Bleeding dye with spandex

The laboratory analysis department of the drycleaning association has reported problems with spandex blended fabrics consisting of rayon and polyester. Spandex is an elastic yarn similar to rubber but consists of polyurethane. It is used to give fabrics better fit and wearability. Spandex blended fabrics may consist of rayon or polyester or both. The dyes on polyester and rayon are usually stable to both drycleaning and wetcleaning when not blended with Spandex. When polyester and rayon yarns are blended with Spandex the fabric can be fugitive to drycleaning solvent or water or both. I do not know the reason why the spandex blend produced a less serviceable fabric. The spandex blended fabrics are often used in expensive women’s designer garments. The garments may consist of mostly black dresses or womans suits with white trim or mostly white garments with black trim.


The serviceability of the dyes on these fabrics can easily be tested. Wipe an unexposed area with a q-tip damp with solvent or oily type paint remover. Note if the dye transferred to the q-tip. It is important to note that if the drycleaner uses hot solvent in their cleaning machine the test is not accurate and bleeding can occur.


The biggest source of bleeding problems occur with those drycleaners using hot solvent. This was documented by the problem garments sent to my garment analysis laboratory. Many manufacturers advocate heating up solvent to increase the KB value of less aggressive solvent such as Green Earth and Hydrocarbon. Although the drycleaner may obtain a more aggressive solvent they run a greater risk of dye bleeding and possibility a damaged garment. It should be noted that drycleaners using cooler solvents have not encountered as many problems.


I had a problem with these garments in a recent consultation. Five spandex blended dresses with white trim bled in the drycleaning process. The spotter tried batching the garment and wetcleaning with no results. We then tried running each one in the drycleaning machine separatly. The result was that they were corrected. The high solvent level in agitation prevented dye transfer. The rule is if something bleeds in drycleaning it should be drycleaned again.


The fabrics can also bleed in wetcleaning even if labeled washable. Many drycleaners may run these garments on a gentle cycle for fabric safety. A gentle cycle or soaking creates more bleeding. The more time a fabric soaks and is not flushed the more chance it has of tramsferring dye. Dye setting agents usually do not stabilize poor dye.


The easiest way to test is to place a clean cloth under the garment and flush with the steam gun noting dye transfer.


The easiest way to attempt correction is to run the fabric over again in a regular run. The constant agitation and flushing with warm water prevents dye transer from occuring.

BLEACHING On dye transfer a titanium sulphate bath may work well. Testing is necessary to ascertain how readily the rayon is affected by the bleach. Sometimes if the testing shows the dyes are affected by stripping agents it can often still be stripped by immersing the garment in the bleach bath for a few seconds. This immersion process can be repeated several times until correction is obtained. When making up the bleach bath make sure you follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen, former chief garment analyst for the National Cleaners Association, offers lecture, consultation and garment analysis service. He is the author of The Art of Spotting. He can be reached at (772) 340-0909, by email at or through his website at Dan Eisen, 274 NW Toscane Trail, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986.

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