How to Wash Batik for the First Time to Keep the Color Brilliant

If you have just purchased a batik and are unsure how to wash it for the first time, you have come to the right place.

Batik fabric. Credit: canva

This is how to wash batik for the first time. You can soak the fabric in vinegar and water, use Retayne, or even try some color catchers.

Batik is a beautiful fabric that can be worn in many different styles. The best way to preserve its beauty is by taking care of it properly. In this blog post, we will walk you through the process step-by-step.

So, let’s get started!

Why Do You Need to Pre-wash Batik?

purple batik fabric
Beautiful Colored Parang Batik. Credit: canva

Pre-wash batik: What is it?

Pre-wash your batik means washing it for the first time before using it.

Batik fabrics are made with wax and dye, so they must be treated carefully before used in quilting, crafting, or stitching activities.

If you wish to maintain your materials, we recommend washing them ahead of time to avoid shrinkage and color transmission.

Before you start sewing, it’s always a good idea to pre-wash and pre-shrink your fabric to avoid problems with the finished batik quilts or another batik project.

By pre-washing your batik, you preserve the color, shape, and texture of the clothing

Batik care: To avoid batik shrinkage

100% cotton or natural fibers

Batik fabric shrinks due to being wholly composed of 100% cotton or other natural fibers. Cotton fabrics shrink when washed for the first time. This is because the material’s fibers are tightening up.

Batik material

Another cause of shrinking batik fabric is the type of cloth you’re working with. It’s more likely to shrink if you use a lesser quality batik cloth than a higher quality one. The less costly fabrics aren’t produced with as much care and attention to detail as the higher-quality ones.

Natural dyes

Another thing to remember is that batik fabric dyed with natural dyes will also shrink more than those dyed with chemical dyes. This is because the natural dyeing process doesn’t set the color as well as the chemical.

No pre-wash or pre-shrink in the making process

When batik fabrics are made, they go through a process called “pre-wash” or “pre-shrink.” This is done to remove any impurities from the material and ensure the colors don’t bleed when the fabric is rewashed.

If you’re working with a batik that hasn’t been pre-washed or pre-shrunk, it’s essential to do this yourself before using it. Otherwise, you risk the fabric shrinking or the colors bleeding when you wash it.

Batik clothing after washing. Credit: canva

Batik color: To prevent batik bleeding

Natural dyes and natural color techniques

Batik is more difficult to set than other designs because of its natural color processes. This causes bleeding or running, which can be a problem.

That is why it’s critical to be extra cautious when washing and drying batik fabric.

Color fading

When your colored batik is bleeding too often, then your batik color will start fading. 

So, to preserve your batik color and avoid further bleeding and fading, you need to wash your fabric with extra care.

How to Wash Batik Fabric For The First Time?

washing fabric
Soak the fabric in lukewarm water and mild detergent. Credit: canva

How to set the color in batik fabric?

With vinegar

One way to set the color in batik is by using vinegar. This will help set the colors and prevent them from running.

To do this, you should soak your fabric in cold water for 30 minutes before washing it. You can also add a cup of vinegar to the soaking water to help preserve the colors.

When ready to wash your batik fabric, use mild detergent and lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water, as this can cause the colors to run.

With Retayne

For pre-washing, you usually use Synthrapol and Retayne. Synthrapol is a surfactant that helps remove any dye from the fabric that doesn’t bind to the fibers.

Retayne is a color fixative that will help set any remaining dye in the fabric so it doesn’t bleed when rewashed.

To use Retayne, soak your batik fabric in a solution of one part Retayne to 16 parts water for 30 minutes.

After soaking, wash your fabric in lukewarm water with a mild detergent. Avoid using hot water, as this can cause the colors to run.

Once you have pre-washed your fabric, you can dry it in a low heat setting or air dry it.

Color catchers

To prevent your batik from fading, you can also use color catchers.

Color catchers are white sheets that you put in with your laundry. They absorb any extra dye that comes off the fabric, so it doesn’t bleed onto other clothes.

How to soften batik fabric?

 If your batik fabric is stiff, it is probably because the wax has not been completely removed from the material.

To remove the wax and soften the fabric, you can boil it in water for about 30 minutes. You can also add a cup of vinegar to the water to help remove any remaining wax.

After boiling the fabric, wash it in lukewarm water with a mild detergent. Avoid using hot water, as this can cause the colors to run.

Avoid using fabric softener since it may contain chemicals and leave residue on the fabric. 

If your batik is still stiff, you repeat the process several times.

Washing Batik Fabric: Tips & Tricks

wash batik
An Indonesian girl, hand-washing batik fabric. Credit: canva

Batik wash

  1. Separate batik clothes with other fabrics and clothes. This is so that the batik to be washed is not contaminated or contaminated with colors from other clothes.
  2. Prepare a bucket and soak the batik clothes without using detergent. Detergents have active compounds that are pretty strong in removing dirt from clothes. In batik cloth, these components can damage the fiber of batik cloth which is quite sensitive.
  3. Use warm water to soak the batik cloth. This warm water is indeed good for shedding dirt on clothes.
  4. After soaking for a while, do the washing using shampoo. This will keep the fibers of the clothing intact. The shampoo has a softer content but is still adequate for washing batik for the first time.
  5. Add natural herbal ingredients such as orange peel. This material can be a material that protects the fabric from the disturbance of small animals when the fabric is stored for a long time.
  6. Do the washing with circular hand movements and rub with gentle force. When finished, proceed with rinsing the batik cloth using running cool water.
  7. Do not squeeze to rid of excess water. Air-dry the fabric right after you rinse it.
  8. Now dry the batik clothes using a clothes hanger and ensure there are no wrinkled or tattered parts of the fabric. Dry in an area that is not exposed to direct sunlight so that the material’s color is maintained.

