Skip to Content

What do you wash darks on?

When it comes to doing laundry, one of the most common questions is what wash cycle should you use for dark clothes? The quick answer is that most dark fabrics should be washed on a cold water setting. Here’s a more in-depth look at washing dark clothes:

Why wash darks in cold water

Washing darks in cold water helps preserve the color and prevents fading. Hot water can cause dye in dark fabrics to bleed out and fade more quickly over time. Here are some of the key reasons to use cold water for dark loads:

  • Prevents color loss – The hot agitation and high temperatures of warm or hot water can cause the dye to loosen and bleed out of fabric.
  • Avoids shrinkage – Some dark fabrics are prone to shrinkage, and hot water can make this worse.
  • Helps fabrics last – The cold wash helps maintain the structure and integrity of fabrics over time.
  • Saves energy – Washing in cold water consumes less energy than heating the water for warm or hot cycles.

Washing in cold water may take a bit longer for the load to get clean, but it’s worth it to extend the life of dark items. The best practice is to always check clothing tags for specific wash instructions. When in doubt, opt for a cool or cold wash to keep dark fabrics looking vibrant for as long as possible.

What cycle should you use?

While the cold water setting is important for dark laundry, the wash cycle matters too. Here are some common cycles to consider:


A delicate cycle uses a slow, gentle agitation designed to prevent wear and tear on fabrics. This is a smart choice for delicates like lingerie as well as dark fabrics prone to snags or tears. The delicate cycle ensures clothes get clean while being extra gentle on seams and structure.

Permanent press

This cycle uses a medium speed agitation designed for wrinkle-resistant clothing like polos, pants, and shirts. It has a cool down rinse to reduce wrinkling. Permanent press is ideal for maintaining the shape and appearance of nicer dark clothing.


The normal or regular cycle provides a medium speed agitation and is safe for most solid color or dark fabrics. Unless clothes specify delicate wash only, sturdy cottons, linens, and synthetics can handle the normal cycle well.


Truly delicate dark fabrics like silk or cashmere should be handwashed or placed in a mesh bag on the handwash cycle. This prevents snags, distortion, and preserves the fine textures.

Water temperature tips

Here are some additional tips when it comes to water temperature for dark fabrics:

  • Check tags – Labels often specify “cold water only” or provide a max temperature like 30°C or 40°C.
  • Test new fabrics – When washing a new dark piece for the first time, use cold water to see if any dye bleeds out.
  • Pre-treat stains – Use cold water when pre-treating or soaking stained darks to prevent setting the stain.
  • Add color catchers – These prevent any loose dye from bleeding onto other laundry. Great for mixed loads.
  • Increase cool down – Take the extra step to turn on an extra cold rinse or cool down cycle to further lock in color.

Loading tips

Proper loading can also help when washing dark fabrics:

  • Wash darks separately – If possible, only wash blacks, blues, browns, etc. together and not with lights.
  • Use lower spin speed – High spin speeds can damage delicate dark items. Opt for a slow or medium spin.
  • Load loosely – Overloading can lead to creasing, wrinkling, and uneven cleaning.
  • Add fabric softener – Liquid softeners keep dark fabrics softer and help preserve color.
  • Clean the drum – Clear out lint and residue that could transfer onto clean dark clothes.

Drying darks

Drying is just as important as washing when it comes to keeping dark fabrics looking their best. Here are some drying tips:

  • Line dry when possible – Hang drying prevents shrinkage and fading from heat.
  • Tumble dry low – If machine drying, use the lowest heat setting.
  • Remove promptly – Don’t leave darks sitting in the dryer after cycle ends.
  • Use dryer balls – Wool or rubber balls help separate clothes and prevent wrinkling.
  • Lay flat to dry – For delicate dark items like cashmere sweaters, lay flat to air dry.

Common questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about washing dark clothes:

Can you wash darks in warm water?

It’s best to use cold water when washing dark fabrics. Warm water can cause fading over time. However, if a garment label specifies a certain temperature, follow those instructions.

Do you separate colors and darks when washing?

Yes, you should wash darks separately from colors, whites, and light fabrics. Washing them together can result in dye transfer or discoloration of the lighter items.

What about blacks – should they be washed separately?

Black fabrics should still be washed in cold water but don’t necessarily need their own separate load unless the items are brand new. Very dark shades like black, brown, and navy can typically be washed together.

Can you wash dark clothes with jeans?

Jeans and other denim can be safely washed with standard dark fabrics, especially if the jeans are a darker wash and minimally faded. However, heavily distressed or light denim could bleed indigo dye onto other clothes.


Washing darks doesn’t have to be complicated! Just remember to use cold water, choose a gentle cycle, air or line dry when possible, and take care when loading and unloading. With some simple care, your blacks, blues, browns, and other darks will stay vibrant and last for many wears to come. Don’t be afraid to get your darks clean – just be sure to wash with care!

Table of Washing Temperatures for Dark Fabrics

Fabric Type Ideal Wash Temperature
Cotton (non-delicate) Cold
Linen Cold
Synthetics (polyester, nylon, etc.) Cold
Wool Cold
Silk Cold/Cool, delicate cycle
Denim Cold
Rayon, viscose Cold, delicate cycle
Cashmere Cold, handwash or delicate cycle
Velvet Cold, delicate cycle

This covers the optimal wash temperatures for many common dark fabric types. Always refer to clothing labels for the manufacturer’s specific care recommendations.

Table of Washing Tips for Dark Fabrics

Issue Tips to Prevent
Fading – Wash in cold water
– Line dry or tumble dry low
– Use color catcher sheets
Bleeding dyes – Wash darks separately
– Use color catcher sheets
– Pre-treat stains
Pilling – Turn clothes inside out
– Use a delicates bag
– Don’t overload washer
Shrinkage – Wash in cold water
– Line dry or lay flat to dry
– Load washer loosely
Snags and tears – Use a delicates bag
– Wash on delicate cycle
– Avoid overloading

This table summarizes tips to prevent common laundry mishaps with dark fabrics like fading, bleeding, pilling, shrinkage, and snagging.


Caring for dark fabrics doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Follow these best practices to keep your blacks, blues, browns and other darks looking their absolute best:

  • Always wash darks in cold water
  • Select a gentle cycle like delicate or permanent press
  • Air dry or tumble dry on low when possible
  • Wash darks separately from light colors
  • Use color catcher sheets if washing mixed loads
  • Load the washer loosely and avoid overstuffing
  • Check labels for fabric-specific instructions

With this easy care routine, you can keep your dark wardrobe clean, vibrant and looking like new for many seasons to come. Show your darks a little TLC, and they’ll no doubt look fabulous wash after wash!