Faded clothes are the bane of our everyday life. The term ‘Fading’ indicates that there has been a change in the color of fabrics with time/wear/misuse. The colour of the clothing has lightened.
Some fading is inevitable but when your once brightly printed t-shirt looks like this –
-You know you are doing something wrong.
The vibrancy of the coloured clothing is lost due to something you did wrong or something out of your control and you need solutions.
Here are the many reasons for faded clothing and some precautionary solutions.
10 causes for Faded clothing & what to do about them
Table of Contents
Sunlight drying can give a beautiful smell to clothes. Germs die, or you believe they do. The crispy feel of sun dried clothes is something else. All are in agreement on these. But bad news is not far behind.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is the single largest contributing factor in fading of fabrics, carpets and other furnishings; says this reliable article here. Heat from the sun is also damaging.
If you are in the habit of drying clothes out in the sun or near a glass window with full force of sunlight on the clothes and forget to bring the clothes inside, soon after it is dry, do not even look for other causes for your faded clothing.
The direct exposure of clothes to sunlight and the accompanying UV rays and heat cause fading of textiles – even indirect exposure of sunlight can cause some fading.
Sun light and UV rays are present even in cold, cloudy climates, so this kind of damage is not limited to bright and sunny spaces.
Other light sources like fluorescent bulbs and other lights with Ultra violet rays can also cause fading if you leave your clothing long enough exposed to it. This is more relevant for furniture than clothing.
See the article here for the reason why the colours fade when exposed to sunlight
Solution : A few hours out in the sun to dry clothes is alright but continuous exposure to direct sunlight IS damaging. Silk is especially sensitive to sunlight.
LED lights do not have ultra violet rays. Use CFL or LED bulbs where you store clothing, keep fabric furniture. Use window films on your wardrobe glass doors if you are really finicky.
Natural fabrics like cotton, wool, silk fade faster than synthetic/ man-made fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic, acetate. In fact, when you buy fabric natural fabrics may look brighter, but over time this colour fades. Polyester nylon etc do not fade like this.They hold on to dye better.
Fabric made of vegetable fibers like Linen, Jute, hemp do not absorb dyes completely – they sit on the outside – these will fade with time.
Type of coloring agent/dyes used to colour fabrics and its quality has a lot of say in when your clothing will fade. The cheap dyes used in cheap clothing fades fastest – before you can even say wash. Into the wash and cheap clothing with even cheaper dyes will fade into a shade or many lighter.
Solution : Ensure that the fabric you are buying would not fade by rubbing a wet white fabric piece on the fabric you mean to purchase. If the colour transfers to the fabric piece, you can be sure that there will be some fading.( But at times this may be the unattached dye in the fabric and this will stop running after the first washing, without it fading the clothing significantly)
If you still really want to buy the fabric, you can give it for dry cleaning. Dry cleaning the fabric will prevent fading to an extent.
Buy clothes made from man made fabrics/ synthetic fabric like Polyester, nylon, spandex, acrylic etc as they do not fade as much as cotton,linen, wool or silk. But then this also depends on the quality of the fabric and the dyes used. A best quality cotton fabric may not fade at all whereas a bad polyester may fade after the first wash.
You can also buy branded fabric that has undergone extensive testing on colour fastness.There are even brands that offer fade resistance guarantee.
Read the article here – it says red colored clothes fades the fastest out of all bright colored clothes. Black is a color that fades next- this is from my experience. Some of my black clothes fade to a shade lighter to even look a particularly dirty grey after washing – here is an article on the right way to wash bright and dark coloured clothes.
Dark greens , bright pinks, dark blues, purples are all colours that fade.These colours run in the wash – which is the first step to fading.
Solution : A favourite method used in the past to prevent fading colours in the wash was to immerse the coloured clothing in a salt solution for some time – it was done to set colours/dyes. This may work with cotton fabrics but this maynot be effective on the modern dyes used in clothing today.
Some fading in the wash for bright clothes or dark coloured clothes is inevitable. Buy Good quality fabric made with quality fibers and is light of colour – they will appear to fade less.
When there are some stains on clothing, my favorite method was to keep the whole clothing immersed in soapy solution overnight. Not anymore, unless it is a pure white clothing or I absolutely do not mind the fading.
