How to wash a red-and-white quilt: our staffers’ “catchy” secret

From Red & White QuiltsIf you’ve ever washed a quilt that featured red fabrics, you might remember holding your breath when you took it out of the wash for the first time. Did the color bleed? Did I prewash my red fabrics enough? Will my quilt be ruined?

Sometimes red fabrics have us, well . . . seeing red!

If the possibility of a color bleed has been keeping you from making quilts with red fabrics—and especially if you’re not sure how to wash a red-and-white quilt—we’re here to say that we found what works, so you can toss that worry away!

We asked Martingale staffers to share their best tips for washing red fabrics and red quilts. Several people responded, but surprisingly, we received the same answer again and again. We think that’s a good thing, as everyone agrees on a reliable solution for catching bleeding colors red-handed!

So, what’s the #1 fix? It’s in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores:

No red tape here—Just Shout ColorCatchers. Who knew so many quilters swear by them? Here’s what our staffers said:

Tracking Tradition Virginia (Purchasing/Accounting): “Prewashing and ColorCatchers!!!”

Karen J. (Director of Marketing): “I use Shout ColorCatchers for all of my quilts and remove them promptly from the washer so the quilts don’t sit. I’ve never had a problem since I started using them.”

 Karen S. (Content Director): “Use a ColorCatcher sheet. Or two! And don’t just use one the first time. The sheets attract dye that runs in the water so that it doesn’t go back onto the quilt. If there is any red on the ColorCatcher after washing, make sure to use one the next time you wash your quilt too.”

 Jenny (Content Editor): “I made a quilt for my mom in dark red and white—she washed it once and some of the red bled onto the white. We threw it in the wash again with a ColorCatcher and it actually helped—almost all of the red was removed from the white. Now whenever my mom washes her quilt she throws a ColorCatcher in, just for good luck!”

What if you’re unable to find ColorCatchers in your area? One employee had a great alternative:

 Tina (Managing Editor): “My method is super basic: cold water and an extra rinse cycle, with a white scrap thrown in to see if the dye is still bleeding. If the white scrap is pink, wash and rinse again with a fresh scrap of white.”

A simple scrap of white. Sounds like an old-school ColorCatcher to us!

Now that you have a “catchy” plan for your red fabrics, you can roll out the red carpet and enjoy making gorgeous quilts from Red & White Quilts—here are just a few examples form the book:

Flower Power
Flower Power by Helen Stubbings

Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams by Lissa Alexander

Ruby Jubilee
Ruby Jubilee by Karen Styles

Daydreams by Camille Roskelley

Scarlet Song
Scarlet Song by Kim Diehl

See nine more quilts from Red & White Quilts >>>

Red & White QuiltsHow do you usually wash your red-and-white fabrics and quilts?

  • ColorCatchers to the rescue!
  • I use Tina’s method—a white scrap works wonders.
  • I wasn’t sure how to wash red fabrics; now I’m in the know!

Tell us your color story in the comments!

Quilt-Along Roundup, Week #2

Are you sewing with us during the Quirky Little Quilts Quilt-Along? Here’s a look at what participants have been up to this week! (Browse participant’s Instagram posts here.)

Win this fabric from Marcus Fabrics!Everyone’s Nine Patches are looking so nifty!

If you’re sewing with us, be sure to use the hashtag #QuirkyLittleQuiltsQAL so everyone can see your progress. When you post using the hashtag you’ll be automatically entered into a random drawing to win a pretty bundle of Sheryl Johnson’s fabrics from Marcus Fabrics (right). Winners will also receive five books of your choice from Martingale—and it’s not too late to get started! Get your copy of Quirky Little Quilts, start sewing your blocks, and photos of them on Instagram or Facebook—we can’t wait to see how your blocks turn out!

55 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I love ColorCatchers and use them to prewash all my fabric! When I gift a quilt, I have been known to include a box of ColorCatchers.

    —Vicky on April 5, 2019
  • I’ve used Color Catchers on some quilts but have never made a strickly red & white one. They are beautiful and will be added to my bucket list.

