How to Keep Dyed Shoes From Bleeding

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Prevent the dye on your shoes from bleeding with proper preparation.
Prevent the dye on your shoes from bleeding with proper preparation. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

If you have decided to dye your shoes yourself, there are a few basic principles you need to follow to keep dyed shoes from bleeding. Dye bleeds because it has not properly adhered to the fabric, either because of a lack of preparation, an incorrect dye or the absence of a fixative. When a professional dyes your shoes, they should not bleed. However, even the best dyers sometimes make mistakes and prevention is better than repair.

Things You'll Need

  • Mordant
  • Washfast dye
  • Dye fixative
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Waterproofing spray

General Principles for Home Dyeing Shoes

Treat the shoes with a mordant before dying them. Mordants such as soda ash or alum are applied to fabrics before dying. The mordant allows the dye to adhere to the fabric and prevents it from bleeding during washing.

Use a washfast dye appropriate for the fabric. Fiber-reactive dyes work best on cotton, while direct dyes are better suited for nylon or wool.

Use heat. Most washfast dyes require some form of heat setting. Either the dyes are applied while hot, fabrics are boiled in the dye or fabric is dyed and then steamed. The heat allows the dye to penetrate the fabric fibers rather than depositing on top of the fibers.

Apply a dye fixative after dyeing. Fixatives act like an adhesive, binding loose dye particles to the fabric. The type of fixative will depend on the dye used; many dye manufacturers produce a fixative formulated for their dye.

Quick Fix for Dyes of an Unknown Origin

Brush the shoes lightly with a soft-bristle brush to remove any dirt. Particles stuck to the shoe will prevent the waterproofing spray from bonding, allowing the dye to bleed and fade unevenly.

Hold the waterproofing spray 6 inches away from a shoe and spray in long even strokes. Coat the entire shoe, not just dyed areas, or the shoe will collect dirt and wear unevenly.

Allow the shoe to dry for the manufacture’s recommended amount of time before applying a new coat. Apply three to five coats for thorough protection.

Wipe shoes clean with a wet washcloth and reapply waterproofing as it wears off. Do not wash the shoes in a washing machine. Detergents will destroy the waterproofing and allow the dye on the shoes to bleed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Test delicate fabrics like silk or satin before waterproofing. Spray a small amount of waterproofing spray on the inner arch or the inside of a dyed high heel. If no discoloration or darkening of the fabric occurs, spray the rest of the shoe.

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