Prewashing: Do or Don’t?

It’s sewing week over here at Janome Life, and I thought we could discuss a super important question: When do I prewash my fabric?

If you are like me, sometimes when you shop for fabric you buy by the color or print, and totally forget about things like prewashing until you try to cut/plan your project.

So here’s my Top 10 list about prewashing:

  1. If you are going to make clothing, always prewash.
  2. If you are going to make a wall hanging, or other decorative home item, it’s probably not necessary to prewash.
  3. If you are going to make clothing, always prewash.
  4. Things that you are sewing as a gift to someone and you aren’t sure if they will use it, prewash if you can.
  5. See # 1.
  6. Quilting fabric doesn’t necessarily need prewashing, unless you are combining different types of fabric.
  7. Precut quilting fabrics don’t need prewashing
  8. Is your fabric red, navy blue or another really intense color, and you are pairing it with a light fabric? Prewash. Always prewash lol.
  9. Are you backing a quilt with a super stretchy fabric like minky or lycra? Sometimes stretchy fabric comes with a coating of “sizing”, where they stiffen the fabric to make wrapping it on a bolt easier. I would prewash that.
  10. Sewing for children’s garmets? See #1 or #3.

Fabrics that are 100% cotton, or have a higher cotton content than a synthetic content, will usually shrink when washed and dried. When making garments, the fabric usually shrinks by length, sometimes up to 10%. Take this into account when you are purchasing fabric for clothing so that you don’t end up short. A handy tip – if the pattern calls for yards, buy the same amount of meters and you’ll be ok for shrinking.

Fabrics that are primarily synthetic in content typically don’t shrink. So you will probably be ok for the amount of fabric you need. But you might want to wash it to remove any sizing products from the fabric.


Image from Google

Let’s talk quilts for a minute: yay or nay?

As a generally accepted rule, most quilters don’t prewash their quilting fabrics. For me, I prefer to wash my quilt after it’s all finished. It allows the quilt top, batting, and backing to shrink together without distorting your piecing or quilting. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, well, one really.

The color RED.

I’m just going to let that hang there for a minute. It’s happened to all of us. We’ve created a beautiful heirloom quilt, that we want to last for generations. And then we wash it. But hopefully not dry it! And even if we don’t dry it, we still cry. (It’s worse if it’s been in the dryer, trust me.)

How do you get the extra dye out? There are a couple of ways you can do this. You may be able to find a product made by Dylon called “SOS Color Run” at your local quilt shop or other grocery store. It works brilliantly to get the extra dye out.


I have also found washing with Oxy-Clean very helpful to prevent color run, but it also works afterwards to remove excess. I have soaked fabric in a solution of Oxy-Clean and water for up to 24 hours and then washed with good success.oxiclean-colour-shield-128-kg

My other personal favorite comes from the days of baby clothes and food stains. Often I could get a stain out with lemon juice and the sun, and then wash again. I haven’t tried it recently for color run, but it’s worth a try!

So in conclusion: Clothing or garment fabric should always be prewashed (unless you are working with dry-clean only fabrics like suede). If you are quilting, and it’s red, prewash. Quilting and other colors, all the same type of fabric, generally is safe to not prewash. Quilting with other types of fabrics, prewash to be safe.

Do you have a dye or color run remedy? Leave us a comment and tell us!

Until next time,

Janome Girl

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9 Responses to Prewashing: Do or Don’t?

  1. Maureen Dumont says:

    I preshrink my fabric especially flannel if I am going to embroider anything on the quilt. You don’t want the fabric shrinking when you wash it and distorting your embroidery design.


  2. Sandra Hamilton says:

    I agree with Kim and although I don’t always wash quilting fabric I do wash fabric I will use in large pieces on the quilt such as long borders, both to pre shrink it and make sure it is on grain. I always wash garment fabric. Sometimes I wash several times and also put it is a hot drier, e.g. denim. All garment fabric goes to the laundry room before the sewing room. Another reason to prewash is to remove chemicals that off gas.


  3. JosephineSews says:

    I when I buy fabric I prewash it no matter what the use. Painful lesson just learned this week – I have a hot pink sewing machine bed now. It was fabric that had been in my stash for sometime and I couldn’t remember if I had pre-washed it – I hadn’t.


  4. Diane Ayer says:

    I prewash everything over a fat quarter size and if for some reason the fat quarter needs to be prewashed before use! Here’s a great tip, surge, or zigzag stitch, the raw edges of the fabric before prewashing! It will stop the piece from unraveling! BTW, I love my Janome 6600!


  5. Tkb says:

    I always prewash batiks. The vibrant colours usually run and the same goes for wool that has not been preshrunk.


  6. wnwassermanaolcom says:

    Dawn dishwashing soap (blue) can be used as a spot treatment or added to wash water to take out excess dye/color run. You may have to repeat. Add Tide color catchers to wash load as well.


  7. Diane C. says:

    In the US we have a product called Color Catcher which works very well.


  8. Joan says:

    I always use a dye catcher when I wash something for the first time and if the dye catcher changes color I use one the next time I wash it too.


  9. Kim Gibson says:

    Quilting is all about grain line, at least if you want your quilts to lie flat and be square. The UV protectant and stain repellent on every fabric leaving the factory prevents finding gravity grain line, so washing before cutting is a must for my quilts. Before I began prewashing, my quilts MIGHT lie straight after I finished and washed, or might not. Now, no surprises (of a bad kind), no torquing, and grain line is easy to find and cut and sew. I will never go back to hit and miss!


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