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Does Polyester Fabric Fade in Sunlight or When Washed?

Polyester is a commonly used fabric for clothing due to its durability and versatility. Many people who choose to hang their laundry out to dry or spend a lot of time outdoors wonder, “Does polyester fade in the sun?” Since it is worn frequently, they also wonder if it fades with repeated washing.

Polyester is a synthetic fiber. It is man-made which means that it can be engineered in ways that other fabrics can’t. Polyester is designed in a way that holds on to color to resist fading in the sun, washing machine, or by other means.

Your polyester clothes shouldn’t fade at all if they are made properly, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your clothes continue to look their best. If you do want your clothes to have a faded look, we can help you achieve that as well. Keep reading to learn more.

Does Polyester Fabric Fade

Does Polyester Fade in the Sun?

Sunlight can create a type of fading in some clothes called chemical fading. It happens as a result of a chemical reaction between the sun’s UV rays and the dye in the clothing, causing the dye to break down. The good news is that since polyester is a synthetic fiber, it not only holds dye better but is also treated with a chemical that reduces fading. This means that polyester shouldn’t fade in the sun.

What Colors Fade Faster in Sunlight?

Just because your polyester fabric shouldn’t fade in the sunlight, doesn’t mean that it won’t. Some colors do tend to fade more and fade faster than other colors.

Dye colors that have longer wavelengths react with UV light, which comes from the sun, in negative ways. These colors have less energy, causing the chemicals in the dye to break down.

Red is the color that tends to fade the most, followed by orange and yellow. Red has the longest wavelength of all the dye colors. It will lose its vibrancy faster because it absorbs more of the UV rays from the sun.

What Color Fades the Least in Sunlight?

Dye colors with shorter wavelengths have more energy. These colors have a greater tendency to resist fading. They also have more energy and don’t absorb as much UV light.

Purple and blue will fade the least in sunlight. Purple dye has the shortest wavelength of all the colors, followed by blue and green. While green doesn’t fade as much as red, orange, or yellow, it isn’t as resistant to fading as blue or purple.

How Long Does It Take for Fabric to Fade in the Sun?

If you’ve left your clothes outside to dry longer than intended, don’t worry. Sunlight will not start to fade your clothes immediately, so leaving them out in the sun for a few hours won’t cause them to fade significantly.

Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, the intensity of sunlight is different. There is no exact timeline for how long it takes fabric to fade in the sun. However, leaving your clothes out in the sun for several hours a day over multiple days can cause fading.

If you’re trying to purposely fade your clothing using sunlight, it could take several days to a few weeks to fade them. The amount of time it takes depends on how faded you want them to be. Sunlight is not the most effective way to fade clothes. We will discuss more effective ways later.

How Do You Keep Fabric from Fading in the Sun?

Sun fading

If you don’t want your clothing or other fabrics to fade in the sun, there are ways to prevent it. The most important one is to pay attention to the types of fabric that you leave in the sun. While polyester and polyester blends usually don’t fade, linen and silk will fade and they will fade quickly. Avoid leaving linen and silk fabrics out in the sun to keep them from fading.

Keep colors in mind as well. We’ve already mentioned which colors are more likely to fade, and which ones aren’t. Avoid leaving colors that fade out in the sun for extended periods of time.

You can keep your clothes from fading due to prolonged sun exposure by spraying a fabric protector on them. Choose a formula that protects against UVA and UVB rays, both of which come from sunlight. The sprays can be found at any home improvement or furniture store.

How to Restore Sun Faded Fabric

If your clothes do become faded from the sun, don’t panic. There may be ways to restore the color, most of which can be done with a few common household items. However, sun fading is a chemical change, so it may be difficult to restore the color completely. Here are a few things you can try.

