Washing Question

I just finished a pair of socks using a very beautiful red/purple/blue yarn that was dyed by my LYS. Past experience with their yarn when washing is that the darker colors bleed and darken the lighter colors. I don't want this to happen to these socks b/c the red is so vibrant.

I remember reading somewhere that you could add salt to the wash water to stop color bleeding.
Anyone heard of this or have other ideas to prevent color bleeding?
Thanks all!

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ronhuber's picture

The socks are gorgeous. We used to soak new articles of clothing that were coloured in salt water to set the colour before the first washing. I don't know if it would work with socks or not.

Bill's picture

Beautiful socks!
First...your LYS shouldn't be selling yarn that bleeds!
It should be rinsed so water runs clear BEFORE it sold.
Vinegar/acetic acid are used to set wool dyes...with heat or steaming.

I'd suggest washing them with synthropol, which should keep loose dye from staining lighter shades...but I would definitely complain to the LYS.
They may carry Synthrapol, so they should GIVE you a small bottle!

Tallguy's picture

Truly great looking socks! Isn't it fun to knit socks?!!

I have to agree with Bill that there should be no running of dyes in any yarns, and there is no excuse for these just because they are hand-dyed. That is just an excuse for sloppy work. I most definitely would tell the LYS that you won't buy anymore yarns she has dyed because they run; that you would prefer to do the dyeing correctly yourself! That'll tell her!

I would rinse the socks in running water to allow any excess to run off without being deposited on any fibre. Use cooler temps since high temperatures make the dye particles absorb into the fibres. Run water through the socks until the water is clear. Since the colours are so close together, you may not get any noticeable effect if there is any migration of dyes. It would be worse if it contained any white.

Salt (sodium chloride, specifically) is important in using many types of dyes. Exactly how it should (or should not) be used depends on the specific type of dye in question. When using salt, always follow the recommendations of the dye manufacturer, unless you know better.

Contrary to some old wives' tales, salt is NOT a dye fixative and does nothing to make dye more permanent; however, it aids in the dyeing process by helping to drive the dye onto the fiber, out of solution, so that it is in the right place for any bonding to the fiber to occur. In other words, it assists in getting an even colour before the dyes are "set".

Most recipes call for ordinary non-iodized table salt (sodium chloride). The small amount of iodine in iodized salt will probably have no effect, but it's easy to find non-iodized salt, and then you don't have to worry about it. The other ingredients often found added to salt, such as the sodium silicoaluminate often used to promote free flowing, should have no discernable effect, positive or negative.

I usually get pure pickling salt from the grocery store, in 4-pound boxes. Some people prefer koshering salt. I say, get whatever is cheapest and most convenient. Finer grains of salt will dissolve more easily than larger grains. Note that different shapes of the grains cause different salts to have different volumes per weight. Replace one cup of ordinary plain granulated salt with one and a quarter cups of Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt or two cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, in order to obtain the same weight of salt.

A few recipes call for Glauber's salt, which is sodium sulfate, instead. You can buy Glauber's salt from your dye supplier. Procion MX turquoise is said to dye more intensely with Glauber's salt than with sodium chloride, but that may have more to do with high enough temperature than the kind of salt used. It usually makes much more sense to try increasing the reaction temperature than to start messing around with adding different salts, if this is your problem.

Again, always pay strict attention to the manufacturer's instructions, unless you have better information. While recipes for direct dye application (like those for tie-dyeing) tend to omit salt, immersion dyeing with acid dyes, as well as lanaset dyes, calls for the use of regular salt (sodium chloride) or Glauber's salt (sodium sulfate decahydrate). PROchem's One Shot dyes do not call for the use of salt, presumably because they already contain it.

cacunn's picture

Do you have extra yarn? Knit a couple of swatches and try all suggestion on a swatch not those beautiful socks.

I use a product called "Shout Color Catcher" in my home laundry when washing new clothes especially red clothes. This product advertises that it catches loose color in water before it gets to on any clothes. It seems to work. I would put this in any solution I put the socks in initially.

I am not a dyer but from what I read vinegar opens the pores(?) of the fiber to trap the dye. But it needs heat to work correctly.


I would be interested to see how a swatch would reach if placed in a pan of vinegar, water heated to just short of boiling, gently stir just enough to wet completely and then allowed to cool. Rinse until water runs clear. Allow to dry and then re-rinse to see if there is any more bleeding.

Again I am not a dyer and this is just my humble opinion.

Bill's picture

Paul, it might help if you knew what kinds of dye your LYS uses.
...most wool dyes don't need salt, they're acid dyes and use acetic acid and heat.
But you need something to prevent excess dye from staining your already knitted socks.
The "Shout colour catcher" is a good home remedy.
I would simply tell your LYS you've had trouble with her yarns running, and ask her what should you do?

mn-don's picture

WOW, amazing knitting and the color goes without saying just stunning. You did a great job on these.

Kerry's picture

Great coloured socks Paul.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I've had a bit of bleeding on some sock yarns because the yarn was so saturated with the pigment - usually red. However, that hasn't affected the other colors any and isn't much of a problem to me because I hand wash the socks by themselves and keep rinsing until clear.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

superi's picture

I would spritz your socks down with a water vinegar mixture until they are damp, then pop them in the microwave for 2 min intervals. That should cause the excess dye to absorb back into the yarn, and exhaust itselft. Then let the cool and rinse them in cold water until clear.


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Great tip...thanks.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

scottly's picture

Great socks - no help from me on the dye problem - I would just throw them in the washer with the other color stuff and see what happens. My intention would be to not put them in the dryer but that's where they would end up. My sister, with her tiny feet, ends up with a lot of my socks.

scottly's picture