How to Wash Black Clothes

By: Natalie Kilgore  | 
Black clothes hanging on a clothesline outside a blue building with bright green shutters.
Line-drying your clothes may not be the most preferable way to keep your darks dark, but it'll work.

Learning how to wash black clothes properly is crucial for anyone wanting to maintain the rich, dark color of their favorite garments. Whether it's a classic little black dress or a staple pair of dark jeans, the way you wash these items can significantly affect their longevity and appearance.

Learn some practical and effective techniques to keep your black clothes looking as good as new. From selecting the right laundry detergent to choosing the appropriate cycle, these tips will ensure your dark clothing stays vibrant wash after wash.


How to Wash Dark Clothes

1. Sorting Your Laundry

Before washing black clothes, it's essential to sort your laundry correctly. Separate your dark clothes from light colored clothing to prevent color transfer [Source: The Spruce]. Washing dark clothing together reduces the risk of your black garments picking up lint from lighter fabrics, which can make them look faded.

2. Turning Clothes Inside Out

To wash black clothes effectively, turn them inside out before loading them into the machine. This helps in reducing the friction that causes fading and protects the outer side of the fabric [Source: Martha Stewart]. This tip is particularly crucial to wash black clothes effectively without causing them to lose color or get damaged.


3. Selecting the Right Wash Cycle

Choosing the right wash cycle is paramount when washing black clothes. Opt for a gentle or delicate cycle to minimize wear and tear on your dark clothes. This reduces the agitation during washing, which can otherwise lead to fading and weakening of the fabric [Source: The Spruce].

4. Temperature Matters: Cold Water

Unlike light colored clothes, always use cold water when washing dark clothes. Warm or hot water can cause the colors to bleed and fade. Cold water not only preserves the color but is also energy efficient and less harsh on delicate fabrics [Source: Martha Stewart].

5. The Correct Laundry Detergent

Use a laundry detergent specifically designed for washing dark clothes. These detergents are formulated to maintain color vibrancy and prevent fading. Avoid using too much detergent, as this can leave residues on dark fabrics, making them look dull.

6. Avoid Bleach and Fabric Softeners

Never use bleach on black clothes. Even "color-safe" bleaches can strip away the darkness from your garments. Additionally, fabric softeners can leave a coating that dulls the color of dark clothing. Instead, opt for a mild detergent.

7. Drying Dark Clothes

The best way to dry dark clothes is to hang them out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can fade the color of your garments. If using a dryer, choose a low heat setting and remove the clothes while they are still slightly damp to avoid over-drying, which can lead to fading [Source: Martha Stewart].

8. Storing Dark Clothing

Proper storage is essential to maintain the quality of dark clothes. Keep them in a cool, dark place to prevent fading. Avoid using wire hangers that can misshape your clothes; instead, use padded or plastic hangers.

9. Treating Stains on Dark Fabrics

Treat stains on dark fabrics carefully. Avoid harsh stain removers, and opt for gentle, color-safe options. Apply the stain remover to the inside of the garment first to test for colorfastness.

10. Washing Frequency

Limit the frequency of washing. Every wash can fade the color, so only wash them when necessary [Source: The Spruce]. Instead of washing after every wear, air out the garments and spot clean if needed.


What Makes Dark Clothes Fade: Washing or Drying?

The answer to this question is both, actually. When it comes to washing, the temperature of the water can impact dark colors. For example warm water breaks fibers down quickly, causing colors to fade, so avoid hot water and select the coldest temperature available [Source: The Spruce]. You should also choose liquid detergent over powder. Liquid detergents dissolve better in cold water, while powdered detergents aren't guaranteed to saturate the water completely and thoroughly clean your clothes.

Be aware that in some areas, tap water contains high levels of chemicals that could also cause dark garments to fade. Hard water — water rich in magnesium and calcium — can actually lessen the effects of detergents and leave clothes dingy and dirty. While hard water can certainly damage clothing over time, there are ways to counteract these chemicals. Add a water softener when washing clothes with powder detergent, or use a safe liquid laundry detergent to help remedy the problem [Source: Better Homes & Gardens].


When it comes to drying dark clothes, avoid steam and high temperatures — starching or tumbling clothes in a hot dryer will cause them to lose their hue and fade over time. This is also true for delicate fabrics. Dry cleaners use high heat when handling your clothes as well, so while they may be convenient, skip a trip to these outfits unless it's absolutely necessary. If you can, hang or lay garments flat to dry, and if you use an outdoor clothes line, be mindful to keep clothing out of direct sunlight [Source: Martha Stewart].

Black clothes require a bit more attention and care compared to washing clothes of lighter shades. By following these tips, you can ensure that your dark clothes remain as vibrant and rich as the day you bought them. Remember, the key to keeping your black garments in pristine condition lies in the proper washing and handling techniques. With these practices, you can enjoy your favorite dark clothes for many seasons to come.