How to stop batik fabric from bleeding?

You can use a color fixative if you want to stop your batik fabric from bleeding. This will help set any remaining dye in the material so it doesn’t bleed when rewashed.

To use a color fixative, soak your batik fabric in a solution of one part color fixative to 16 parts water for 30 minutes.

After soaking, wash your fabric in lukewarm water with a mild detergent. Avoid using hot water, as this can cause the colors to run.

Can you machine wash batik fabric?

Yes, you can machine wash batik fabric. However, it is best to use a gentle cycle and cold water. You should also avoid using any bleach or other harsh chemicals.

Hand washing is the best option for avoiding these hazards, though. Washing batik cloth by hand can help protect the fabric’s color from fading quickly.

How should we iron batik for the best result?

iron fabric
Ironing batik fabric over a piece of cloth. Credit: canva

To keep your batik looking its best, it’s best to iron it inside out on the lowest to warm iron setting.

It would be best if you did not iron batik cloth directly. Make sure you iron the fabric over a sheet of paper or a piece that will not rip the batik fabric.

Additional tips in caring for batik cloth

  • Remember that using a washing machine is not recommended because it can make batik cloth damaged faster. But it will be easier if you use a washing machine. The important thing is combining batik with the same color and then washing it on a delicate or low cycle mode.
  • Batik clothes need to be dried in a shady area. Do not dry batik clothes in direct sunlight because it can damage the color of the batik. If you have to, you can turn the inside while drying so the fabric will still be well preserved.
  • In addition to the things above, you must also understand that using chemical additives such as fragrances, softeners, or bleach is not recommended when washing batik clothes. These substances can damage clothes so that later batik will not last.
  • When ironing the originally written batik cloth, you can also coat the top of the batik shirt by using a thin material first. This will be especially useful in maintaining the softness of the fabric. If you want to be more secure, use a steam iron instead.
  • Storage of batik cloth must also be considered. You can store batik clothes by hanging them to avoid tangles and keep clothes looking neat. Hanging batik clothes can also be done to keep the folds of the clothes nice. This will maintain the elegant impression of the dress.

More About Batik

batik dress
Traditional batik clothing with ancient Candi in the background. Credit: canva

Batik Indonesia as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (IHC)

Beautiful batik cloth is one of the original fabrics of pride, resulting from a hereditary culture in Java. It’s a unique motif with a short manufacturing process makes this fabric special.

Batik has a deeply rooted history in Indonesia, so UNESCO has designated it as the original cultural heritage of our nation since October 2, 2009.

Batik fabric has a unique manufacturer utilizing chanting on the material. With the stipulation of batik as a cultural heritage in Indonesia, the world is increasingly recognizing that batik is unique to Indonesia.

The privileges of batik clothing

The variety of batik patterns is also very diverse. Written batik in Indonesia is different in each region and has its uniqueness. This uniqueness later became the hallmark of batik in each region. Of course, the area’s characteristics can be reflected in the batik motifs.

Batik is now also getting widespread use. Not only used in certain moments but batik clothes can also be used at formal and semi-formal events. This shows that batik does bring an elegant style and feel to the wearer.

In its development, batik has begun to be developed and favored by young people.

The style of batik that has a formal impression has also begun to be made in such a way to be more contemporary and suitable for use in casual events. Of course, this is one way to maintain the cultural heritage of this nation.


Does batik wash well?

Yes, batik does wash well. You need to take extra care when washing batik for the first time.

Be sure to use a delicate or low cycle mode on your washing machine and wash batik with other clothing items that are similar in color.

You should also avoid using chemical additives when washing batik as they can damage the fabric.

Finally, store batik clothing by hanging it up to avoid wrinkles and maintain its shape.

Does batik soften when washed?

Yes, to some degree, batik usually softens when it is washed. You can help maintain the softness of the fabric by using a steam iron instead of a regular iron.

However, if batik is stiff because of wax residual, it will not soften after washing. You need to boil the fabric to remove the wax.

Do batiks fade?

Yes, like any other fabric, batik can fade over time. Be sure to wash batik clothing in cool or lukewarm water to help prevent fading.

You should also avoid using bleach or other harsh chemicals when washing batik as they can damage the fabric and cause fading. Finally, store batik clothing in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to help prevent fading.

Is there a right and wrong side to batik fabric?

Yes, there is typically a right and wrong side to batik fabric. The right side usually has a more detailed pattern, while the wrong side is typically smoother.

However, some batik fabrics are printed on both sides, so they can be used either way. If you are unsure which side is right, you can always ask the salesperson when purchasing the fabric.

How To Set Color in Batik Fabric

You can set the color in batik fabric using a few simple steps.

  • First, identify the areas where you want to remain white.
  • Next, apply wax to those areas using a tool called a tjanting.
  • Finally, dip the fabric in dye and allow it to dry.
  • When you’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful piece of fabric with vibrant colors.
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