These cleaning tips will ensure that all of your dark clothing looks their best and keeps their color, even after repeated laundering.

By Stephanie Lovelle
November 06, 2019

For many of us, black and dark clothing are wardrobe essentials, which means there's nothing more irritating than when those items begin to lose their color. From your favorite little black dress and skinny jeans to your go-to dark shirts and skirts, these tips on washing dark clothes from Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications, outreach, and membership at the American Cleaning Institute, will ensure that those deep hues never fade away.

Related: How to Wash White Clothes

Before You Wash

Make sure to separate clothing before washing in order to avoid dye staining. You should have whites alone, pastels and medium colors together, and brights and darks separately. While all dark clothes (such as black, dark blues, or dark reds) can be washed together, Sansoni suggests adding a dye-trapping sheet to your washer when laundering dark clothing, which absorbs and traps loose dyes during the wash cycle. Another way to protect against dyes coming into contact with each other is to turn the garments inside out, washing with the clothing tag on the outside.

It's best to get in the habit of looking at care labels when doing laundry. "Regardless of color, always follow the fabric care label. It will tell you whether machine washing, hand-washing, or dry cleaning is recommended," says Sansoni. Make sure you have any supplementary cleaning products designed for washing dark clothes, if necessary. "There are laundry products that are formulated to lessen the fading. Be sure to read the product label and look for features like 'color guard' or 'for black' or 'dark clothes,'" he says.

During the Wash Cycle

You might think that warm or hot water is best for cleaning clothing and getting rid of germs, but that's not always the case. If you're washing the clothes of someone who is sick or you live in a cold-weather state where water temperatures can be 40 degrees or below, thus making detergents less effective, it's true that warm or hot water may be best. If those factors aren't the case, though, it's best to use cold water on dark clothing. "Hot water and drying clothes in a dryer can cause fading to happen faster. Cold water is preferred," he says.

Using cold water also decreases the chance of clothes shrinking, wrinkling, or bleeding, and it'll help save you money. According to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research for the American Cleaning Institute, "Ninety percent of the energy our washing machines use goes toward heating water." To prevent any damage to clothing, be aware that washing clothes more frequently than necessary can shorten their lifespan. When washing, use the shortest full-cleaning cycle available on your washing machine. "Pretreat stains to help ensure you get it clean the first time and avoid rewashing," says the expert. He also recommends understanding when you simply don't need to wash a particular item of clothing. "Some items do not need to be washed with every wear. If it's a small stain and the clothes are clean otherwise, spot-treating should work between washes," he says.

Drying Dark Clothes

Just as washing clothes in a smaller load to reduce friction and using cold water over hot, you'll want to minimize the amount of heat applied to your dark garments. "Air drying is ideal for dark clothes," says Sansoni. "If you do put it in the dryer, check that stains are gone first since heat will set stains in clothing,  then be sure to use a gentle cycle setting and low heat."

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