Will Embroidery Thread Bleed? (Is Embroidery Thread Washable)

One would think that with all the modern technology available fabric manufacturers and thread makers could solve this problem and make life easier for sewers and embroiderers. Unfortunately, that is not the case and bleeding is a part of fabric life.

Will embroidery thread bleed? Yes, embroidery thread will bleed but the good news is that not all colors or types of embroidery thread bleed. If they do, it is not a large amount while other brands and colors bleed a lot.

Embroidery thread is washable under the right conditions but you may want to wash those items using embroidery thread separately.

To learn more about embroidery thread and its faults just continue to read our article. It has the information you need so you can avoid wasting your time and hard work. Take a few minutes and get up to speed on this important topic.

Does Embroidery Thread Bleed?


Yes, it will bleed on you. The most common culprits in this issue are machine embroidery thread and rayon-based embroidery thread. Supposedly, manufacturers of thread are taking steps to avoid this laundry problem and are making more thread types that do not bleed.

Yet, their efforts have not stopped the bleeding from occurring from time to time. It still happens and you do have to be careful which type of thread you use. The reason the thread does bleed depends on when and how it was dyed.

If the dye was added after the thread yarn was made, then chances are it will bleed almost 100% of the time. If the dye was added before the thread yarn was made, then chances are that it will not bleed.

But that does not mean that style of thread will not bleed at all. Nothing is 100% perfect and even the colorfast threads tend to bleed on occasion. That means you still have to be careful how you launder your embroidered items.

By picking the right thread before you do your hard work you can avoid a majority of bleed situations

Does Embroidery Thread Bleed When Washed?

This situation seems to be unavoidable even though many thread makers have taken giant steps to prevent this situation from taking place. It is a good move to separate your clothing before washing to help protect your favorite items from being a victim of color bleed.

Two of the biggest offenders, in this case, are machine embroidered designs and thread made with rayon. You can expect bleeding to take place when you wash the items made with those types of threads.

Then those embroidery threads that are colored with pigment dyes tend to bleed a lot as well. The dye is usually added after the thread has been created and is not bonding with the fibers that well.

Silk embroidery thread and even clothing made with bright silk colors will almost always bleed on you. The same goes for cotton and linen-based threads. The one type of thread that will resist color bleed will be polyester.

Since the dye is added before the creation of the thread, the dye bonds better with the fibers and remains where it was placed. The disperse dyes used to color polyester are bonded chemically to the fibers.

But that does not mean that all polyester threads won’t bleed. It still may happen from time to time.

Is Embroidery Thread Washable?


Yes, embroidery thread is washable and even polyester blended with polyester metallic fibers is washable. You just have to be careful how hot the water temperature gets. That will be the key to many different types of embroidery threads.

You will have to wash your clothing that has embroidery thread according to the fibers in the thread as well as in your clothing items. But it is not just water and washing you have to worry about when it comes to color bleed.

Some embroidery threads may bleed onto your hands as you sew. Then before you know it, you start seeing smudges on the fabric where your hands and needle just were. That makes for an annoying moment.

Before you even finish your design the fabric and the design are ruined. The reason the color comes off the thread and onto your hands is that your fingers may be oily and moist.

To avoid this situation, you should wash your hands and make sure they are completely dry before handling the thread. Then if you live in a high humidity region of the country, make sure to have a cloth nearby so you can dry your hands from time to time.

Using colorfast thread will prevent this from taking place but the deep, darker colors of this version of thread can still run on you and make a mess.

Washable Embroidery Thread

All thread is basically washable but some varieties don't handle water very well. Rayon thread is one of those embroidery threads that loses its color whenever it gets wet.

This fiber is the most commonly used fiber to make embroidery thread. That is because it has a great sheen to it and helps your design really stand out. It is also a very cheap thread to make and buy.

Then while water does help remove some of the dye in a rayon embroidered clothing item, the cleaning agents you use will also take away some of the colors. If you use bleach to clean your clothing, it will remove a lot of color from the rayon thread. Just like it does with regular fabrics.

The same risks apply to all thread types. If it isn’t the water that helps the color to bleed, then it is the laundry soap, the type of bleach, any spot removers you use, and so on. Color bleed is not the product of water alone.

