How to wash black clothes and stop them from fading

Our laundry experts share how to wash black clothes so your darks look as good as new

Black t-shirt on white background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to wash black clothes to keep your jeans, tops, and more from fading in the wash. Dark clothes can look washed out and older than they are if you haven't been treating them the right way. 

Looking after your clothes properly is a sustainable way to make the most of your wardrobe, reducing the frequency you'll need to replace them. Our cleaning experts reveal some great tips for the next time you start a dark load. 

See how to do laundry the right way with our comprehensive guide.

How to wash black clothes and avoid the dreaded fade

Washing black clothes without fading or damaging them may seem a little tricky to pull off at home, but it's actually pretty easy if you take some simple precautions.

Just get all your laundry room essentials in order beforehand so you don't run out of detergent or fabric softener mid-way through.

If you've already learned how to wash white clothes to keep them bright and light, a unique process for the darks will keep them deep as possible, for as long as possible.

Black shirts and T-shirts hanging up on a white metal clothes rail with evenly spaced wooden hangers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: Check the care label

First things first, check those handy care labels inside your clothes to see how the manufacturer suggests you wash them. Take a look at the laundry symbol meanings to see if your clothes can handle heat and if they're machine washable. 

"Always consult the care label for dark clothes. Different materials may have specific instructions, so it's best to review these first before attempting to clean," says cleaning expert, Karina Toner.

Karina Toner, Operations Manager, Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is a cleaning expert and the Operations Manager at Washington D.C.-based Spekless Cleaning. 

Step 2: Separate by color

It may seem like an obvious one, but make sure your dark clothes are separated from the colors and whites. 

"This will prevent the colors from mixing too much and staining your white clothes. The different colors should be washed at different temperatures," says Karina. 

You may also want to use a color catcher, such as the Shout color catcher sheets available on Amazon. These will absorb any residual fabric dye leaking in the laundry, and keep your whites bright and stain-free.

Step 3: Wash in cold water

Cold water is the way to go when it comes to washing black clothes. 

"It's important to use cold water on a gentle cycle," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid. "Hot water will just cause dark clothes to fade and may be too harsh on delicate items."

Most mild detergents, like Tide Free & Gentle detergent (available on Amazon) should do the trick, but you can also use a detergent specifically for dark clothes like this Woolite Darks Defense detergent, also available on Amazon

If you need to treat any stains, this OxyClean Dark Protect stain remover from Amazon should help get rid of them.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services.

Step 4: Air dry

You'll want to keep your dark clothes away from heat to prevent fading, so air drying is your best option. "A tumble dryer may be too harsh for dark clothes, so air dry away from direct sunlight," says Angela.

If you're drying clothes in a small space, invest in a good drying rack, such as this Amazon Basics rack with over 60,000 great reviews from happy customers. You can set it up in a small bathroom or utility room and dry multiple items at once.

Some simple but brilliant laundry hacks such as using cold water and air drying instead of using the dryer, can help keep your black clothes looking dark. As long as you avoid common laundry mistakes such as using harsh chemicals, your clothes should come out looking as good as new.

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.