do colors bleed in cold water
Kristina Davis

Do colors bleed in cold water? Everyone who does the laundry wants to know how to protect those colors from bleeding and fading.

It may feel like an endless loop to keep up with the laundry, but at least you will have clean clothes to wear afterward, right?


It is possible that washing your garments could make them look even dirtier than before.

If you wash a bunch of whites with one red shirt, you can end up with pink socks.

Going with cold water sounds like a better choice here, but will colors bleed in cold water as well?

No, colors do not usually bleed in cold water, at least not to the extent you typically experience with hot water. 

Do Colors Bleed In Cold Water Or Not?

colors bleed in cold water

Typically, the colors will not bleed when you wash your clothes in cold water.

The truth is that if you take the extra step of sorting your laundry by color, your whites may still end up looking dirty. Or faded if you wash them with darks.

It is recommended to wash both dark and light items in cold water, but in different loads.

Clothes washed in cold water have less chance of transferring colors to one another.

Tip: You should wash pastel and light colors from dark hues, so they do not damage other clothes even if dyes escape during the cycle. 

Is Cold Water Better Than Hot Water In Preventing Color Bleeding?

Many of your garments can survive a wash in warm water. It washes well and does not shrink or fade much.

But it is a different story for clothes with sensitive materials and darker colors.

is cold water better

Colors will not bleed as much in cold water washes as they would in hot ones.

Even when washing in cold water, colors can rub off onto whites, so it is important to separate them.   


Use cold water (80°F) for dark or vivid colors that bleed or sensitive materials. Using cold water also helps you save money on your utility bills, making it a green option. 

Why Does Color Bleeding Take Place?

It could happen because of a number of reasons.

The most common one is inefficient dying methods or low-quality dyes, which lead to the problem of color bleeding in the textile industry.

If the dyes are not properly set in the fabric, the cloth can become unstable or fade over time.

Sometimes manufacturers overdye items to make them appear more vivid in the store, but these items lose their color after just one wash.

Similarly, it could also happen because of a lack of fixer or mordant, which helps bind the dye to the fabric.

color bleeding

Sometimes, using very hot water could rinse the mordant off, causing the colors to fade quickly.  

Tip: Be very careful when handling red color because it has a high propensity to bleed even if you wash clothes in cold water. 

Can You Wash Everything In Cold Water To Prevent Color Bleeding?

Yes, it is usually fine to stick with cold water when washing clothes to prevent color bleeding.

In fact, using cold water to wash your garments is an efficient way to clean them while also protecting the colors.

However, it is a good idea to wash towels and sheets in hot water to kill any bacteria or dust mites that may have accumulated on them.

Tip: Consider using the permanent press or soft cycle while washing to reduce friction and limit wear and tear on your garments. 

Can You Wash Colored And Whites Together Without Color Bleeding?

wash colored and white clothes

When a piece of clothing gets wet, the dye runs down the fibers, causing a phenomenon known as “color bleed.”

This frequently happens in the washer and might cause some of the colors to run while washing.

What we mean by “color fading” is that the cloth has lost a significant amount of its dye, rendering the previously vibrant and deep colors dull and lifeless. 

Both scenarios are undesirable and become a bigger problem when you wash all your clothes together. 

What To Remember When Washing All Your Clothes Together?

If the colored items are really old and the dye has faded, you can consider washing them with your whites.

washing clothes together

It is recommended that you wash your colored clothes separately from your whites several times.

But, when you proceed, it is a good idea to stick to the shortest wash cycle. And, of course, choose the coldest water temperature for washing.

Choose the shortest wash cycle and the coldest water temperature your washer offers. You should also stay away from using too much detergent.

Here are some other things to remember: 

Never Use Brand New Clothes With Whites

You should never wash bright new garments with pastels or whites. 

When clothes are fresh and new, the brighter colors are more susceptible to fading from contact with the darker ones.

Cold water washing can assist, but it is not a permanent fix.

brand new clothes

If you mix your newly bought black underwear with your white t-shirts in the wash, you will end up with gray t-shirts. 

T-shirts will become pink if washed with a brand-new red bra. 

Consider Water Hardness

Whether you have hard or soft water might affect how well your laundry cleans.

Hard water can lead to water bleeding, and should therefore be avoided, especially when you want to wash all your clothes together.

Although soft water is preferable for preventing color run-off, whites should still be handled with care. 

Wash New Colored Clothes Separately First

Do three or four separate dark-colored loads if you have a brand-new dark garment that seems like it might bleed color.

separate colored clothes

A single or double wash cycle could be all that is needed to “correct” the issue.

After that, you should not have any trouble with color bleeding if you revert to the “no sort” rule.

Tip: Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle or use half a cup of salt to keep colors vibrant and prevent color bleeding. 

How Do You Prevent Color Bleed in Cold Water?

Simply switching to cold water would resolve most of your problems related to color bleeds. 

In order to prevent color bleeding, you need to consider why it happens and then take the necessary steps to fix the issue. 

For instance: 

Buy Clothes Carefully

The loss of dye from fabric fibers causes garments to bleed and fade.

Similarly, clothing that has been overdyed to appear great in the store or dyes that are not well-set can all lead to color loss.

buying clothes

It means that if you take some care while buying clothes and avoid ones that look a bit too vibrant, you may not have to worry much about color bleeding. 

You may also want to pay attention to the product label to know what to expect when you ultimately put your clothes in the washer. 

Wash Clothes Gently

Color can be transferred from one clothing item to another when rubbed together. Similarly, some substances seep out of moist fabric. 

Additionally, chemicals and UV radiation can both release or bleach colors.

What it suggests is that you should choose a gentle washing cycle when dealing with colored clothes.

Harsh washing would definitely result in fading and bleeding colors.

Moreover, avoiding harsh chemicals while washing clothes makes sense because they will bleach colors.

Similarly, turning your clothes inside out just before a wash cycle could help reduce friction and lower the risk of bleeding and fading.

washing clothes gently

Moreover, it is better to separately wash heavy items from delicates, and always zip up your zippers to prevent snagging. 

An Important Consideration

Be sure to read the product label. It shares info about the likelihood that the item will fade or bleed.

Also, the beautiful colors may run if you wash them in hot water or use detergent, so be sure to read the care instructions first.

If the care label does not include these disclaimers, you can assume the garment has colors that are less likely to fade or bleed.   

Tip: Keep in mind that synthetic fabrics are much better at preventing color loss than those made from natural fibers like wool or cotton.


Do colors bleed in cold water? While you may notice some degree of fading and bleeding, washing clothes in cold water is much better than a hot wash.

The problem is that you just cannot wash all your clothes in cold water, especially when you want to wash sheets, etc.

The best thing is to identify problem clothing items and wash them separately. Reading product labels will always help as well.