The washing instructions for cotton, polyester, silk, and other fabrics will apply to the threads made from the same fibers. If you use a polyester thread, you will want to stay away from high temperatures.

Is Embroidery Thread Colorfast?


This is an interesting subject and it is played fast and loose by thread makers. The real answer depends on who you talk to and how they define colorfastness. The term colorfastness is defined according to how resistant the thread is to fading and bleeding.

There is a colorfast scale used and it goes from 1 to 5. If the thread has a #1 rating that is telling you that it will bleed a lot and it bleeds very easily. A #5 rating means that the thread color does not fade.

Most thread options fall into the #4 level of this code and that number means that the colorfast state is excellent. Those threads and clothing items that come with a UV protection coating usually reach level #5. The general result is that most threads are in the #3 or #4 level.

The fast and loose part of this topic comes in when thread makers are specific. They may say that the thread is level #4 as their thread doesn't fade in either cold or hot water. But that does not mean their thread will not fade when you use laundry soap or other additives in your wash.

This happens a lot with rayon embroidery thread and if you are using this type of thread to do your embroidery then BEFORE you sew, test different washing methods first. Then you will know how to wash the item after you are done and avoid color bleed.

Some stores won’t sell rayon thread for these very reasons. They will sell a polyester-type thread instead. One that is very resistant to color bleeds no matter what cleanser you use.

How do You keep an Embroidery Thread From Bleeding?

The first option you have is to avoid washing the item at any time. Instead, set up a dry cleaning budget you can use every time you need to clean an embroidered item. This is the recommended option for any color that tends to bleed in the wash whether it is thread or fabric material.

For bright colors, hand washing with very mild soap and gentle agitation, etc., is the next option you can use. Stay away from harsh detergents and bleach when you suspect the color will bleed out as you wash.

Most bright colors will bleed a little and the reason for that is that there may be some loose dye on the fibers and the water and soap are removing it. Then for any embroidery work avoid using hot water.

High water temperatures help the threads to bleed even more. You can try soaking the thread in salt first before using it or use a color fixative instead. The commercial fixatives should be found in the dye section of your stores and following the instructions should give you good results.

How to Prevent Red Embroidery Thread From Bleeding


When used in the right designs, red embroidery thread adds an elegant look to the design. However, red is one of the notorious colors that bleed very easily. Thankfully, there is a solution to help stop this color from ruining the design and other clothing items when washed.

All you need is a bowl filled with 2 cups of hot water and add in 2 tbsp. of white vinegar. Next, take the wrapper off the spool of thread or other thread container and place the spool, etc., inside the bowl.

Once that is done, simply let the thread soak for two hours. After that time frame is up, place the thread on a towel and hang it up to dry. When the thread is dry, you should be able to use it in your embroidery work worry-free.

Color Bleeding Could be Stopped?

Thread makers can stop the color bleed altogether. The technology is there but there is a good reason why manufacturers do not use it to have all thread colorfast.

That reason is that their costs would go up making the thread too expensive for anyone to purchase. It is costly to stop color bleed at the manufacturing plant and you may not like the cost of thread when you see it in the stores.

Then, nothing is perfect. What that means is that even if the manufacturing companies tried to make all of their thread samples colorfast, the results will not be uniform. In other words, there will be a spool, etc., of thread that did not get the right treatment and it finds its way to the store shelves.

Then even in those thread categories, skein, ball, hank. and so on, there will be a mixture of colorfast and non-colorfast thread in individual amounts. So when you go to wash the item, some of the thread you use will remain colorfast and other portions will bleed on you. Even if they come from the same source.

It is hard to avoid getting any embroidery items dirty. This means you are taking a gamble every time you wash it when you do not take the time to ‘set’ the dye before using it. To set the color you will have to pre-wash the thread before using it using one of the many different methods available.

Some Final Words

It seems that color bleed is here to stay. That conclusion is based on the fact that the cost to make all thread colorfast is expensive and not 100% foolproof. The best you can do is stick to cold water wash using mild soaps and avoid using any harsh cleansing agent including bleach.

Or you can avoid rayon embroidery thread and go with polyester instead. The good news is that you have lots of choices and if you are a gambler you can take your chances.

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