Black clothes are wardrobe staples—they’re versatile, flattering, and can be dressed up or down.
However, a common frustration with black garments is that they fade over time due to repeated washing. Your vibrant black clothes can quickly turn a dull, greyish hue if not cared for properly.
The fading of black fabrics can be due to the quality of the dye used. However, improper washing practices are the main culprit.
The garment endures whilst in the washing machine, the choice of detergent used during the washing process, and the water temperature of the wash cycle can all contribute to fading.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take when washing your black clothing to ensure that the life of your garments is as long as possible.
This article will explore how to wash black clothes without them fading, plus some tips for restoring the blackness of clothes that have already lost their vibrancy.
How Do You Wash Black Clothes to Prevent Them from Fading?
Step 1: Separate black clothes
The first step in preserving the vibrancy of your black clothes is proper sorting of your laundry.
Always separate dark-coloured garments from whites and lighter colours to prevent colour bleeding.
Additionally, avoid washing black clothes with items that have zippers, buttons, or other sharp embellishments, as they can cause friction and damage the fabric.
It’s also crucial to refrain from mixing dark fabrics with garments or linens that tend to produce lint.
Lint particles originating from these materials can easily attach themselves to dark items, resulting in an undesirable “fuzzy” appearance and causing the dark colours to appear faded.
Step 2: Check the clothing labels
Before washing your black clothing, always consult the care label attached to the garment for proper washing and drying instructions, as well as to check if dry cleaning is necessary.
By following the care tag recommendations, you can help prevent your black clothes from fading and maintain their vibrant appearance while also preventing premature wear and tear.
Step 3: Do a ‘sink test’
If you’re concerned about the black dye bleeding from the fabric, thus losing its depth of colour, perform a sink test before putting it in the washing machine:
- Place the item in a sink filled with lukewarm water.
- Gently agitate the garment by moving it around using your fingers
- Let your black item of clothing sit for approximately 30 minutes
If you observe any colour bleeding during this test, hand-wash the garment instead. This will ensure minimal dye is lost from the fabric as it is being washed, reducing the amount of fading of your black clothes over time.
Step 4: Reduce friction during the wash
To preserve your clothing’s black colour during washing, turn the garments inside out before placing them in the washing machine.
This way, the inner side of the clothing bears the majority of the friction and fading effects during the wash while still ensuring thorough cleaning.
While it may be tempting to maximise each load, overloading the washing machine can lead to inadequate cleaning and increased friction between garments.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for load size to ensure a thorough but gentle wash. You can also check out our guide on washing machine capacities for more help and advice.
Step 5: Choose the right washing cycle
If you want to wash black clothes without them fading, there are three core factors to consider when selecting an appropriate wash cycle:
- Temperature: When choosing what temperature to use when washing black clothes, cold water cycles (between 20 ºC to 30ºC) are best. Black clothes will fade faster in warm wash cycles as the warm water breaks down fibres, whereas cold water below 30ºC is gentler on the fabric and helps prevent shrinkage.
- Spin speed: When deciding on the washing cycle for your black clothes in the washing machine, also choose a gentle or delicate cycle. This particular cycle operates with slower agitation and less vigorous spinning, minimising the wear and tear on your black garments and reducing the amount of fading.
- Cycle length: Always wash your black clothes on a short wash cycle to help protect your black clothes and retain as much dye as possible. The less time your garments spend in the washing machine, the lower the risk of colours running and fading. Most washing machines have a “dark” cycle option, which is shorter than their standard wash setting.
Step 6: Choose the right laundry detergent
To prevent dark clothes from fading, use a laundry detergent specifically designed for dark or coloured fabrics.
These detergents are formulated to be gentler on the dyes used in dark clothes and help maintain their colour over time.
Look for products labelled as “colour-safe” or “for darks” when selecting your laundry detergent.
Additionally, using a liquid detergent rather than a powder one can also be gentler on your black garments.
This helps avoid any undissolved particles sticking to dark clothing, which can result in a lacklustre finish. Any liquid detergent is suitable, but ensure it does not contain bleach.
Step 7: Avoid using fabric softeners
Avoid using fabric softeners when washing your black clothes, as they can leave a residue on your garments, which may affect the absorption of dyes and cause fading over time.
If a fabric softener is necessary, use a fabric conditioner specifically designed for dark garments and use it sparingly.
Alternatively, try one of these fabric softener substitutes instead:
- Laundry eggs
- Dryer balls
- Tennis balls
Step 8: Drying your black clothes
When drying your black clothes, skip the tumble dryer and opt for air drying or line drying if possible.
The high temperatures in the dryer can damage the clothes, so air drying is a must-do in order to prevent your clothes from fading.
Airy drying your clothes outside or inside is fine—wherever you have space. However, if you choose to line-dry your black clothes outdoors, ensure they are placed in an area that is shielded from direct sunlight.
Sunlight has a natural bleaching effect that can also increase the fading of your black garments.
In cases where using the dryer is unavoidable, select the lowest temperature setting suitable for the fabric of the clothes.
It’s crucial to monitor the drying process carefully to prevent over-drying or excessive warmth. Removing the clothes while they still retain slight dampness is a safe approach.
Step 9: Storing your black clothes
Once your black clothes are clean and dry, store them in a place that is cool, dark, and dry. For example, this could be a wardrobe or a chest of drawers.
Avoid hanging them in direct sunlight or near heat sources, as this can cause the fabric to fade over time.
How Often Should You Wash Black Clothes?
Determining how often to wash your clothes depends on various factors, including personal habits, the garment’s use, and climate conditions.
In general, black clothes tend to conceal stains and odours better than lighter colours, allowing for more extended wear between washes.
As a guideline, unless visibly soiled or emitting odours, black clothes can typically be worn two to three times before laundering.
However, garments worn close to the skin, like underwear or athletic/gym wear, may need more frequent washing due to perspiration.
Ultimately, it’s essential to use your judgment. Consider the specific circumstances and cleanliness of your black clothing to strike the right balance between maintaining freshness and preserving the dark colour of your garments.
Can You Restore Faded Black Clothes?
Restoring faded black clothes can be a bit challenging. However, there are some methods you can use to try and revive their colour.
- Use a colour-enhancing detergent: Look for a colour-enhancing or dye-refreshing detergent specially designed for dark fabrics. These detergents are formulated to deposit dye back onto the fabric and help restore colour over several washes.
- Add vinegar or salt: Consider adding a cup of distilled white vinegar or a half-cup of table salt to the washing machine. Both can help set the dye and bind it tightly to the fabric fibres, preventing it from fading further.
- Soak your garments in coffee: Whilst coffee won’t work as well as an actual dye, it can subtly enhance the black dye in clothes with minor fading. Soak your black garments in a coffee solution overnight and wash them the following morning as usual.
- Consider fabric dye: If your black clothes remain faded after washing, you may consider using a fabric dye specifically designed for black fabrics, such as Dylon Wash and Dye Fabric Dye for Clothes. Follow the dye instructions carefully to achieve the best results.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.