    —DanyseF on April 5, 2019
  • I prewash all my fabrics and always use color catchers when I wash them. When I sell a quilt or give one away, I give them care instructions to make them last a long time. The fabrics in Civil War quilts are dark and can run so I prewash the fabrics and the colors are not dulled when you wash the quilt.

    I use red in a lot of my quilts. I also like blue and white quilts.

    —Kay on April 5, 2019
  • I have collected vintage quilts for 27 years, since moving back to Michigan. Any fabric item that comes into our house is immediately washed, but many old dyes are not as stable as new ones. Everything gets the cold water/Color-catchers treatment. It has saved the integrity and beauty of my vintage treasures! They come back to their original sparkling appearance.

    —Mary Haak on April 5, 2019
  • Shout Color Catchers all the way! I made a king sized indigo and white wedding ring quilt and had to prewash the Kona indigo with about 12 of them. Of course I washed about 7 yards of fabric! I did add some salt as well. The catchers came out almost black! But the quilt is doing great, that’s the important thing! My kids even know to use Color Catchers in their new laundry and darks or reds. Those red and white quilts make me want to sew!

    —Nancy Bart on April 5, 2019
  • I have used color catchers for years. I never pre-wash fabric, but with the color catchers, I just don’t worry about colors running.

    —Jay on April 5, 2019
  • I prewash using Retayne. Then I use color catchers in further washings. Still scares me!

    —Angelia Ulrich on April 5, 2019
  • Just finished a 90 x 90 Christmas quilt top. I wanted the backing to be red but was terrified it would run on my white background on the top. I will purchase some red and try the color catcher before I buy 9 yards of red backing.

    —Sue on April 5, 2019
  • A red and white quilt is on my list to make in the near future. Now I know I need to use Color Catchers to keep my reds from bleeding. Thanks so much for this wonderful tip!

    —Ann West on April 5, 2019
  • #1 PREVENTION: always wash fabric before using in hot water & soap to bleed off dye, if it’s still bleeding, wash again & add salt to set the dye (think hand dyeing wool) #2 when dry do a 2nd check-wet corner of yardage and rub with a piece of white-if color comes off a)get another fabric & use this with dark colors only b)go back to #1 & repeat-I have rinsed as many as 6 times! This is a no-brainer that prevents heartache later after the quilt is sewn-it may seem like extra steps, but why risk all the time you put into it, the $$ you spent for fabric, or the disappointment of the recipient? You can not guarantee the recipient will have any color sheets when they wash it (think donation quilts). An ounce of PREVENTION & all that :-). I once had to go thru 7 reds before I got one that would not bleed on white, worth every bit of testing. An hour or so invested for many lifetimes of quilt use & enjoyment. Happy quilting!

    —Sarah Silk on April 5, 2019
  • I use Color Catchers when I pre-wash my fabrics. I now pack 2 color catchers when I travel. Last summer I did a load of laundry where I combined my colors and whites because I didn’t have that much to wash. All my whites turned gray because my husband had a brand new navy shirt in the mix.

    —Elaine on April 5, 2019
  • I make my own color catchers – a piece of white fabric soaked in a solution of washing soda and hot water (1 T to 1 cup), wring out and line dry. I make a number and use them anytime I am washing quilts.

    —Deanne Johnson on April 5, 2019
  • I started using Color Carcher when I made quilts for Quilts of Valor. They work great! I feel confident washing a red quilt using the Color Catchers.

    Kristie on April 5, 2019
  • Color Catchers to the rescue, I never wash one without them. If it is a large quilt I may use extra, I don’t know that I need to, but the extra money for an extra color catcher is more than worth it.

    —Stephanie Woodward on April 5, 2019
  • I wasn’t really sure, but now I’m on board with ColorCatchers. Great idea!

    —Teri D. Gailey on April 5, 2019
  • I use Color Catchers to the rescue.

