Margaret Kavanagh

Ask Abby: How do You Prevent Colors from Running?

ask abby prevent yarn colors running

We're kicking off a new column on the blog called Ask Abby. Like Dear Abby except (mostly) crochet-related.

Got a crochet technique question? Curious about what happens behind the scenes of Happily Hooked? Wondering about life as a artist? If you've got something on your mind, just click the Ask Abby! button and fill out the form for a chance to have it answered on our blog.

Now, on to our first question!


I’m making an afghan with red and cream acrylic yarn. When I wash it, will the colors bleed together? I read that I should soak it first in vinegar water. What should I do?

Abby says:

I’m not sure you’re going to like my answer … but I’m a big believer in the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Plus, in this situation, if you crochet that blanket and the colors bleed — there’s no amount of cure for that.
Modern acrylic yarns are pretty dependable, and there’s a chance that if you roll the dice and go with it, you won’t have any problems. Here’s what happened when I experimented:

crochet swatches prevent colors running

The upper-left swatch has some color run after soaking in hot water. The right swatch is the result of a cold water wash. The bottom swatch is unwashed. How do we prevent colors from running?

If the top-left swatch looks a little pinkish to you, you’re not wrong. It was hard to photograph, but it did have a small amount of transfer.
That was the one I soaked in hot water. I soaked the one to the right in cold water. I didn’t wash the one at the bottom.
I can also say that the water I soaked my red yarn in turned pink. It looks like hot water causes transfer, while cold water prevents the running a bit.
So, in short, YES, there will probably be dye transfer during a regular wash. Is it minimal enough that you’re not bothered by it? That’s up to you.
But to TRULY craft with confidence, you’re going to need to take a day to prepare.

What you’ll need:

– A yarn swift or chair back
– 8 cups of hot water
– 1/2 cup of salt
– 1 cup of white vinegar
– Time and patience

crochet yarn prevent colors running materials

Gather your ingredients: Salt, white vinegar, hot water, and your yarn. Plus, a big bowl.

Instructions to prevent colors from running:

Step 1: If your yarn is in a tightly wound pull-skein or cake, you’re basically going to unwind it into a loose hank. You can do this with a swift or a chair back.

unwound yarn prevent colors running

By unwinding your yarn into a skein, as shown here, you loosen it up, allowing it to thoroughly soak.

Step 2: In a clean bowl or another container, combine 8 cups of hot water, 1/2 cup of salt, and 1 cup of white vinegar.

yarn soak prevent colors running

Soak the loosened yarn in the salt, hot water, and vinegar solution to set the dye. This makes it colorfast and lessens the chance it will run in the wash.

Step 3: Immerse your yarn in the water, salt, and vinegar mixture. Don’t agitate it, but make sure it’s good and soaked. Let it sit for 20 minutes.

yarn dry prevent colors running

After a 20-minute soak, rinse the yarn with water until the water runs clear. Then, hang the yarn up to dry.

Step 4: Rinse the yarn under more hot water until the water runs clear. Then hang it up to dry.

Now, These Colors Won’t Run

A pain? Yes! But you’ll be thanking yourself down the road when you’ve finished your beautiful project, and you can wash it with confidence knowing the colors will stay where they belong!

If you have a question you'd like to ask Abby, just use the button below to submit it, and maybe we'll answer it on our blog!

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Author Info

Blog Manager & Columnist Coordinator at Happily Hooked | + posts

I've been crocheting since my mother taught me as a little girl. I'm lucky to be working with Happily Hooked and I can't wait to share everything yarny and hooky with you! Yarn over, peeps! Yarn over!

Margaret Kavanagh

I've been crocheting since my mother taught me as a little girl. I'm lucky to be working with Happily Hooked and I can't wait to share everything yarny and hooky with you! Yarn over, peeps! Yarn over!

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