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Washing black clothes without fading them

Say goodbye to fading with our top tips for washing dark clothes.

Updated

A pile of folded dark laundry in front of a washing machine

For many of us, our dark or black pieces of clothing form the wardrobe staples that can see us through any event, help us look smart and never go out of fashion. But the downside of this trusted and reliable shade is that washing black clothes can cause fading, leaving your favourite black jeans looking dull and your dark outfits somewhat lacklustre.

Our handy guide will explain how to keep black jeans black and keep your dark wardrobe essentials looking good as new for a whole lot longer.

Washing black clothes in 7 easy steps

1. Separate your darks from your lights

When thinking about washing black clothes without fading, always wash darks separately from lights, including pastels. It’s well known that to keep whites bright, we need to wash them separately but not many people realise that dark clothes also need to be washed together to maintain their colour.

  • Dark clothing washed with coloured or light clothing will start to fade, or leach dye. For this reason, it’s best to wash darks and blacks on their own.
  • Blacks, navies, and other very dark colours can go together.

Top tip: Always empty pockets. A big pile of black clothes can blend into one mass, but if there’s one forgotten tissue in there, you’re going to have a tough time getting rid of the white residue afterwards.

2. Separate your washing type

Don’t be tempted to put all your dark or black items in the wash together to save time. As well as the colours, you also need to consider the types of fabric you’re washing together.

When sorting your dark clothes, take a moment to think about the different weights and structure of fabric:

  • A light-weight top shouldn’t be put in the same cycle as heavy denim, for example. This is because coarse fabrics can gradually erode delicate ones during a wash cycle.
  • You should also consider how dirty your laundry is; it’s not recommended to put heavily soiled items in the wash with those that are only slightly dirty.
  • Washing delicate dark items with more heavy-duty ones, like towels or denim, can cause pilling – unsightly bobbles of fibre formed into balls, making your clothes look dull, old and faded.  
Clothes care label

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3. Pay attention to the clothes-care label

Check the care labels of your clothes before washing them together. It might seem like a bit of a faff, but it could save you some washing disasters and help your clothes to look like new for longer. For example, did you know that it is recommended that red clothing be washed by hand at first, as this dye is known to run?

  • Not all clothes are machine washable and you may need to hand wash them or put on a hand-wash cycle if you have one.
  • Silk, cashmere and other delicate materials are often dry-clean only.
  • Delicates like underwear should be washed separately.

Top tip: always use the shortest wash cycle possible to help your darks maintain their colour.  

Colourful and dark clothing soaking in a basin of water

4. Choose the right temperature

When it comes to dark clothes, the wash temperature is very important in preserving their colour. It’s often the heat of a wash that can cause the dye to run or fade, meaning darks should be washed in cold water to retain the colour and lessen the fading.

  • Choose the coldest wash possible for your darks.
  • It’s better to soak any particularly soiled dark clothes in cold water before a wash, rather than putting them on a hot wash. A hot wash can damage the fibre structure, fit and colour of dark clothing.
  • This also applies if you want to know how to keep black jeans black; wash your jeans in cold water and they’ll stay looking good-as-new for longer.  
Clothes turned inside out about to go into a washing machine

5. Select the right detergent

When washing dark clothes, choose a washing detergent that’s suitable for dark colours and always avoid additives such as bleach, which can be damaging. Then:

  • Check your detergent packaging to see if it’s suitable for use on a colder wash. As a general rule of thumb, liquids tend to work better in cold water as powders don’t always dissolve properly.
  • If some of your dark items are particularly dirty, you can pre-treat some stains with a damp cloth and a dab of laundry detergent, or soak first in cold water.  
Colourful and dark clothing ready to be washed

6. Turn dark clothes inside out

If you’re wondering how to wash black jeans with minimal chance of fading, the answer is to turn them inside out. This simple hack helps the colour stay in longer because:

  • The action of the water and detergent works primarily on the outer layer (which if turned inside out becomes the inner layer) and often causes fading.
  • Use this trick also for any dark clothing that you’d like to preserve the quality and colour of.

