How to Wash Dark Clothes to Reduce Fading

dark clothing in a hamper

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

We all know the advantages of black or dark-colored clothes. Dark colors make us look leaner. Dark colors like black are chic. Dark colors make being a ninja easier to pull off.

But dark-colored clothes that have faded are pretty sad. With these seven easy tips, you can learn how to wash dark clothes so they hold their color longer, look better, and last longer.

  • 01 of 07

    Does It Really Need Washing?

    determining if a garment needs washing

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Each time you toss it in the washer or dry clean any piece of clothing, regardless of the color, there is a bit of damage to the fabric fibers. It doesn't matter how carefully you or your cleaner handle clothes, a little wear and tear occur. That wear and tear affect the color and the integrity of the fabric.

    So before you toss clothing into the hamper, first ask yourself if those jeans really need to be washed. Perhaps they can go back in the closet or drawer to be worn again.

    Take a look at the guidelines on how often to clean men's and women's clothes. You can protect the color of your dark clothing, plus save some time and your money by doing less laundry.

  • 02 of 07

    Learn How to Sort Clothes

    sorting laundry into light and dark

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    The first consideration when sorting clothes is to determine whether a garment should be washed at home or dry cleaned. If you don't know what to do, read the clothing care label. You may be able to use a home dry cleaning kit to freshen a dry clean only garment and save money. Home dry cleaning kits, which are easier on fabrics than a washing machine, can also be used on washable items like jeans or dark sweaters to freshen and remove odors. 

    After you've sorted out the dry clean only items, sort your washable clothes. Never wash light-colored clothing with dark items to prevent dye transfer. It's also important to avoid combining dark fabrics with lint-producing clothes or linens. Lint from these fabrics will often adhere to dark items making them look "fuzzy" and faded.

  • 03 of 07

    Use the Right Water Temperature

    selecting the correct water temperature

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    Always use the coolest water temperature possible when washing dark clothing.

    Hot water will always fade dyes and cause more dye bleeding more quickly than cold water. Be sure that your washer is always set to use a cold water rinse cycle. There is never a need to use hot or warm water to rinse clothes.

  • 04 of 07

    Choose the Right Detergent for Dark Colors

    detergent for dark clothing

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    If you don't have a detergent that is formulated for dark colors on hand, use the least amount of your regular detergent as necessary for cleaning your clothes. One to two teaspoons is all you need for a regular size load. Excessive amounts of detergent can cause dye bleeding and leave a residue in fabrics that make them appear dull.

    Using a liquid detergent instead of a powder detergent will prevent any undissolved particles from clinging to dark clothes leaving the finish looking dull. If you don't use an automated washer detergent dispenser, be sure to add the detergent to the washer drum first. Adding detergent after clothes are in the machine may cause problems with spotting or residue.

    If you must pretreat a stain, test the cleaning solution first in an inconspicuous spot like an inside seam or hem to ensure that the product will not cause fading.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Use the Best Washer Cycle

    selecting a washing cycle

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Unless your dark clothing is heavily caked with dirt, select a gentle or permanent press cycle for dark colors. These cycles have shorter wash cycles with less agitation that can damage fibers and cause them to break and look fuzzy and faded. Also, choose a slower final spin cycle to avoid the breaking of fibers.

    This is a good place to mention that a front load washer or a top load washer without a center agitator is more gentle on clothing than a standard top load washer. More gentle agitation means less fiber breakage that causes clothes to look worn and faded.

    Hand washing is always a good option for delicate dark items.

  • 06 of 07

    Load the Washer Correctly

    dark clothing loaded in the washer

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    Step One: Always turn dark-colored garments inside out before washing. This will prevent fiber finishes from becoming damaged and showing frayed ends and attracting lint.

    Step Two: Be sure to load the washer correctly and never overload the capacity of your machine.

  • 07 of 07

    Avoid the Sun

    black clothing on a drying rack away from the sun

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    Even though line drying laundry is a money-saver and good for the planet, drying dark clothes in direct sunlight can fade them. Use an indoor drying rack placed away from direct sunlight or an automatic tumble dryer.