Why Do Colours Run In The Wash?

Load your washing machine with clothes, take them out to dry, iron and put away, repeat. We all have to wash our clothes and go through this thankless task so why not at least try to make the task a little easier. One of the most annoying things is having colours run in the wash whilst in the washing machine.

What Causes Colours To Run

Firstly, lets understand the reasons why colours run to begin with so that we can understand the solutions. Top reasons why colours run:

  • manufacturers often use cheap dyes or use ineffective drying techniques
  • the dyes could be unstable or not permanently set onto the fabric
  • other times manufacturers deliberately over dye clothes so that they appear brighter, vibrant, and more appealing in the shops
  • the most notorious colours for running are reds and oranges so beware of these in particular!

Housework: young woman doing laundry – putting colorful garments into the washing machine

Avoid Buying Clothes With Greater Risk of Colour Run

Whilst manufacturers won’t openly come out and tell you how likely their products are to running colour, there are little clues you can look out for. Look at the care labels on clothing and try to stay away from clothes which mention; “wash before first use”, “colours may run”, “hand wash”, “do not use detergent”, “turn inside out when washing”. If you don’t see any of these warning signs then the chances are it’s most likely colourfast which should avoid colour bleeding. In any instance even with colourfast we’d recommend you wash these on their own first before chucking in with your white shirts or socks!

Best Washing Techniques

Avoid washing your clothes in hot water. Whilst this may have been the most effective way in the past, thanks to advancing technology and better quality detergents most clothes will wash fine in cold water. Hot water not only uses more energy, and therefore costs more money to run, but can also loosen fibres in the fabric.

Use colour catchers. These are sheets designed to be put in with your wash and will catch colours before they run onto your clothes. You should be able to find these at any supermarket.

Lastly, choose clothing that’s made from synthetic fibres as these tend to be more resistant to colour running than cotton or wool. Synthetic fibres include polyester and nylon.

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