Who doesn’t love black clothes? Black clothes are flattering, stylish, and versatile. They look so good in so many ways. But what about when black clothes start to fade? Once deep dark clothes start turning dingy and faded, they don’t have the same appeal. So – what’s the best way to keep black clothes from fading?
Black clothes fade with washing and daily wear. To keep black clothes their most vibrant, it’s important to take proper care when washing them. Black clothes should be turned inside out before being washed and then washed in cold water using detergent designed for dark clothes. To inhibit fading – black clothes should be air-dried out of direct exposure to sunlight.
In this article, we will go over what makes black clothes fade and what you can do to help slow down the fading process by following proper washing protocols. We’ll also cover other methods to help keep black clothes blacker, as well as how to darken black clothes that have already faded.
Why Do Black Clothes Fade?
When you buy black clothes, you want them to stay black – faded black isn’t the same as something deep, dark, and vibrant. It’s unfortunate when black items begin to wear out, we don’t want to wear them as often because they just don’t look the same. Sadly this is a common occurrence.
Different materials can fade at different rates since their methods of coloring can be different. Some synthetic materials can be dyed in their formation process. Synthetic fibers can be dyed by several different methods when they are spun. These types of fibers can tend to hold their color longer, but it’s not necessarily always the case.
Different types of fibers also hold onto dyes differently, meaning that the materials they get made into may fade more quickly or slowly. For woven materials – natural fibers take much more readily to dyes. For materials dyed after they’re finished, fibers such as cotton or wool will do much better than synthetics like polyester or nylon.
In the end, all black clothes are dyed at some point in the process. When the materials are washed – little by little – the dye will begin to wash away as well.
Daily wear and use of clothes also naturally cause damage to the fibers. The more you wear or wash an item, the more friction it will experience – therefore, it will fade more readily.
Black isn’t the only color of clothing that fades with wear – it just happens to be a bit more obvious because it is the deepest black we want to see. When black clothes start to lighten up with use, it can become obvious, especially when compared to a brand new black garment.
Exposure to sunlight is another key factor in black clothes fading more quickly. Any garment that spends much time directly under the sun will be affected by UV rays and fade noticeably. Keep this in mind if you’re ever drying clothes on an outdoor clothesline – repeated drying in direct sunlight will exacerbate fading.
How to Keep Black Clothes From Fading
Black clothes will inevitably go through some level of fading – more fading will occur as the items are worn. With that in mind – there are precautions you can take to help keep your black clothes from fading so quickly – the most important of which is washing them properly.
The first thing you should ask yourself before you toss a black garment into the laundry bin is, “Does it really need to be washed?” Many items – jeans specifically – get thrown into the hamper more out of habit than necessity. If the garment was only worn for a short period of time or didn’t go through any strenuous use while it was on your body – reconsider. It may be perfectly fine to wear it again before running it through the washing machine.
Many designers and clothing experts will advise washing a pair of jeans only once every 10 to 15 wears! Of course, this isn’t a rule you can go by with every garment you launder – but it does make the point that many items probably get washed far too often.
Keeping washing cycles down will be the number one way to help keep black clothes from fading fast.
Once you’ve determined that the garments are ready for the wash, follow the steps below to keep your black clothes at their blackest.
1. Read Clothing Labels
Before washing any garment – the best practice states that you should familiarize yourself with the care label. Garment care labels will tell you precisely how each item should be laundered based on its particular makeup and design. Following garment care labels will ensure that your clothes last and will be kept looking their best.
Different materials can take different levels of heat and agitation when washing – but remember, in most cases, it’s always safe – and sometimes better – to wash with colder temps. Colder water is much less harsh and damaging than hot water.
2. Wash Black and Dark Colored Clothing Separately
Laundry can be a somewhat tedious and time-consuming chore. So it’s easy to get into the habit of throwing it all in a hamper together and washing it whenever you get a chance. Unfortunately – this method isn’t going to do you any favors when it comes to keeping your black clothes top-notch.
Any textile professional will always instruct you to separate clothes before washing them. As I mentioned above – all clothes are dyed at some point in their creation, and getting these dyed clothes wet can activate the dyes in some capacity.
