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What detergent can I use for dark clothes?

Doing laundry can be a tedious chore, especially when it comes to keeping dark clothes looking their best. Dark fabrics like black, navy, brown, and dark red are prone to fading and running when washed improperly. Choosing the right laundry detergent is key to keeping darks looking vibrant and preventing dye transfer issues.

Detergent Considerations for Dark Clothes

When shopping for detergent for dark fabrics, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Color protection – Look for a detergent that is specifically formulated to lock in color and prevent fading. Detergents for darks will often say “color care” or “color protection” on the label.
  • Dye transfer blocking – Detergents that prevent dye transfer can keep dark clothes from picking up excess color from other garments in the wash. This helps prevent light or bright colors from bleeding onto your darker items.
  • Bleach-free formula – Bleach is very harsh and can cause premature fading on dark fabrics. Opt for a detergent without bleach.
  • No optical brighteners – These additives make fabrics appear brighter but can negatively affect dyes over time.
  • Fragrance-free – Dark clothes are prone to holding onto smells so a fragrance-free detergent prevents any scent residue.

Recommended Detergents for Darks

Here are some top-rated laundry detergents that are specifically formulated for washing dark clothes:

Detergent Key Features
Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty – Color protection
– Dye transfer blocking
– Bleach-free
Persil ProClean Black – Locks in dark colors
– Fights fade
– For black fabrics
Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean – Oxi formula for stain removal
– Color protect system
– Unscented
Seventh Generation Free & Clear – Plant-based formula
– No dyes or fragrances
– Dermatologist tested

Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty is a top choice that specifically locks in dyes and prevents transfer onto other clothes. Persil ProClean Black is another excellent option formulated just for black fabrics to help preserve the deep dark color. For a plant-based eco-friendly choice, Seventh Generation Free & Clear is a safe bet.

Sorting Dark Clothes

Properly sorting your laundry is a key first step to effective cleaning. Here are some tips for sorting dark items:

  • Separate by color – Wash blacks, dark blues, browns, etc separately from light colors, whites, and brights.
  • Watch for bleeding dyes – Sort new dark clothing separately the first few washes as the dyes may bleed more.
  • Separate by fabric – Wash delicate dark fabrics like silks, wools, and cashmere separately from sturdy cottons and denim.
  • Don’t mix dark prints with solid darks – The dye process is different so print transfer can occur.
  • Remove stains first – Pretreat any stained dark items to limit setting in stains during washing.

Taking the time to properly sort your laundry piles will ensure the most effective cleaning results.

Washing Darks

Once you’ve chosen the right detergent and sorted your clothes, follow these tips for washing:

  • Wash in cold water – Hot water can cause fading and dye bleeding in darks. Stick to the coolest setting.
  • Use the gentle or delicate cycle – Aggressive washing can be rough on fabrics and lead to pilling.
  • Skip the bleach – Never add bleach when washing dark colors as it is highly fading.
  • Air dry when possible – Heat from dryers can damage elastic and cause shrinkage.
  • Shake out immediately – After washing, shake dark items right away to prevent wrinkling.
  • Clean the washing machine – Remove lint and residue buildup that can transfer onto clothes.

Being mindful of these best practices when loading your washing machine will help keep your dark wardrobe looking its best wash after wash.

Dye Transfer Removal Tips

Even when taking precautions, you may end up with dye transfer on your darks. Here are some tips for removal:

  • Rinse with vinegar – Add 1 cup white vinegar to rinse cycle and wash again.
  • Use color catchers – These sheets absorb loose dye when washed together.
  • Rub with bar soap – Gently rub the stain with a bar of soap before washing.
  • Spot clean with hydrogen peroxide – Dilute peroxide can lift set-in stains.
  • Try oxy powder – Make a paste with oxy powder and water and let sit before washing.

For really stubborn stains, try a color run remover product specifically designed to draw out and absorb dye transfer.


Washing dark clothing properly doesn’t have to be a scary endeavor. With color-safe detergents, proper sorting techniques, cold water washes, and air drying, you can keep blacks, navys, browns, and other darks looking like new for many wears. Arm yourself with the right tools and knowledge, and you’ll become a laundry pro in no time.