Unravelling Bleeds, Residues, and Colour Quirks


Previously, we scratched the surface on three of the most common questions we hear from our customers — from battling stubborn wax stains to the unique colour variations that make each piece one-of-a-kind.


Today, we take a deeper dive into these issues that the batik industry experiences as a collective. As a batik fashion label ourselves, we're intimately acquainted with the hurdles that come with preserving this timeless art form. Let's delve right into the heart of these “oddities” inherent to batik, taking a peek behind the curtains to unveil the artistry and meticulous effort poured into our artisans’ work!


Batik-making involves a process called “wax-resist”, a technique that uses wax to craft intricate patterns on fabric. 


Artists dip stamps into hot, melted wax on stamps to create elaborate designs on cloth. As the wax cools and sets, the fabric takes a dip (or a few) into vibrant dye baths. The cooled wax then acts as a barrier, resisting colour from seeping into the material that it covers, unveiling exquisite patterns and designs when removed.

How many variables did you spot? (Hint: Wax, Dye, Fabric!)


With that in mind, here’s a glimpse into the basics of the batik-making process. Given its extremely labour-intensive nature, it understandably leads to occasional instances of artistic “imperfections”!


These include:

  1. Wax Residue

    After the dyeing magic, it's time for the grand reveal!... But surprise, sometimes beautiful batik fabrics can sport excess wax residues, and getting rid of those often isn't as simple as flicking a switch. Rather, it requires a steamy session with either an iron or boiling water to melt the wax.

    Why Does This Happen? 

a. Wax Re-melting (or Bleeds): During the dyeing process itself, the wax can sometimes re-melt due to excessive heat, or prolonged exposure to it. When this happens, it can start spreading where it's not welcome.

b. The Type of Fabric: Different fabrics absorb wax in different ways, where some might be more absorbent than others. For example, thicker or more textured fabrics trap wax residues more easily in their fibres, making it trickier to remove them completely. 

FUN FACT: Batik can be created using various methods, and some techniques are more prone to leaving behind wax residues than others. For instance, hand printing generally leaves fewer residues as opposed to hand-drawn or hand-stamped pieces.


Can We Fix This?

To an extent, yes!

We dub it WARS: Wash, Agitate, Rub, Scrub! 
  1. Wash It! Some waxes in Batik are water-soluble, so a warm bath with a mild detergent can be just the ticket for wax residues. With that said, stubborn stains may require repeat performances, and sometimes, there are chances of them not quite completely vanishing.

  2. Agitate It! Give your fabric a gentle shake in the water to coax those pesky wax bits out of hiding. Treat it like you would a baby — soft nudges, not vigorous prods.

  3. Rub and Scrub It! Tender rubbing in the affected areas works wonders to further aid in removing the residue.


2. Bleeds

Two kinds of bleeds can throw a wrench in your batik masterpiece: Colour Bleeds, and Wax Bleeds.


In multi-coloured batiks, there are moments when colours decide to mix and mingle, leading to unintended colour clashes or stains.

Why Does This Happen? 

  • Excessive Dye Saturation: A common reason behind colour bleeds is when too much dye is applied to the fabric, or if the fabric soaks for too long it's like saturating a sponge beyond its capacity, leading to pesky bleedings into adjacent areas, or worse, onto unsuspecting laundry in the wash.
  • The Cooling-Off Phase: Again, heat could be the enemy. Sometimes, rushing to rinse off the dye while the fabrics are still steaming hot can result in bleeds and we all know the importance of a cooldown (just like post-workout)!

  • Insufficient Wax Coverage: The wax resist applied to outline different colour areas just didn’t quite do its job properly, leaving certain areas vulnerable to dye penetration. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in the wax resist, dyes from one area may sneakily bleed into neighbouring areas during the dyeing process.

  • Wax Cracking: Ah, the wisecracks of wax! These happen when the wax decides to break during the dyeing process, resulting in blurry lines or inconsistent patterns (quite like the above sitch). It’s not unusual for this to happen; in fact, it’s a classic and characteristic effect of batik called (surprise!) “crackle”. These can be caused by temperature fluctuations, using overly brittle wax (looking at you, paraffin*), or being a little too rough with the fabric while the wax is still setting.