Top tip: Try and get into good habits early on by either turning your jeans or dark clothing inside out when taking them off and pop them in your laundry basket.

7. Avoid using the tumble dryer

Whilst tumble drying your dark clothes won’t always result in fading, it’s safe to say that tumble drying can be a contributory factor. Here’s why:

  • The heat and friction can, as with a washing cycle, result in the clothes fibres becoming distressed, causing the colour to fade and resulting in the dull greyish colour we see, especially after drying our dark jeans.
  • Whilst some items will undoubtedly fare better in a tumble dryer than others (think socks, T-shirts, and cotton items which are designed to fade), it’s recommended you line-dry your heavier-duty jeans and dark clothing to preserve the colour for longer.

Top tip: If air-drying, make sure you hang items out of direct sunlight to avoid fading.

How to wash black jeans

Classic wardrobe essentials, black jeans are fashion staples that form the basis of many an outfit. They’re comfortable and easy-to-wear, but not so easy to care for. Why is it that after only a few washes, our favourite dark jeans seem to adopt an unsightly faded grey hue and lose their once-flattering shape?

Luckily, we have some good solutions that will help banish the fading, preserve the shape and teach you how to keep black jeans black.

  • You don’t need to wash jeans as frequently as you might think. Regular washing promotes fading, so it’s best to spot clean any stains with some detergent to prolong the time in-between washes.
  • Turn them inside out before washing and, using liquid detergent, put them in a cold wash.
  • It’s best to wash your jeans with other dark denim or heavy fabric of a similar colour, which will help retain their colour and limit any fading. This is because washing similar colours together prevent the mixture of other dyes diluting the colour of black clothes.
  • As hard-wearing as jeans are, they only require a gentle wash on a low spin cycle.
  • Your jeans should ideally be line-dried away from direct sunlight, which can cause fading.
  • Don’t be tempted to tumble dry your jeans (unless you want to shrink your denims) – they’re likely to lose their shape and the heat and friction can damage the structure of the fibres and cause fading.

How do you keep black clothes from fading?

To prolong the shelf-life of your favourite black garments, it’s important to try and remember to turn your items inside out before washing and opt for a cooler wash temperature than normal using a suitable liquid detergent.

A short cycle will help reduce any fibre damage or fading, and it’s always best to air-dry where possible. Try and avoid washing your black items too regularly, opting instead to spot-clean any stains.

What laundry detergent is best for black clothes?

Faded clothes are irksome for many of us, but luckily there are products on the market that can help. Surf’s Perfect Black detergent is specially formulated to keep black clothes black and combines colourfast technology, making it perfect for your black jeans.

As a cold wash is best for black clothes, make sure that whatever detergent you use, you opt for a liquid and not powder (which doesn’t always dissolve in cold washes).

Do you wash black clothes in hot or cold water?

When it comes to preserving dark clothes, the wash temperature is crucial. Darks need a cooler, short cycle to best retain their colour – a hot wash can shrink and fade them.

The ideal temperature to wash dark clothes on is 30°C, which is a fairly safe temperature for most darks.

Always remember to check your detergent to see if it’s suitable for use at this temperature first, though. If you have some delicate black clothing to wash, put it on the coldest and gentlest wash available (or the delicates cycle if you have it).

If your dark items are particularly dirty, soak them in cold water or spot clean before washing.

Can you wash black clothes with coloured clothes?

Black clothes can be washed at a cold temperature with other coloured clothes, but only if they are also a dark colour like navy, maroon, red or dark green. Washing black clothes with lighter colours can cause the dye to leach, so it’s not recommended, even on a cold wash. When it comes to washing items like black jeans, ideally these will be washed with other dark denim or heavy-duty items. If in doubt, wash the item separately.  

Originally published