9 Easy Ways To Stop Colors From Fading In The Wash

To keep clothes from fading, use a Q-Tip on a hidden seam to find out if they are colorfast; use vinegar in the wash, hang clothes to dry inside, and turn clothes inside out before washing.

Put A Stop To Fading Colors

It’s never fun to pull a dark shirt or pair of slacks out of the wash and realize they’ve faded to a lackluster version of their former color. But I’m here to tell you that fading colors are not the unavoidable side effect of laundering they might seem to be!

Fading occurs when warm water breaks down the individual fibers in a fabric and causes dye to be released, an effect sometimes referred to as “bleeding.” Bleeding dyes, along with fading caused by friction, sunlight, and other elements, are to blame for the fading colors of your clothes and linens.

While some bleeding and fading may be unavoidable, there are ways to keep colors from fading as much or as quickly as you’re used to. That’s what you’ll find below: 9 easy tips on how to wash colored clothes without fading, so you can keep your clothes looking like new!

Related: 10 Universal Laundry Problems And How To Overcome Them

How To Keep Clothes From Fading In The Wash: 9 Easy Tips

Help keep clothes from fading by turning them inside out before washing them.

1. Turn Your Clothes Inside Out

One of the easiest things you can do to prevent color loss is to flip your garments inside out before washing them. They’ll get just as clean, but you’ll reduce the amount of friction on the outside of your clothes. (While you’re at it, make sure zippers are zipped up before tossing them in the washing machine to minimize friction and avoid snagging.)

Washing in cold water helps keep clothes from fading.

2. Wash Clothes In Cold Water

Washing in cold water is another no-brainer, considering that fading colors are often a result of hot water relaxing the fibers in the fabric and making them more likely to break down. Using warm water as opposed to hot will help prevent some bleeding, but cool or cold water will help even more.

Related: These Handy Guides Take The Guesswork Out Of Clothing Care

One way to avoid fading clothes is to avoid overstuffing your washing machine.

3. Don’t Overfill Your Washing Machine

Stuffing as much laundry as you can into your washing machine creates more friction between your clothes, which we already know is a big no-no. It also raises the risk that your clothes won’t get cleaned or rinsed thoroughly enough in the wash, so make sure your wash drum is full-ish, but not jam-packed.

To avoid fading clothes, hang them to dry inside, out of the sun, if you don't want to put them in the dryer.

4. Keep Clothes Out Of The Sun

The ultraviolet rays from the sun are another big offender in terms of contributing to fading. You can still hang your clothes to dry outside, but try to choose a shaded area with lots of room for air to circulate. That way, you’ll still get the benefits of air drying in the sun while avoiding the bleaching effects of direct sunlight.

Related: This Old School Laundry Hack Has A Laundry List Of Benefits

To check for colorfastness, use a damp Q-Tip on a hidden seam and rub the fabric to see if color transfers to the cotton swab

5. Check For Colorfastness

Before washing dark items for the first time, always check for colorfastness, or the ability of a fabric to retain its dyes without fading or bleeding. To do it, rub a damp cotton swab on an interior seam or hem, and if there’s color on the swab after doing so, you’ll know to wash it separately or with like colors.

Bonus Tip: Care instructions like “wash alone/separately” and “wash with like colors” are often signs that the fabric may not be colorfast, or that it contains excess dye that will bleed out the first several times you wash it.

Wash new clothing before wearing it - if it isn't colorfast, it could transfer dye to your skin.

6. Wash Before You Wear

Dye doesn’t just come out in the wash—it can rub off onto your skin and furniture too. To avoid any unfortunate issues with dye stains or residues, be sure to test for colorfastness and wash new clothes before you wear them.

Related: 3 Surprising Reasons You Should Always Wash New Clothes

To avoid fading clothes in the laundry, sort the laundry by lights and darks, and even by weight. This woman is putting her white towels in a separate hamper from dark laundry.

7. Separate Your Laundry By Color And Weight

There’s a reason our foremothers made sure we understood the importance of separating our laundry into dark colors and light colors! This step goes a long way toward helping your clothes maintain their color over time.

You should also consider further separating your laundry weight as well. The idea here is that heavy clothes can put too much friction on lightweight fabrics, which could harm their fibers and lead to fading or color loss.

You don't have to use it every time, but adding vinegar to the washing machine can brighten colors and make them look less faded.

8. Wash With Vinegar Periodically

Adding a cup of vinegar to your wash loads won’t necessarily prevent colors from bleeding, but it can help brighten both whites and colors by eliminating residues that can make fabrics appear less vibrant. Vinegar has the added benefit of reducing odor and softening your clothes, so it’s wins all around.

Related: The Most Important Things To Know About Cleaning With Vinegar

Choosing a gentle wash cycle can help keep clothes from fading.

9. Choose A Gentle Wash Cycle

Since preventing friction is key to keeping your clothes bright and vibrant, it can help to choose brief and/or gentle wash cycles when possible. And if a garment is especially delicate (including those susceptible to bleeding), hand washing is always the safest way to go!

For more washing, drying, and folding hacks than you can shake a stick at, check out all of my laundry tips and tricks!

Do you have any tips to prevent fading colors?

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I always hand wash new clothes before adding to regular laundry. If the color ‘bleeds’, I start with fresh water and add about 3 T. White vinegar and let soak awhile. The vinegar fixes the color to the fabric. (Learned this when I dyed wool for spinning – yes, I’m a big nerd lol)

  • I have outdoor area rugs that are very bright and colorful. However, the sun tends to cause them to fade rather quickly. Do you have any tips on how to keep outdoor rugs from fading in the sun? Thank you!

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