Have you ever experienced washing a blue towel with a white shirt, and ended up with a stained, light blue shirt? This is an example of colour fastness, which is the resistance of a fabric to changes its colour characteristics (e.g. fading or bleeding) or to transfer its colours to other fabrics. In this case, the blue towel has low colour fastness. If a fabric retains its colour and does not stain the other fabrics during the washing process, the fabric has high colour fastness. Some people called it colour transfer or colour fading, however in a technical term, this is called “Colour Fastness”.

What determines colour fastness in a fabric?

This boils down to the fabric that the manufacturer chose for your garment, specifically the type of dye and also the combination of the dye and fiber. The same dye on different types of fiber will have different level of colour fastness.

The common misconception about colour fastness is the correlation between the price of the garment and the level of colour fastness, i.e. the more expensive the garment is, the higher the colour fastness and therefore, the colour should not fade or bleed – this is not entirely true. Often times, it is a deliberate choice by the fashion designer or manufacturer to use certain dye or fabric that best fit their clothing designs. For instance, you may have seen a warning tag on your new expensive pair of jeans that says, “This garment may fade during washing due to the nature of indigo dye” – despite the premium price and the highest quality used for the dye or fabric, there is still possible that the combination of the dye and fiber used to produce the desired jeans colour or design will reduce its colour fastness.

Other factors that could affect the level of colour fastness in the fabric are perspiration, heat, and sunlight. Do note that the colour of a garment may fade over time due to multiple washes. Also, if a garment does not bleed for the first time after washing, it does not guarantee that it will not happen in the subsequent washes. Some fabric manufactures apply finishes to protect the fabric surfaces. The finishes may be worn away after multiple washes, resulting in bleeding or fading in the future.

How to test for Colour fastness in your Clothing?

The easiest method to determine the colour fastness of your clothing is to read the garment care tag attached. Common indicators of low colour fastness are “wash separately” or “wash with like colours”. If the label is missing, you can do a simple test to determine the colour fastness of your garment:

  • Choose a hidden spot on a garment, e.g. interior seam, or hem

  • Soak the hidden spot with water and/or detergent for a few minutes

  • Dab the spot with a clean white cloth

  • If there is no transfer of colour to the white cloth, your garment has high colourfastness and you may proceed with your usual laundry method

  • If there is a transfer of colour to the white cloth, then your garment has low colourfastness and do not proceed with your usual laundry method. The garment should be washed separately from other clothes, i.e. do not send for load wash together with other garments.

If you are worried about the washing low colour fastness garments, feel free to contact us and we will help you take care of it!