Detergents can cause fading – it may have stain removers that also remove colour. It is especially bad if the detergents remains on the clothes.
Another habit that leads to fading is over washing – this time it means – washing over and over again, not caring if the clothing is dirty or not.
Solution : As said, Repeated washing can cause fading in clothes, so do not throw clothes to the wash unless it is dirty. Just because you have worn it once, it does not need to be washed.
Use appropriate cleaning agents and in proportional quantity. Detergent used should not have any additives like stain remover, builders that may cause fading.
Rinse detergents thoroughly out of clothes.
When washing coloured clothes put them in the washing machine after turning them inside out. This can prevent fading of the face of the fabric -hopefully
Read the wash/care label on clothing – if it says “wash separately” the colours will supposedly run and the clothing may fade in the future. If it says “colourfast”, it means it has been tested for fade resistence.
Use detergents that are specifically formulated to prevent colour loss. You may see it listed as colour brightening detergents.
Heat can cause fading. Avoid exposure of clothing to too hot water.
Solution : Use mild warm water to wash soiled clothes and cold water for other not-so-soiled clothes.
If the water you use to wash clothes have high or low levels of PH value this can cause fading. I read about this here
Solution : Pure water has a pH level of 7 (neutral). If the ph level of your washing water is higher than this you have to lower the ph level of water by adding an acidic substance like lime juice or vinegar. If the ph level of your washing water is lower than this, you have to raise the ph level of water by adding an alkaline substance like baking powder.
No need to even explain why exposure to bleach can cause fading.
Solution : Bleach strips all colour from fabric; so do not used chlorine bleach on coloured clothes. Oxygenated bleach when used correctly can be a colour safe alternative to using bleach. Check out the post on using bleach on clothes.
This is related to the sun exposure. It is also related to using your drier to dry clothes – tumble drying clothes in high heat inside a dryer will surely fade clothes.
Solution : As already said avoid sun exposure and avoid exposing clothes to high heat in the dryer. Line dry clothes in sunlight for a short period.
This is usually the number one reason prints on t-shirts and such gets damaged. You press the t-shirts straight on the print with a hot iron and the colour damages, fades and self-destructs
Solution : Use a thin press cloth over the print as you iron for the prints to remain intact and bright as the day you bought it
Heat, humidity pollution etc can cause fading; they are especially damaging to painted fabrics. Colors can also fade by oxidation; it is referred as gas fading- this happens if the fabric is kept in storage for too long without airing.
If you live in place with a humid climate the moisture in the atmosphere can result in damaged painted texture, cracking it or fading it. Heat from fireplace, lights, sunlight etc can also fade fabric. Fluctuation in the temperature can cause painted /printed fabric to expand and contract resulting in cracks in the painted layer. Impurities in the air can also cause a lot of fading.
Solution : Nothing much you can do about temperature other than store clothes in wardrobes without humidity and to air the stored clothes once in a while.
If you wear a single piece of clothing repeatedly over a long time, and it gets rubbed on a particular spot by a belt, brooch or something, the resultant abrasion can cause the colour to fade there. This is very negligent when compared to other factors but good to know. You will notice this more with fabrics made of vegetable fibers like linen.
You may even have done it intentionally – Using pumice stone / or any stone to your jeans to fade the colour to a distressed look is a done thing. This is done commercially with machines
Using clothes brush without any care can cause fading of colour, in that particular area.
Solution : There is no solution to fading with natural usage. You buy clothes to wear and in time they fade. Take this as natural fading and deal with it. Treat it as if it is a naturally faded vintage clothing.
But you can take some precautions.(Other than the solutions given above)
Do not to expose your clothes to unnatural stains (chemicals, pickles, turmeric etc ) that will need stain removing procedures which will fade colour.
Contact with alkaline/acidic things like sweat, fruit juice, soap, shampoo and toothpaste, etc can cause fading if not washed immediately.
Sometimes a little fading is desired. The brightly patterned fabric usually fades to a soft muted colour with time but you may like it that way. But when the fading is dis-proportionate to what you have in mind as to the colour of , the clothing, you have a real problem. I hope, the solutions above are helpful.
If all these fail, as a last resort you can re-dye the fabric. But dyeing at home will work satisfactorily only with 100% cotton fabrics. Synthetic fabrics and blended fabrics do not take dye very well with home dyeing.