    —Fran Claassens on April 5, 2019
  • In the days before Color Catchers (1970’s) I bought some pre-cut squares (and THAT was a oddity then, a few decades before it became common). But I hesitated to pre-wash those; they were a very good, expensive brand so I took a chance. Mistake. I tried various things to clean the bleed on the white background of my double wedding ring. What worked I would only suggest for desperation – dishwasher detergent. It has bleach in it, is thick ans is a bit more controllable than liquid bleach. I slowly painted it on using a craft paintbrush. Didn’t want it to spread to the red pieces, or any of the other color pieces. But it did, slowly, work. Rinsing it out was just as nerve racking, but I flooded each spot with water, drain open and faucet pouring on a spot at a time. Somehow I didn’t bleach out any of the colored pieces, just the red on the white pieces. But only when desperate…

    —Diane on April 5, 2019
  • Color Catchers are a must. I use them with all dark colors. When I give a quilt I include Color Catchers as part of the gift!

    —Joyce Roath on April 5, 2019
  • I always use color catchers when I wash a quilt. Whenever I gift a quilt, I always include a box of Color Catchers in the package.

    —Bonnie E on April 5, 2019
  • Wasn’t sure – now I know!

    —Linda Lee Ahn on April 5, 2019
  • I too use Color Catchers, and when giving a quilt as a gift or to charity, I enclose one in a small plastic bag, with instructions to use it, and use a safety pin to pin it to the quilt near the quilt label.

    —Jade on April 5, 2019
  • Definitely a color catchers user! They have saved me (and my quilts) many times!

    —Jacque on April 5, 2019
  • I have used colour catchers for a couple of years now. And not just for quilts. I also use them in everyday laundry if something might bleed, and when fulling wool for rug hooking in the washer. Using colour catchers means you can throw everthing in one load and nothing picks up unwanted colour.

    —Margaret Hynes on April 5, 2019
  • I use Shout Colorcatchers for not only quilts but new clothing that’s being washed for the first few times. You can also use the sheets more than once.
    They’re the best thing since fabric.

    —Kay on April 5, 2019
  • When I was unable to find Shout at the grocery store, I found Orvis’s Quilt Soap. It was recommended by a store owner who preshrinks all fabrics in it with outstanding success.

    —Ann on April 5, 2019
  • For red & white quilts I typically put 3 or 4 color catchers in. For a larger quilt, one is typically not enough.

    —Sue on April 5, 2019
  • I use color catchers all the time. They’re the best.

    —Barb Walsh on April 5, 2019
  • I always wash my quilts with a color catcher or two, and not only on the first wash, but in subsequent washes. If the color catcher ends up unchanged, then I know it is safe to quit using the catchers when washing that quilt. I also use only cold water.

    —Linda on April 5, 2019
  • I use ‘dye catcher sheets’ in every load of laundry. It’s amazing how much dye is released, even on ‘old’ clothing. And it reduces the chance of accidental bleeding for mere pennies. I pre-wash all my fabric with these sheets. I’ve got catchers in all colors of the rainbow from colors that have bled! Even pastels can release dye so better safe than sorry. And did I mention that these are really CHEAP to buy. When in doubt, go wild and use 2.

    —vshaynes on April 5, 2019
  • Cold wash, 1 or 2 Colorcatchers, cup of vinegar in final rinse cycle. I also put 2 Colorcatchers with instructions in a ziplock bag, attached to the quilt when I give a quilt as a gift.

    —Sherrie H. on April 5, 2019
  • In 2001, I made a red/white/blue quilt where some of the red bled into the white & was able to get it out with OxiClean, making a paste of it & putting it onto the white part where it had bled. I let it sit for a while then rinsed the whole quilt in cool water & it did come out.

    Now I will try Color Catcher–I had a quilt put away in a closet & I guess it had gotten a bit of humidity last year–some of the green & blues spread onto the white. I’m horrified. Do you think Color Catcher will get those colors out, too?

    Thanks for the info!

    —Trish on April 5, 2019
  • Hi Trish, I’ve personally had good results with any color combination using Color Catcher. However, if the damage has already been done, I’d suggest using the OxiClean paste you mentioned first. That way you can put it only on the damaged areas. Karen

    —Karen Johnson on April 5, 2019
  • Colorcatchers, colorcatchers, colorcatchers!