Crackle Effect. Credit: Hiromi Paper

FUN FACT: Not all wax cracks are quiet accidents; artists sometimes deliberately “maximise” the crackle effect by freezing and crumpling cloth. Some others seek to avoid introducing these scattered lines… It’s just a matter of style and preference!

* The traditional recipe for batik wax typically consists of a 60:40 ratio of beeswax to paraffin.



We are familiar with colour bleeds, but how about wax bleeds? While colour bleeds seep where they shouldn’t and cause stains, wax bleeds do the opposite — preventing dye from going where it should. In other words, the wax lines that were meant to resist dye end up throwing a party in the dyed areas instead, creating smudges or wonky lines.

Why Does This Happen? 

  • Excessive Heat: As mentioned earlier, if the wax gets too hot during the waxing or dyeing process, or if it's left to simmer for too long, it can melt and spread beyond the intended resist lines, leading to unwanted bleeding.

Can We Fix This?

For tackling oversaturated colour bleeds, try using dye removers such as Vanish Oxi Action powder. Dissolve a scoop of Vanish in a pail of water, soak the garment for an hour, and then rinse thoroughly to lighten or remove unwanted dye stains.

As for bleeds caused by wise wax cracks or insufficient wax coverage, they're part of the unique charm of handmade batik. While there may not be a quick fix, these elements definitely add character to every piece!

3. Colour Discrepancies

Some of the most common questions we get is, “Why do the colours on this piece look different?” Whether it’s across the same or different pieces, we sometimes spot colour variations in terms of lightness and / or darkness, as well as the level of saturation, intensity, and vibrancy. 

Again, this is a completely natural part of batik-making.

Why Does This Happen? 

1. It Could be Environmental: Dyeing is like a delicate dance between the fabric and its surroundings… Just like fine wine, factors such as temperature, humidity, and light exposure can all influence how dyes bond with fabric fibres, leading to variations in colour. Each of these can influence colour penetration and retention at any point in time at any part of the dyeing process — before, during and after!

For example, during the dyeing process, high humidity can make fibres soak up moisture like sponges, leaving less room for dye absorption. On the flip side, low humidity can dry out fabrics, making it tougher for dyes to penetrate, leaving you with lighter, faded hues. After dyeing (during the drying and curing period), high humidity can act like a pesky speed bump, slowing down drying and affecting dye fixation. Prolonged exposure to moist environments can also cause colours to bleed or run, causing some blurs to otherwise perfectly “crisp” designs.


2. It Could be the Dyeing Process: Batik-making is an art form, and its hand-drawn, hand-dyed nature means that dye application will never be as uniform as machine-produced batik… But this inherent uniqueness leads to delightful colour variations across the piece of cloth! Factors such as the duration fabrics spend soaking in the dye tub, the concentration of dye in the bath, and even how consistently the dye bath is stirred all contribute to this beautiful unpredictability. Each of these can result in uneven colour distribution or varying dye uptake, adding to the allure and individuality of each piece.


3. It Could be the Fabric: When it comes to soaking up dye, the material can also play an incredibly important role. Cotton and silk are the eager beavers slurping dye like no tomorrow — thus giving the vibrant, heady colours that you're after. But throw in synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, and you might get subtler hints of colour than bold, sweeping statements! 

Texture also plays a part. Smooth fabrics take colour evenly and like a dream, while rough, uneven surfaces can create a more unpredictable canvas — think ink printed onto glossy paper, versus patchy papyrus! 

And let's not forget about thread count (our favourite way to measure the quality of bedsheets)! Tightly woven weaves might need a little extra soaking time to get that perfect hue, while looser ones soak up every drop — easy.

Can We Fix This?

The short answer is  — not really! 

We like that variations in colour intensity and texture add appealing, one-of-a-kind depth and complexity to artwork unmistakably made by hand — what do you think?


An Ending Note:

Before diving into a cleaning frenzy, give a small, inconspicuous area a test run (just like how you’d patch-test new skincare products) to avoid damaging the fabric! Always refer to the batik care cards tucked into every YeoMama Batik purchase, or find more information here.


 We're obsessed with Batik, and as invested as you are
in giving them a long, brilliant life!

June 25, 2024 — YeoMama Batik

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.