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How do you wash dark colored clothes?


Washing dark colored clothes can be tricky. Dark fabrics are prone to fading, running, and looking dull after multiple washes. With some care and the right techniques, you can keep your dark clothes looking vibrant and new for longer. Here are some tips on how to properly wash dark colored items to maintain their color and texture.

Should You Wash Darks Separately?

Yes, you should wash dark colored fabrics separately from light colors. Washing darks and lights together can result in dye transfer, where loose dye from dark fabrics bleeds onto lighter items in the wash. This can discolor your light garments or add a dingy cast.

Wash blacks, dark blues, browns, etc. in their own load to prevent any dye bleed. Make sure to wash similar shade darks together as well – a dark red sock could still bleed onto a black shirt.

Turn Clothes Inside Out

Turn all dark clothing inside out before washing. This puts the color vulnerable side facing inward, protecting the outside from friction and fading. The inside of clothes also collect more body oils, dirt, and debris that can loosen dye, so turning them protects your other laundry.

Use Cold Water

Always wash dark fabrics in cold water. Warm or hot water opens up fabric pores and relaxes fibers so dye can escape more readily. Cold water allows less dye release for brighter, deeper colored clothing.

Make sure your machine does not mix in any warm water during cycles. Front loaders often do, so check your manual. Top loaders are typically safe for true cold washing.

Wash in Short Cycles

Keep wash cycles short, no more than 10-15 minutes. Extended washing, especially vigorous or hot washes, will cause more dye loss over time.

Quick cycles also reduce friction against other clothing that can abrade and fade dark dyes. Use the delicate or permanent press setting if possible.

Use a Detergent for Darks

Choose a laundry detergent specially formulated for dark colors. These contain ingredients like dye transfer inhibitors that help seal in color.

Look for detergents that say “for blacks” or “no dye loss” on the label. Liquid detergents tend to be more effective than powder at preventing fade.

Add Vinegar to the Rinse

Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle when washing dark clothes. Vinegar helps set dyes so they stay locked in fabric fibers longer. It also acts as a fabric softener.

Vinegar Amount Load Size
1/2 cup Standard
1 cup Large

Skip the Chlorine Bleach

Never use chlorine bleach when washing dark colored clothing. Bleach will react with dye molecules and cause rapid fading and discoloration. Even small amounts can lead to visible light spots over time.

Opt for an oxygen based bleach if you need whitening power. Or try washing with borax and washing soda separately.

Check for Colorfastness

Test new dark items for color bleeding before a full wash. Put a few wet drops of water on an inconspicuous area. If you see dye in the water, treat as non-colorfast.

For suspect clothes, wash separately in cold water for the first several washes until you’re sure no more dye will run. This prevents staining other laundry.

Shake Out Clothes

Vigorously shake out damp clothes before transferring to the dryer. This helps prevent excess dye accumulation on other fabrics as they tumble and rub together.

Dry Immediately

Place clothes in the dryer immediately after washing. Don’t let them sit wet for long. Remaining moisture allows dye to continue releasing, especially if warm.

Use Low Heat

Dry dark clothes on a low temperature setting. High heat can degrade fabric and cause shrinking. It also speeds up dye fading over many cycles.

Tumble dry only 5-10 minutes to remove moisture then hang items or lie flat to finish drying. This avoids excess heat damage.

Use Dryer Sheets

Toss 1-2 dryer sheets in with your dark load. They contain cationic softeners that help seal in dye. Dryer sheets also prevent static cling that could attract lint.

Clean the Washer

After washing a load of darks, run a hot rinse cycle empty. This flushes out any residual dye in the machine so it won’t discolor the next lighter load.

You can also use a washer cleaner monthly to remove built-up dye. Clean the interior drum, detergent dispenser, and gaskets.

Store Properly

Hang dark clothing inside out after washing so the colors stay vibrant. Folding can crease fabrics and create light “stress” lines over time.

Keep darks in cool, dry spaces away from sunlight. Heat and UV light will also accelerate fading.


With some extra care, your dark clothing can maintain its rich color and look great for many washes. Washing darks separately, using cold water, avoiding bleach, and line drying are key. Follow these tips to prevent dye transfer and keep blacks and bold colors looking their best.


What temperature should you wash dark clothes in?

Wash dark clothing in cold water, around 30°C or less. Warm or hot water will cause more dye loss. Always check clothing tags as well – some may specify cold wash only.

Can you wash darks and lights together?

It’s best not to wash dark and light fabrics together. Dark dyes may bleed or transfer onto lighter colors and discolor them. Wash lights and bold darks separately.

What happens if you dry dark clothes at high heat?

High heat drying can damage dark clothing over time. The heat causes excessive fading by loosening dye bonds. Air dry or use the lowest dryer setting when drying darker items.

Why do my dark clothes look dull after washing?

Dull, faded dark clothes are often the result of using hot water, chlorine bleach, or drying at high temperatures. Dye gradually strips away with this damage. Don’t use bleach and wash/dry at cooler temps.

What is the best laundry detergent for dark clothes?

Look for a detergent specially formulated for black or dark fabrics. These have additives that help seal in color and prevent fading. Liquid detergents tend to work better than powder on darker colors.