One of the worst things about thrifting is very closely related to one of the best things about thrifting; finding sweet, practically one of a kind things that you are totally in love with and can't wait to wear, is definitely one of the best things. Something terrible happening to one of those things, something terrible that you did to it, out of love and care, that makes it unwearable or a shadow of its former self, is one of the worst. It is with a heavy heart, tinted with a shade of relief, that I tell you such a story.
You know a little bit about it already. I shared with you last week a very sweet find from my first installment of A Working Woman's Reality: Power Thrifting, this giant floral printed silk dolman sleeve sweatshirt-type top, as you knew it:
Just look at those bright, vibrant colors. Especially that gorgeous poppy red. You would never consider the evil that lurked within such a fantastic color scheme. At least I couldn't. I threw this guy in my "hand wash" pile, where most of my thrifting finds end up. I like to take special care of them, so very few things go through the wash. I filled up a bucket with cold water and Woolite and set it to soak for a few minutes, rinsed out the soap, and set it on my drying rack to dry. I don't take another look at it until the next day, when I go to iron all my handwashing. That is when I saw my mistake.
I think it was actually during the drying process that it happened, but a TON of the red dye from the print bled ALL OVER THE ENTIRE TOP. Everywhere everywhere everywhere, bloody red dye, rendering it totally unwearable. I am not ashamed to say that I almost started to cry. How could this be??? When I was being so careful! And generally, dye in silk is very color safe! I know this! But because what you find at a thrift store is always a wild card--you have no idea how old it is or where it came from--it doesn't follow any rules. Anything could happen. This time, anything meant the dye bleeding disaster to end all dye bleeding disasters.*
I should insert here a photograph of the carnage, but, although I considered it, I could not physically bring myself to take a picture of it, even if it was for the greater good of the internet. So just use your imagination.** I did resolve to attempt anything and everything I could to somehow, if only by the grace of God, reverse what had been done. So what did I do? I googled it, and boy did I learn a lot, and I will share it with you here.
IF THIS EVER HAPPENS TO YOU:
Step 1: Go buy some Clorox2 color safe bleach. I had never understood the purpose, or the science, for that matter, of color safe bleach. It is an oxymoronic concept, so I ignored. It turns out that what it does is fix dyes to fibers so that there is less washing out of color, preventing fading and bleeding, which is very useful.
Soak your disaster in a bucket of Clorox2 and water for several hours, and pray/focus your positive energy towards your preferred deity/life force. Rinse, and assess the damage.
I did this about three time, and each time remarkable amounts of red dye came out, but it was still bled all over the fabric, and hadn't been removed. I could see that all the colors were definitely getting duller as well. That is when I took serious action, which is step 2, if step 1 does not work.
Step 2: Buy some RIT Dye Fixative. Unfortunately, this is very hard to find. I went to my garment district staples and came up dry. The internet made it cost inefficient to buy, as shipping was $4 on a $3 product almost everywhere. That is when I did some more googling, and made another amazing discovery, a little store called Manhattan Wardrobe Supply. This place carries anything and everything on earth related to garment and shoe care or maintenance; a veritable paradise for someone who spends and embarrassing amount of time fussing over their thrift store clothes. Needless to say, they carried the RIT Dye Fixative, and metallic gold shoe polish! Holy crap!
Oh yeah, step 2: Follow the instructions on the RIT Dye fixative, and pray/focus all your energy again. What this stuff does is chemically, somehow, latches on to "loose dye" and pulls it out of the fabric. It sounds like voodoo, but guess what, it worked!!
It somehow pulled all of the bled dye out of the silk. After all this processing, however, the color intensity was majorly dulled, this being the final outcome:
A shadow of its formerly vibrant, punchy-colored self, but WEARABLE. My boyfriend assures me that if you hadn't seen it before, you'd never know the difference. That point is of course moot now that I just told the entire internet, but I found it more important to share my new knowledge about how to treat bled dye. There you go. I truly hope that you never need to use it.
*Overly dramatic, I know
**I like to picture an illustrated reimagining, composed by Holly, of this scene.