Prewash or Not Your Fabric Before Sewing

This will be the first rule to Sewing when you start on your new hobby but do you need to Prewash or Not Your Fabrics Before Sewing,

Prewash Or Not Your Fabric Before Sewing isn’t a big deal or is it?

This is a good question, to look for the best answer so you known in advance what to do before you get any bad stories to tell about to other people who will be asking you the same question.

As a sewer and as a quilter, I’ve been asked the same question and if I must say the truth I will tell you that I belong to the group of sewers that very often prewash the fabrics.

I also can tell you not one but a few times I was sorry I didn’t follow this rule, when you see a quilt that took you some time to make and after the first wash you notice one of the fabrics you used to make it bleed… You start thinking “Why I didn’t prewash that fabric”

Even during those bad moments, I’ve learned one basic rule: To learn about every fabric before you start to work on the new sewing project.

Advanced and experienced sewers might have some tips to share with beginners, and it’s on you to take notes to avoid having future problems, some of the tips are easy to follow.

What type of fabric you mush prewash before sewing?

There are different types of fabric and not all of them need to be prewashed before sewing.

When you go to the fabric store, most of the fabric labels will share what type of fabric it is and if you notice they share a note to tell people to prewash it before working on any project with that particular fabric, then it’s a must you follow this advice.

Most of these fabrics are well known by people who often sew, some examples are denim and many fabrics that are made of cotton.

Dark Color Fabric Most Likely Will Bleed

Most of the people might have one story to tell about getting “pink” clothing from the washer, it has happened to me a few times.

When you buy any fabric dark blue, black or red, most likely they will bleed, it will be easier to take your time to prewash these fabrics before you start working on any sewing project.

Wash them as many times as it’s needed until the water comes out clear, by doing this you’ll known this fabric is safe to work with.


Test Your Fabrics Before You Start Sewing

Another good tips I learn while working with quilts, every time you buy a new fabric and you get some doubts about if it will bleed later or not, it’s to cut a sample of the fabric and put it in a container with water, leave the sample there for a few minutes and you’ll notice if some bleed come out of the fabric or not.

To make this even better I like to place in the water container one piece of the fabric and one piece from a white cotton fabric together, if the color fabric bleeds the white fabric sample will get some dye on it and it will be easier to notice it.

Fabric Quality Makes a Big Difference

Another good tip to follow is the quality of the fabric.

Quality many times goes hand in hand with the price, when you’re sewing a new project, you want that garment to last in good shape for a long time. You don’t want to spend a few hours working on it to last just a few weeks or months in good shape.

Buying good quality fabric will help you to known they were made good and using the best materials: textile fibers and dyes.

When a fabric is made with quality most likely it won’t bleed.

How To Prewash A Fabric?

Once you known you need to prewash a fabric, it’s better to do it, so here are some tips you can follow.

You can put the fabric you want to wash in the laundry machine and pick a gentle cycle to wash it, add the laundry soap you use and start the washing cycle.

If the fabric can be put in the dryer, you can do it to get the fabric dry, but if not, put the fabric on the laundry line to dry.

One good tip to follow this type of prewashing your new fabric is to put a piece of white cotton fabric at the same time of the new fabric, in case the fabric bleeds the white fabric will show you it, if you don’t follow this tips, if the fabric bleeds you might not known about it.

In case, you tested the new fabric with the piece of white fabric and it got dyed, wash again the new fabric until the piece of white fabric come out clear from the washing cycle, then you known your new fabric will not bleed anymore.

To Get Wet A Fabric Will Be Enough?

Some people will only put the new fabric in a container with water, this might help only sometimes.

If you want to work with a small piece of fabric and you don’t want to use the washing machine to prewash it, you always can put it in a container and pour some water in it, just be sure the piece of fabric is well covered with water and it’s not folded so the water can get into the whole fabric.

Keep the piece of fabric in the water for a couple of hours and change the water once or twice, then you can follow to dry the fabric.

Note: if you note any dye comes out from the fabric, then it’s better to wash it properly with laundry soap to be safe to sew with it.

Do Dry Clean Fabrics Also Need To Be Prewashed?

If you think that particular fabric will bleed, then the answer will be yes, those fabrics also need to be prewashed and you need to send the fabric to be dry-cleaned.

Why I don’t follow this rule with my sewing?

To follow this rule or not will depend on what kind of sewing projects you do and what material you use on your sewing projects.

Most of the times I work on small sewing projects and most of the times I use soft and pastel fabric color.

Since I learned my lesson with one or two bad bleeding fabric stories, I pay attention today when I’m shopping for a new fabric, if I get the feeling of low quality on a fabric, even if I love the print on it, I don’t buy it.

Good Quality Fabric = Better Sewing Results

If you follow these tips, once you known what type of sewing projects you’ll be working on, you’ll get to known the type of fabric you’ll be using on your own sewing projects, if you get to known that fabric is better to prewash, don’t skip this step, and you’ll get better results on your sewing.

If you want to sew a new project with a new type of fabric you haven’t used before, you always can ask to other sewers and get the best advice for it.

You always can follow one or two more advanced sewers on Social Media or a Sewing Group and they will be always happy to welcome you and they will share good tips with you.

Now it’s your turn, do you or you don’t wash your fabric before sewing? I would love to hear you, you can write a comment to share your thoughts.

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6 thoughts on “Prewash or Not Your Fabric Before Sewing”

  1. Hey thank you for the awesome post!  I have made the mistake of not prewashing red fabric several times!  I was new to sewing and I thought it would be okay. When I washed them with some of my other clothes, though, some of my whites became pinks.  I was not happy, and I didn’t realize red would even do that.  I just thought black did.  Boy was I wrong!

    • Hi Jessie,

      Red fabric bleeding problem has happened me not only once but a few times, as you can see one Christmas quilt got that problem and not because I washed it, I noticed the bleed of the red ink in the fabric because one Summer was so humid.

      We all learn when mistakes happen, from that day, I always prewash all red fabrics. 

  2. Hi Alex,

    I really enjoyed reading your article about prewashing fabric. I found it to be very comprehensive. Personally I have not prewashed before reading your article, but I think I might in future. My problem is that I find it difficult to identify the materials and hence I am worried about shrinking things. Is there any guide books available that could help? I would feel safer if there were some good pictures and descriptions before washing any unidentified fabrics. Thanks in advance, Andrew

    • Hi Alex,

      When talking about what type of fabric will shrinking you can follow this rule, fabrics made with natural fibers like cotton or linen could shrink, synthetic or polyester fabric might not shrink unless it’s said on the store label when you buy it.

      You can find this information in some textile books,

      I thank you for taking the time to leave a comment with your question.


  3. WOW, great article,

    I love to read sewing stuff. there has a lot of valuable information Before You Start Sewing.those rules are really helpful for a beginner who likes to sewing.

    We have to Always avoid fabric is the key to the success of sewing projects.

    Thank you for sharing the valuable details. Keep up the good work!

  4. Hi, Alex.
    Thanks for sharing your views on the prewashing concept of fabric before sewing. As you suggested we must learn about the fabric before we start sewing. In fact, pre-washing synthetic or polyester cloth is of no use as it will neither shrink nor bleed after the wash. But the cotton are really notorious and need to be put in the discipline before stitch. A test on the fabric is a great idea – thanks.
    Warm Regards,
    Gaurav Gaur

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