Learning how to wash dark and black clothes will help them stay vibrant while protecting lighter clothes from color transfer. If you want to keep your wardrobe looking fresh, it’s important to know how to prevent the fading of black and dark-colored clothes. The simple steps in this guide can go a long way towards preserving your clothes so they look their best.

Clothing care label on a blue shirt

1: How to help prevent fading by reading clothing labels

Every item of clothing has unique needs. Before you toss those black jeans or that purple shirt into the washing machine, take a look at the label and read the fabric care instructions. Fabrics fade due to breakage and small tears that occur in the fiber of clothing—these tears expose the fiber ends, leading to a faded appearance.

This is a normal process, but caring for your clothes properly can help keep these fibers intact for a longer period. Before tossing items in the washing machine, take time to learn whether they need a normal or delicate cycle. Delicate cycles are shorter and gentler, making them a good option for washing dark or black clothes as well as softer, thinner fabrics.

Person taking clothes out of a hamper

2: How to wash black or dark clothes to reduce lint transfer

Most people know that separating laundry helps keep dyes from leeching onto white and light clothing. But separating clothing also helps prevent lint from settling on dark fabrics and giving your clothes a faded, aged look. Before you start doing laundry, separate your clothes by color (whites, lights, brights, darks and blacks), and then again by fabric type. Learn more about how to sort and separate laundry

This may seem like an extra step, but it isn’t an unnecessary one. If heavy duty fabrics like denim rub against more delicate fabrics in the wash cycle, it can exacerbate wear and tear on the more delicate item, leading to a faded look.

Clothes in soapy water at bottom of wash tub

3: How to keep clothes from fading by following proper washing guidelines

While you can’t control how your clothes move inside your washer, you can take steps to take extra care of items you love. 

  • Turn all clothes inside out and secure fasteners to help prevent zippers, buttons, hooks and other fasteners from rubbing against clothes and damaging fibers. (If fading does occur, it will be on the underside of the garment.)
  • Keep a close eye on the size of your load—overstuffing the washing machine not only makes it work harder, but also causes clothes to rub against each other more frequently.
  • Your choice of detergent can also make a difference, so be sure to choose an option that is gentle on clothes and free of harsh bleaches.
  • Choose a cold water wash whenever possible, as hot water can stress clothing fibers. 
  • Consider using a fabric softener, as this liquid will coat clothing fibers and help reduce friction.
Hand selecting Normal cycle on dryer console

4: How to prevent fading while drying clothes

When it comes to preserving your clothes, heat and friction are two of your biggest worries. When using a dryer, opt for a delicate cycle with low heat, or select the “air dry” option. Ideally, you should take your clothes out of the dryer while they are still slightly damp and hang them up to finish drying. This will help keep fading at bay and your clothing from getting too stressed. To prevent exposure to sunlight, opt for an indoor drying rack instead of an outdoor clothesline.

Pastel clothes loaded into a washer or dryer with an open door.

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