    —Sandra Alfano on April 5, 2019
  • I endorse Shout ColorCatchers also. I prewash red fabrics and use the sheets religiously. Had a bad experience in my early quilt-making days, so when I heard about ColorCatchers, I sought them out immediately.

    —SandyMay on April 5, 2019
  • Thank you for the tip. Good to know . I do wash some fabric occasionally.

    —Martha Cook on April 5, 2019
  • I did not know

    —MS Barb on April 5, 2019
  • Always color catchers…

    —Anna brown on April 5, 2019
  • I prewash all fabric except precuts, using color catchers. When washing a finished project, I also use color catchers. You can use them more than once, if they show little or no color. I use them in regular laundry, too. Wonderful product!

    —Sandy on April 5, 2019
  • Always have a color catcher on the washer } dryer as a reminder and faithfully use one.

    —carol on April 5, 2019
  • I use Retayne and color catchers. I haven’t had any problems, but I still worry!

    —Patricia Ludwiczak on April 5, 2019
  • I have used color catchers with laundry and had great success. I am a fan! Quilting is a new endeavor for me and I have not used a color catcher for a quilt yet. However, I will remember this tip. Thanks.

    —Jo Ann on April 5, 2019
  • I wasn’t sure how to wash red colors but after reading your post I am mighty relieved. Good ideas using color catchers. Thanks for this information!

    —Tanya on April 5, 2019
  • I never prewash fabric, but I always use color catchers. I recently finished a red and white quilt. I’m too afraid to wash it lol.

    —Cindy Petersen on April 5, 2019
  • I just made my hubby a red, white, and green quilt for Xmas, but was in a hurry, and just forgot to prewash the red! I know I will need to use the color catcher! Answering this post just to show I read other articles, not just the ones with a giveaway!

    —Madeline Wallace on April 5, 2019
  • I made a black and white and red quilt a few years ago and have a wool batting in it. One of the reds bled- not in the wash but while on the bed (think husband ‘s perspiration). I researched what to do and finally got the nerve to wash it as a friend had something similar happen and she was successful! Synthropol in a hot wash with color catchers and then I washed it a second time with laundry detergent and color catchers and then air dried. The red bleeding is gone Snd the quilt looks great!
    I do prewash all my reds now. And I use color catchers until there is no due release on them.

    —Rosalie on April 5, 2019
  • I prewash all my fabrics and if they bleed I treat them with Retayne.

    —Linda Towers on April 6, 2019
  • Color Catchers in any load of red laundry. Also newer darks if something has a light color on it.

    —Barbara Hosford on April 6, 2019
  • I haven’t used this option in over 25 years but my mother in law told me that when I wash any dark colors with white, wash in gentle cycle with 2-3 tablespoons of coarse salt. I washed quite a few quilts this way and it stopped the bleeding…

    —Flo Robichaud on April 6, 2019
  • I always use a Color Catcher for the first few washes. Also, as I am preparing to present a Quilt of Valor, I include washing instruction with the quilt and it states to use a Color Catcher for the first few washes. I use them when I wash new clothing. Better safe than sorry!

    —Mo Durant on April 7, 2019
  • I use Color Catchers all the time. The first time I heard you could use them AFTER you had some bleeding of color, I was surprised and happy that they would work "post-disaster"! I love working with red, so these are a great find!

    —Patty F. on April 7, 2019
  • How do I show the blocks made for the quirky little blocks walk?

    Hi K, take a look at this post to learn how to share your quilt blocks! –Jenny

    —K Johnstone on April 9, 2019
  • I use color catchers. I keep a box in the laundry room for that purpose.

    —beth d. on April 9, 2019
  • I learned about Color Catchers about 4 years ago. I use them for all quilts, some of my regular loads, and I always include them when I give a quilt as a gift.

    —Sherbie Tollefson on April 9, 2019
  • Color catchers! I put 2 in for extra power in the wash. Can never be too safe.

    —Lisa on April 20, 2019
  • Thank you for bleeding in a quilt. I definitely will get these sheets.
    As well, it might be helpful to add these Color Fast Sheets
    to the person you are giving the quilt to.

    —Seaquilter on August 30, 2019

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