  • Salt. If your clothes are only slightly faded, you can use some salt when you wash the faded clothes. Salt will brighten the color. There are two ways to do this. Either add a cup of salt to the wash cycle in the washing machine or add a cup of salt to a bucket of water and let the clothes soak. In both instances, you should use cold or warm water. Using hot water can make the color fade even more.
  • Vinegar. Distilled white vinegar also works to brighten faded clothes. Add ½ cup to the wash or rinse cycle during washing by pouring it directly into the water. It will brighten faded clothes and keep them from fading more. You can also add 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water and soak the clothes for about 20 minutes before washing them.
  • Baking Soda. Baking soda works best for brightening dull white fabric, but it can also be effective for some lighter colors. Add ½ cup of baking soda and regular detergent to the washing machine before washing clothes. As a bonus, baking soda can also deodorize your clothes.
  • Dye. If all else fails, you can always try to dye your clothes back to their original color. Find a dye that matches the color as closely as possible and add the dye to a pot of hot water. Pour in a cup of salt and let the clothing sit in the water for an hour. Wash the dyed clothing by itself in cold water and dry on the lowest heat setting.

Does Polyester Fade When Washed?

Does Polyester Fade When Washed

Fading in the washing machine is a physical type of fading. Well-made polyester should resist fading, wrinkling, and shrinking. The fabric is designed to hold color well when washed, but you should follow proper care instructions consistently when you wash it in the washing machine.

It is also recommended to turn polyester inside out before washing. You can also hand-wash your clothes if you’re worried about them fading.

What is the Best Way to Wash Polyester?

In order for your polyester fabrics to look their best and last the longest, this is the best way to wash polyester:

1. Read the Care Label

The care label will tell you if there are any special detergents, washing machine settings, or cleaning recommendations to follow.

2. Turn the Clothing Inside Out

Before washing clothes that may be prone to snagging on other clothes in the washing machine, turn them inside out. Alternatively, place them in a special wash bag before laundering. This applies to any polyester-knit blends as well.

3. Use the Warm Water Setting

Warm water is best for polyester because it cleans, disinfects, and removes stains. Cold water doesn’t kill bacteria or remove stains as well as warm water. If the water is too hot, it could damage the color too.

4. Use the Normal or Permanent Press Cycle

Polyester is not a delicate fabric, and loads of polyester clothing often aren’t heavy enough for the heavy-duty cycle. Washing them using the normal setting is safe for your polyester clothes. According to Whirlpool, you can use the permanent press setting instead if your washing machine has it, which will help reduce wrinkles.

5. Use Normal Detergent

Unless your polyester clothing is severely stained, you can wash it using normal detergent. Keep in mind that detergent doesn’t always get washed out completely, which can affect the look of your clothes over time. It’s okay to use less; your clothes will get just as clean if not cleaner.

6. Use Fabric Softener

Polyester has a tendency to create static, especially when washed with fabrics that aren’t polyester. Using fabric softener helps to reduce the amount of static produced.

7. Use a Dryer Sheet

If you don’t want to use fabric softener, you can use a dryer sheet instead to reduce static in the dryer. If you did use fabric softener, you can skip the dryer sheet.

8. Dry on Low Heat

To best maintain the quality of your polyester clothing, you should dry it on low heat or air-fluff. Polyester is a type of plastic, which can melt if the dryer’s heat setting is too high. You can also air-dry the fabric instead.

What Happens if Polyester Gets Wet?

Besides being resistant to fading, polyester is a good fabric for outerwear because of how it reacts with water. A lot of people think that polyester is waterproof and therefore won’t get wet, but this is not entirely true. Polyester is water resistant. It will still get wet, but not soaked.

The fibers that make up polyester are hydrophobic, which means they are “afraid” of water and will try to repel it. Water doesn’t pass through the fibers easily, but it can pass through empty spaces between fibers causing the wearer or surface underneath to get a little wet.

Since polyester is water resistant, this means that it will dry faster than other fabrics like cotton. Polyester is a good fabric choice to wear in all weather conditions.

Does Polyester Have to Be Dry-Cleaned?

Due to the nature of the fibers, it is recommended that some fabrics are dry-clean only. Since polyester is a synthetic fabric, it is usually safe to wash it at home in your washing machine. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Check the Care Label

Before you wash any clothing, especially for the first time, you should check the care label for specific care instructions. There is usually only one way specified on the care label to wash and dry the fabric. However, the method on the care label isn’t the only way to clean your clothes. It is just the BEST way to clean them to help them last the longest.

