Dear Home-Ec 101,
I like to think that you get what you pay for. I often find this to be true which is why after coming down from my high at a Nordstrom sample sale, I’m a little peeved. You see, my two prized purchases a pair of dark skinny jeans and a fabulous black cotton shrug are bleeding uncontrollably! I washed them in cold water with one of those color magnet things and frankly, I was proud of myself for resisting the temptation to don said prized clothes before washing them. Upon my first post-wash wearing the entirety of my body and everything that came in contact with my clothes (even my car seat) was stained black or blue! I cleaned up easily enough but I don’t know how to “set” the fabrics of my jeans and shrug. Please, oh please tell me you have a secret!
Dyeing to Know
Jeans are quite infamous for having unstable dyes that rub off with friction. These unstable dyes are why denim tend to fade more in some areas than others with normal wear. Some, especially the very dark ones can be a problem even after many washings, keep this in mind if you’re eyeballing white furniture. Because the dye is unstable, it’s usually pretty easy to remove, but it can still be annoying. Very dark and fashionable jeans are often the biggest offenders. In fact, some of the trendiest jeans of all suggest you NEVER wash your jeans. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up).
If you ask the great wide Internetz if there is a magic cure all for unstable dyes and you’ll find the following suggestions:
Soak jeans in dilute white vinegar.
Soak jeans in salt water to set the dye.
The unfortunate truth is that these techniques only work some of the time; there is no magic cure-all. Neither of these techniques will cause any lasting harm, so it can’t hurt to try, but there is no guarantee that they will fix the problem.
To help reduce the loss of dye during washing, wash jeans inside out in cold water. This will slow down the color bleed but won’t eliminate it completely.
To avoid leaving blue stains on white furniture, don’t wear dark jeans and sit on white furniture or take a cue from your great aunt and encase it all in plastic. I kid. Mostly.
I suppose this is something I’ll tolerate, if it means that acid wash jeans never make a come back. (Does anyone else remember bleaching jeans in a bucket?)
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