It’s important to keep clothes with like clothes when washing because different types of clothes need different washing atmospheres. This will help different materials maintain their integrity during washing and minimize dye transfer between garments of extremely different coloring.
In an ideal laundry world – white clothes should only be washed with other white clothes. Colors should be divided into groups. And your black and darkest items should be washed together alone.
3. Turn Black Clothes Inside-Out Before Washing
Another easily overlooked way to help keep black clothes from fading is to turn black garments inside out before washing them. Friction is one of the leading causes of dark clothes fading. Friction against other clothes or surfaces damages fibers and these exposed damaged fibers – albeit microscopic – will make clothes appear faded. These damaged fibers also attract fuzz and lint – another enemy of black clothes.
When clothes are turned inside-out during their washing, the friction they are exposed to will occur inside the garment. This will protect the outside of the fabric from abrasions and preserve the garment’s surface so it can keep its color and pristine appearance longer.
Before washing any black item – whether it’s a shirt, dress, or jeans – turn it inside-out before it goes into the washing machine. To make it less of a hassle – get in the habit of turning clothes inside out before putting them into the hamper. This way, when the washing day comes around, you can skip that step and load the machine.
4. Wash Dark Clothes in Cold Water
In most cases – black and dark clothing should be washed in cold water. Hot water is one of the quickest ways to exacerbate dye washing out of material.
Of course, you should always refer to the care label before washing – but just because an item can be washed in warm water doesn’t mean it should be. Unless your clothes need some serious sanitation – wash black clothes on cold.
Washing laundry in cool or cold water is also better for you and the planet. Washing with cold water will save energy and money on the utility bill – a win-win for you and your wardrobe.
5. Use the Right Detergent
It may not seem obvious – but the detergent you use can also affect how quickly your clothing breaks down. When washing black or dark loads of laundry, it’s helpful to use a detergent specifically formulated for dark materials.
If you don’t have a dark-specific laundry detergent – don’t fret; you can still wash your clothes – just make sure you use a minimal amount of soap. If you can opt for liquid detergent for washing black clothes.
While powdered detergents can be better for eliminating build-up in machines – they tend to leave more noticeable residue on dark clothes, which can leave them looking dull after washing.
Most importantly – don’t use too much. Using too much detergent is one of the most common laundry mistakes people make. It’s bad for machines, clothes, and ultimately a waste of products and money.
6. Use the Correct Wash Setting
When it comes to washing dark clothes – the shorter the cycle, the better. The less time your clothes spend wet and agitating – the longer their life will be. So it’s important to set your machine to the correct setting.
Choosing wash settings like the delicate, permanent press, or quick wash will run a quick and efficient cycle. These types of cycles will have your clothes spending less time agitating. This,, in turn, means that there will be less friction overall, which will help reduce fading.
If you have a whole load of dark laundry that is only lightly soiled and one item that needs a deep clean – consider washing the dirtiest garment separately by hand. This way, you aren’t sacrificing all of your dark clothes for a longer, possibly hotter, wash just because of one item.
It’s also important to keep washing loads small. It’s all too easy to pack the machine full with the idea of getting the job done quicker. But overloading a washing machine will decrease its efficiency. Overloading will stress the machine, make the wash cycles take longer, and not allow clothing to get thoroughly cleaned.
For the best interest of the washing machine itself – and all of your clothing alike – keep laundry loads reasonably small.
7. Air Dry Black Clothes or Use Low Heat Settings
Heat exposure is another exacerbator of fading, anything that puts extreme pressure on a dyed garment will cause it to fade.
Air drying black or dark clothes instead of running them through the dryer is always a good idea, not to mention the energy this will save!
Using indoor drying racks is the optimal choice for air-drying black clothes. Unlike white laundry – where drying right in the sun is the best – black clothes should not be exposed to direct sunlight!
Fresh air is great, though. So if you don’t want to dry your black laundry inside and want to go with an outdoor clothesline instead – make sure the clothesline is located in a shady area. This way, the sun won’t be able to damage and fade your black clothes.
