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How to Keep Black Clothes from Fading

Two Parts:Essential Washing PracticesAdditional Tricks

Faded black clothes can be a remarkably frustrating laundry mishap, but this fading process is not necessarily inevitable. A few essential washing practices can prevent your favorite black garments from losing their color. If those don't prove helpful enough, there are also a few additional tricks you can try.

Part 1
Essential Washing Practices

  1. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 1
    Wash the clothes less.[1] No matter how special you treat your black clothes and how many precautions you take when washing them, the washing cycle itself wears the dye down, eventually causing it to show signs of fading. To limit the effects of fading, you should only wash your black clothes when necessary. If you can skip a washing here or there, do so to preserve the integrity of the dye.
    • Black pants and sweaters worn over other layers of clothing can usually be worn up to four or five times before needing to be put through the wash, especially if the clothes are only worn indoors. Similarly, if you only wear the garment for a few hours a day, it can likely be set aside and worn again without going through a washing cycle.
    • Note, however, that black undergarments and socks should be washed after one wearing.
    • In between washings, you can treat stains with stain remover and eliminate chalky residue from deodorant with a dry sponge.
  2. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 2
    Sort with like colors. Whenever possible, wash your black clothes with other black clothes or with other dark garments. Dye has a tendency to run during the washing cycle, but if there are no lighter garments to soak of the dark dyes, those dyes will be reabsorbed back into the black clothes they came from.
    • Aside from separating clothes according to color, you should also separate them according to weight. Doing so can protect the weave and color of your more delicate black garments.
  3. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 3
    Turn the garments inside out. The surface of the fabric directly exposed to the abrasive washing cycle is the surface that will receive the most wear. As a result, the dye will fade first on the surface always facing out during the laundry. Preserve the outside of black clothing by turning each garment inside out before you wash it.
    • Black color fades due to the friction that results when clothes rub against each other in the washing machine.
    • More precisely, friction causes the fibers to break, and the ends of those fibers are exposed. Since the surface of the fabric is disrupted, the human eye sees less color, even when no dye has actually been lost.
    • You can further reduce the amount of abrasion and friction your clothes experience by closing zippers and fastening any hooks.
  4. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 4
    Use cold water. Warm water encourages dye to loosen from the fibers and bleed, so bright colors and black clothes tend to fade faster when washed in warm temperatures. Washing these garments in cold water, on the other hand, can preserve the dye longer.
    • Warm water breaks down fibers, which is why the colors fade faster in warm wash cycles.
    • Your cold water cycle should use water ranging between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 and 26.7 degrees Celsius) and no warmer.
    • Note that you may need to change your laundry habits during cold winter weather. Freezing cold outdoor temperatures can cause the water temperature of your washing machine to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius). In temperatures this low, even liquid detergents may not be entirely effective. If the temperature outdoors drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 degrees Celsius), you should consider using a warm water wash and a cold water rinse.
  5. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 5
    Stick with the shortest cycle possible.[2] Essentially, just as you should wash your black clothes as infrequently as possible, you should also make those washing cycles as brief as possible. The less time your clothes spend in the washing machine, the less chance the dye has to run and fade.
    • A delicate cycle works well when in doubt, but as a general rule, you should still choose settings that are appropriate based on how soiled the clothes are and the type of fabric the clothes are made from.
  6. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 6
    Add a specialized detergent. Nowadays, there are special detergents that are formulated for use with dark fabrics. These detergents help hold the dye in place during the washing cycle, so that dye is less likely to run and the clothes are less likely to fade.
    • If you do not use a detergent labeled for dark colors, use one formulated for cold water loads. These detergents can partially neutralize the chlorine in tap water, which is important since chlorine bleaches and lightens black clothes.
    • Note that detergents do not necessarily contribute to fading, even though some help prevent it more than others. Any liquid detergent is suitable, but you should not use any bleach.
    • Liquid detergents work better than powder detergents in cold water. Powders tend not to dissolve completely in cold water, especially when you use a short cycle.
  7. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 7
    Skip the dryer. Heat is the enemy when you are trying to prevent black clothes from fading. Black clothes should be hung to dry or laid flat to dry. Avoid using the dryer unless absolutely necessary. If you must use the dryer, skip the fabric softener sheet if possible.
    • When you line dry black clothes outside, make sure that you place them in an area away from the sun. Sunlight acts as a natural bleach, which will fade your black clothes faster.
    • If you do need to use the dryer, use the lowest temperature possible based on the type of material the clothes are made from. You should also watch the clothes carefully to make sure that they do not become over-dry or too warm. Remove the clothes while they are still slightly damp to be on the safe side.

Part 2
Additional Tricks

  1. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 8
    Add a little vinegar.[3] During the rinse cycle, add 1 cup (250 ml) of white distilled vinegar. Add the vinegar directly to the washing machine basin containing the black clothes; do not add it to the detergent slot, if a separate slot exists.
    • Adding vinegar to the rinse cycle has several benefits, including those that pertain to preserving black clothes. This household miracle fix can set colors and also strip fabric of detergent residue. That residue can otherwise create a film on your clothes, making the color appear faded.
    • Vinegar is also a natural clothing softener.
    • The vinegar should evaporate during the rinse cycle, so usually, no smell will be left behind. If a smell does linger, however, air drying the clothes should get rid of it.
  2. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 9
    Try salt. Add 1/2 cup (125 ml) of table salt to the wash cycle alongside your black clothes. The salt should be placed directly in the main tub of the machine and not in a separate compartment.
    • Salt can help prevent color dyes, including black dye, from bleeding. It is especially helpful when used on new clothes, but it can help restore the color of old clothes by rubbing off detergent residue.
  3. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 10
    Use a sprinkle of pepper. Simply add 1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 ml) of black pepper into the washing machine tub along with the black clothes at the start of the wash cycle. Do not add any to a separate detergent compartment if one exists.
    • The abrasiveness of black pepper strips away residue responsible for some of the fading, and the black tint of the pepper can help strengthen the dark hue of the dye.
    • The black pepper should wash out during the rinse cycle.
  4. Image titled Keep Black Clothes from Fading Step 11
    Shake baking soda into the washer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup (125 ml) baking soda to the washing machine tub after you fill it with the black clothes you want to preserve. The baking soda should be in the same portion of the machine as the clothes. Wash the load of laundry as usual from that point on.
    • Baking soda is commonly used to help brighten whites as a form of non-chlorine bleach. As a non-chlorine bleach, however, it can also be used to brighten other colors, including black.
  5. 5
    Harness the power of coffee or tea.[4] Brew 2 cups (500 ml) of coffee or black tea. Add this liquid directly to the rinse cycle after the black clothes in your washing machine have already gone through the washing cycle.
    • Coffee and black tea are both used as natural dyes. Even though they dye light fabrics brown, on black fabrics, they strengthen the black dye and darken the overall hue of the garment.


  • In the future, look for black clothes made from materials that hold dye better. Fabrics that tend to hold dye better include wool blends and nylons. On the other hand, acetate and linen tend to bleed and fade easily.

Things You'll Need

  • Specialized detergent
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Baking soda
  • Tea
  • Coffee

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