For example, if a care label says, “Dry Clean,” it means that’s the best way to clean the clothing. The only instance where you should definitely take the clothing to the dry cleaners is if the care label says “Dry Clean ONLY.” Usually “Dry Clean Only” means that cleaning it in any other way can destroy the fabric. Polyester can be dry cleaned, but it doesn’t have to be.

Decorative Accents

Another factor to consider when deciding whether to dry clean your polyester clothes is any decorative accents. Beads, sequins, pearls, embroidery, and glitter are all considered decorative accents. The agitation of the washing machine can cause the accents to fall off or bleed color, ruining the look of your clothes. If your polyester clothes have any decorative accents, it is best to have them dry-cleaned.

How to Fade Polyester Fabric

Some people want to fade their polyester clothes to give them a vintage and worn look. Because it is designed to hold color so well, most polyester fabrics won’t fade easily. There are some things you can try to give your polyester clothes a faded look.

Hot Water and Oxygen Bleach

If you have a top-loading washing machine, you can try this method. Use only oxygen bleach on polyester because chlorine bleach can damage the fibers.

  1. On the gentle cycle, let your washing machine fill up with hot water.
  2. Add 1 cup of oxygen bleach to the water.
  3. Use a long stick or broom handle to stir the water.
  4. Put the item you want to fade in the water.
  5. Run the clothing through the gentle spin cycle for about 5 minutes.
  6. Stop the cycle before it drains. Let the clothing sit in the water for an hour.
  7. Let the wash cycle finish.
  8. Hang the shirt in the sun to line dry.

Lemon Juice and Vinegar

Lemon juice can be used to lighten fabric and vinegar can be used to set the color. Before trying this method, wash and dry the clothing you want to fade several times to remove any dirt, oil, or residue. Then follow these steps.

  1. In a bucket or tub, mix 1 part lemon juice with 3 parts water to lighten.
  2. Place the clothing you want to fade in the bucket.
  3. Depending on the level of fade you want, let it soak in the water for 3-12 hours.
  4. Pour the lemon water out and hang the clothing to dry.
  5. In the same bucket, mix 1 part lemon juice and 3 parts vinegar to set the color.
  6. Let the clothing soak in the vinegar-water solution for another 3-12 hours.
  7. Wash the shirt to remove the vinegar smell.
  8. Hang to dry.

Can You Remove Color from Polyester?

Removing color from polyester to either fade it or whiten it can be done with Rit Color Remover. Rit Color Remover is a type of non-chlorine bleach used for removing color from clothes and fabrics in order to whiten them.

To use Rit Color Remover, follow these steps:

  1. Heat a pot of water on the stove.
  2. Pour in the color remover.
  3. Place the clothing in the pot.
  4. Leave it in for 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse the shirt with cold water.

To see the color removal process, watch this video:

Will Bleach Lighten Polyester?

Chlorine bleach does not typically react well with polyester fibers because they are made of synthetic plastic. Using chlorine bleach on polyester fabric can lighten the color, but it may also damage and degrade the fabric in the process.

If you want to use bleach to whiten polyester, use oxygen bleach instead. It is safer for you and less harsh on the polyester fibers, but just as effective as chlorine bleach.

Can You Acid Wash Polyester?

Acid washing is a process that can make clothes look older and worn-in. When done at home, bleach is commonly used as the “acid”. It is best done outside and with proper skin protection such as gloves. Here’s how to acid wash polyester.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with half oxygen bleach and half water.
  2. Lay out the clothing you want to acid wash on the ground.
  3. Lightly spray the clothing on the areas you want bleached.
  4. Spray more bleach on areas that you want to be lighter than others.
  5. Let the bleach sit for at least 10 minutes. The longer it sits on certain areas, the lighter those areas will be.
  6. If you’re happy with your acid wash, rinse the item out and wash it. If not, repeat the process.


We hope this article was informational. Polyester is resistant to all forms of fading due to its synthetic nature. However, there are things you can try if you want to fade your polyester clothing or restore the color if it does fade. If you enjoyed this article, leave a comment and share it with a friend.