sink container and wet that scrap of material again; Rub it over the right side of the fabric – once again, don’t rub hard; Allow this piece to thoroughly dry.

When the piece is dry, check it for signs of color transfer. If you see any colors on your towel or other material, do NOT use that fabric for your project because when washed, this color will bleed and ruin your entire project.

If you test a brand-new garment before wearing it and there’s no bleeding, then you can probably safely assume that that same dye lot won’t “bleed” when washing the finished quilt. However, if at all possible try to purchase enough fabric yardage to finish your project without interruption should you need more yardage of the same dye lot in order to complete your quilt. This way you’ll know exactly how much additional fabric you may need to purchase should this be required.

If you’re uncertain about fabric, it’s best to test the colorfastness before you start cutting out your pattern pieces. If it bleeds, then you can either use a different fabric or prewash that particular piece of material in hot water and Synthrapol (or another brand of laundry detergent containing a dye-blocking agent) before using it in your project.

How to Prevent Polyester From Bleeding

Here are some recommendations for preventing polyester from bleeding when washing or laundering your finished project:

  1. Use a gentle, cool cycle.
  2. Use as little detergent as possible to get the job done. And remember, even if no color bleeds onto your other clothes in the wash load, there will still be some amount of dye left behind on the fabric.
  3. Consider washing and drying your project separately from other laundry items so the dye is not transferred to lighter color fabrics.
  4. If you’ve dyed your own fabric, use a commercial laundry agent such as Synthrapol (or another brand containing a dye-blocking agent) when laundering your project to prevent bleeding.
  5. Rinse your finished quilt in cold water before drying to remove any excess soap or detergent residue that may remain on the fabric after washing and rinsing it. This will help keep colors from running during the next washload.
  6. Let polyester dry at room temperature rather than exposing it to high heat—this can cause colors to fade prematurely over time, especially if you are drying the piece outside or in direct sunlight for an extended period of time rather than indoors.
  7. Use a “color catcher” sheet in your dryer to catch loose dye that may come off the fabric during the drying process—especially if you are drying your quilt outdoors or someplace where color bleeding would be unsightly.
  8. To remove any excess lint from fabrics, include a quarter cup of white vinegar with your laundry detergent along with the usual amount of liquid softener when doing wash loads containing polyester fabrics. This will prevent lint transfer onto lighter colored fabrics and give you less fuzz to contend with on your finished project.
  9. Don’t overload your washer so it won’t spin out all of its water before beginning the wash cycle, which can to excessive shrinking or wrinkling of your project.
  10. Wash dark pieced border scraps in hot water to prevent excess dye running onto lighter colored fabrics, or use a color catcher sheet to catch all the loose dye that runs off while washing this piece separately from other fabric materials.
  11. Rinse any yards of fabric you are considering purchasing to make sure there’s no excess dye present before cutting out pattern pieces—this will cut down on excessive bleeding should you choose to purchase it for your quilt top or backing material.
  12. Use synthetic fiber batting rather than cotton because polyester fibers “wick” moisture away from the body during hot weather conditions and also dry faster after laundering, so if there is any excess dye left on finished projects made with these batting materials, it will dry on the fibers rather than having the chance to run during subsequent laundering procedures.


Polyester is a synthetic fiber so it should not bleed while being laundered. However, there are certain steps you can take to prevent this from happening.

By following these guidelines, you’ll have greater assurance of producing an attractive project without worrying about color bleeding should your top start making other clothes in the wash turn pink!

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