If you don’t live in an area where air drying – indoors or out – is possible, or you need your black clothing to dry quickly – you can still dry your clothes in a dryer. If this is the case – set the dryer to the lowest heat setting possible or use the air fluff mode.
Check the dryer intermittently while it’s running to make sure that the dryer isn’t continuing to run after the clothes have dried. Keeping loads small will also help them dry quicker – limiting the clothing’s exposure to the machine’s heat.
Other Ways to Keep Black Clothes Blacker
When it comes to keeping black clothes black – proper washing protocol will be your number one defense against fading. As with so many things in life – in the laundry, too, prevention is better than a cure.
Your best bet to keep fading to a minimum is to follow the washing instructions above. If that’s not enough – here are a few more methods that you can utilize to keep your darks dark.
At Home Dry Cleaning Kits
Since washing is the biggest contributor to fading black clothes – the less time they spend in a washing machine, the better. Heat, water and friction will all contribute massively to black clothes fading.
But this doesn’t mean you should never wash your black clothes – we want our clothes to be fresh and clean!
At-home dry cleaning kits are a good option for freshening clothes between machine washings. These kits are readily available and much more affordable than taking your clothes out to a dry cleaner. At home, dry cleaning kits can be purchased at general merchandise retailers like Target, grocery stores, or online.
At-home dry cleaning kits can also be a great alternative to traditional dry cleaners. The harsh chemicals dry cleaners use can sometimes react with clothing dyes to increase fading and/or discoloration. If you aren’t working with a reputable dry cleaner it’s also possible for your clothes to fall victim to dirty solvents. Dirty dry cleaning solvents will leave residue on clothes, leaving black items looking dull and less desirable.
Washing clothes with salt is a popular home laundry remedy. Salt is a mordant – which means it is a dye fixative. Mordants like salt help dyes set and bind to fabrics. Washing clothes with salt occasionally can help keep black clothes looking their best by preventing dyes from fading out.
Washing with salt can also help remove detergent residue. Sometimes black clothes can look dull and faded because of all the build-up rather than being faded.
Putting half a cup of salt into the drum of the washing machine before loading the laundry will help maintain a garment’s dark color. All other washing instructions should stay the same – use cold water, a short cycle setting, and only a small amount of detergent.
In my house – all laundry gets a vinegar rinse now and then. Washing clothes with vinegar is one of the best ways to eliminate build-up and detergent residue that is almost impossible to avoid.
Detergent build-up and residue are visually the worst when it comes to black clothes – giving the appearance of being dingy, dull and faded.
Putting a cup or two of vinegar straight into the machine when you load the laundry is all it takes to get your dark clothes back to their most vibrant blacks. Follow the garment care labels and all the tips above– add vinegar as a booster.
How to Restore Faded Black Clothing
If it’s too late for prevention and you’re trying to remedy a faded black garment rather than keeping one from fading – there are ways to re-darken your darks.
A natural way to increase the darkness on black clothes is to soak them in brewed coffee or tea. You’ll need some strong coffee or black tea, a splash of vinegar to set the dye at the end, and a pot or basin large enough for the items to soak.
Of course, this natural dye won’t keep black’s vibrancy forever – you may have to repeat the process now and then after clothes fade with wearing and washing.
Using black dye to re-dye clothes that have become faded is another option for getting your clothes back to black. Rit dye is a popular all-purpose dye that can be found at craft and fabric stores or online. There are also many other similar products you can choose from.
If going with a commercial dye product, make sure to read all of the instructions carefully before using. You’ll also want to make sure that the dye you get is compatible with the item/s you’re looking to dye – as certain types of dye may not adhere well to all materials.
We all want our black clothes to stay black – I don’t buy a black t-shirt hoping it will one day become gray. That’s why I feel it’s important to stick to these guidelines when washing black clothes. It’s easy to get into a routine that helps prevent black and dark clothes from fading – after a couple of washings. It becomes second nature! And if that’s not convincing enough on its own – it’s surely a better alternative to frequently re-dying all the black clothes in my closet!