There’s no worse feeling than pulling a dark shirt or pair of slacks out of the wash and seeing that they’ve faded to a lackluster version of their former color. But if you’ve been under the impression that considerable fading is an unavoidable outcome of regular washings, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be!
Garments lose their vibrant hue when warm water breaks down individual fibers in the fabric, causing dye to be released – often referred to as “bleeding.” Bleeding dyes, as well as fading caused by friction, sunlight, and other elements, are both to blame for why the colors of your clothes start to look muted or dulled after a while.
While some bleeding and fading may be unavoidable, there are ways to minimize these effects and keep your clothes looking new longer. I’ll be sharing several of those with you today, in the form of 9 simple things you can do to prevent fading and keep your clothes as bright as the day you bought them.
9 Easy Tips To Prevent Colors From Fading In The Wash
1. Turn Your Clothes Inside Out
This is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent color loss. By flipping your garments inside out, they’ll still get just as clean in the washing machine but you’ll reduce friction (the rubbing together of fibers) on the outside of the clothes. While you’re at it, make sure zippers are zipped up before tossing them in the washing machine to minimize friction and avoid snagging.
2. Wash Clothes In Cold Water
This is another no-brainer, especially considering that most color fading is a result of hot water relaxing the fibers in the fabric and making them more likely to break down. Using warm water as opposed to hot will help prevent some bleeding, but cool or cold water will help even more.
3. Don’t Overstuff Your Washing Machine
Stuffing as much laundry as you can into your washing machine creates more friction between your clothes, which we already know is a big no-no. It also raises the risk that your clothes won’t get cleaned or rinsed thoroughly enough in the wash, so make sure your wash drum is full-ish, but not jam-packed.
4. Keep Clothes Out Of The Sun
The ultraviolet rays from the sun are another big offender in terms of contributing to fading. You can still hang your clothes to dry outside, but try to choose a shaded area with lots of room for air to circulate. That way, you’ll still get the benefits of air drying in the sun while avoiding the bleaching effects of direct sunlight.
5. Check For Colorfastness
Before washing dark items for the first time, always check for colorfastness, or the ability of a fabric to retain its dyes without fading or bleeding. To do it, rub a damp cotton swab on an interior seam or hem, and if there’s color on the swab after doing so, you’ll know to wash it separately or with like colors.
Bonus Tip: Care instructions like “wash alone/separately” and “wash with like colors” are often signs that the fabric may not be colorfast, or that it contains excess dye that will bleed out the first several times you wash it.
6. Wash Before You Wear
Dye doesn’t just come out in the wash—it can rub off onto your skin and furniture too. To avoid any unfortunate issues with dye stains or residues, be sure to test for colorfastness and wash new clothes before you wear them.
7. Separate Your Laundry By Color And Weight
There’s a reason our foremothers made sure we understood the importance of separating our laundry into dark colors and light colors! This step goes a long way toward helping your clothes maintain their color over time.
You should also consider further separating your laundry weight as well. The idea here is that heavy clothes can put too much friction on lightweight fabrics, which could harm their fibers and lead to fading or color loss.
8. Wash With Vinegar Periodically
Adding a cup of vinegar to your wash loads won’t necessarily prevent colors from bleeding, but it can help brighten both whites and colors by eliminating residues that can make fabrics appear less vibrant. Vinegar has the added benefit of reducing odor and softening your clothes, so it’s wins all around.
9. Choose A Gentle Wash Cycle
Since preventing friction is key to keeping your clothes bright and vibrant, it can help to choose brief and/or gentle wash cycles when possible. And if a garment is especially delicate (including those susceptible to bleeding), hand washing is always the safest way to go!
Do you do anything else to prevent your laundry from fading or bleeding?