Washing Dark and Coloured Clothes : 9 reasons why you are reading this

Dyes bleeding in the wash and then the inevitable dreaded fading – many reasons why my top which looked absolutely gorgeous and black as night when I bought it, looks like this now

wash dark and coloured clothes

First a disclaimer. With dark coloured clothes, there is always the inevitability that the colours will run and then the fabric will settle into a very dull faded colour or worse go horribly blotched, and nothing you do will restore it to its bright glory. 

So the least you can do is to keep the bill of the garment safe till after the first wash; just be prepared for the eventuality of you returning the product or the shop refusing to take it back. With a good brand and or goodwill of the shop where you bought it, you will get a refund or replacement. But first, keep your fingers crossed.

How to wash Dark and coloured clothes

This includes clothes in bright colours like red, black, blue, purple pink and peach and such, deep colours like black, brown, and then neon and fluorescent colors.You can also include prints, with sometimes light colour backgrounds with Dark color prints and patterns in this category.

To keep these attractive colours the same as when you saw it in the shop is not a child’s play. Many conscientious washers have failed at it – they just donot get it. But there is still hope and I may have a solution for your problem.

1.Dyes bleeding and settling in other parts of the fabric

You wash your wonderfully bright garment and everything is fine. This is the ideal scenario. But most times some dye will bleed. 

But donot worry too much about this dye –  this is the excess unstable loose dye that refused to bond in the fabric.What you can do is to rinse them out thoroughly in the first wash, maybe even in warm water. Donot try to preserve the dye . They are not yours to keep

But at times, horror of horrors, the dye will wash away and settle in blotches on other parts of the garment ( never in inconspicuous places, always in the front).

How to remove the bleeding dye from the fabric

As already said you donot want to keep the excess dyes in your fabric. There are chemicals you can buy that will remove this dye from the fabric and prevent it from settling on other parts of the clothes (like Synthaprol). Checkout this page for more on this

This chemical is usually used with hot water to wash the bleeding fabric (follow directions in the package) . Rinse the fabric till you get clear water. This will mean that you have the dye set. With this chemical, only the excess dye which would any way have been gone will float away.

The best thing about this solution is that the dye which is being removed will not fix itself to other parts of the fabric resulting in a blotchy look . This is especially useful when you have mixed colours in the fabric – like white blocks in a black fabric or light coloured embroidery in dark coloured fabric.

Please note that this chemical does not set colours, rather it lets the excess dye from settling again into fabric. If you want to set dyes you will have to use other methods like the ones detailed below

washing dark and coloured clothes

2. Excessive bleeding of colours

How can I retain the dark and wonderfully deep colour of my clothes/fabric even after repeated washing ?

The reason the dark and coloured fabric fade or get blotchy after washing is because they have unreacted dye in them as a result of their original dyeing in the factory. When you wash them these dyes and sometimes the dyes which are supposed to be settled, wash away ( due to improper washing bleaching etc) causing a faded unattractive old worn look. You may want to settle these dyes on to the fabric so that the fabric remains dark. 

One solution which is ever so popular is a home treatment. If you soak your deep coloured clothes in a salt or a vinegar solution ( vinegar  and water in a 1:5 ratio )  and then wash them, the dye will be set and further washes will not lead to fading. I have  done this religiously with plain dark fabric before cutting them to sew but I cannot tell for sure whether it worked or not. I do not think it caused any harm and strongly believe it helped to settle some dye, so no harm in trying this.

Just make sure that the salt or the vinegar is thoroughly dissolved in water. And then rinse the salt or vinegar thoroughly from the fabric. No residue should remain.

There is a chemical  ( eg. Retayne) available in shops which will set dyes. You can try this, as well. It is convenient and much used. 

3 Ignoring fabric care labels

Read the care label inside your clothes for the best way to keep the garment as it is. There will be instructions for using bleach or not using bleach etc. Do follow this, as it is the most important pointer to maintaining your garment, the way it is meant to be. The manufacturer obviously knows how to protect their garment

First and foremost check if it is written colourfast. Colorfast refers to the quality of a fabric that resists the transfer of its color to adjacent materials while washing.If it says “wash separately” do that – atleast for the first few washes till the dyes are settled.

Check out the post on fabric /laundry care labels for more details on this

4 Incorrect washing and drying of coloured fabric

Donot wash coloured and dark clothes in warm/ hot water. Use cool water to wash them. Warm / hot water causes fading of dyes. You can use warm water for the initial wash so that excess dye is removed but consequent washes are better done in cold water

Donot soak the dark coloured fabric in soap solution – this is a fade guarantee. Donot excessively rub specific portions of the clothes for removing dirt. Discolouration may be the result.

For the sake of your light coloured clothes, sort and wash the dark coloured ones separately.A little bleeding dye is enough to stain light coloured fabric.

If you are unsure whether the detergent you have is strong for the garment and may cause fading,  test an inconspicuous area first, before washing the whole garment.

Bleaching is done to fade colour so it is counterintuitive to this whole post. But anyways if you want to bleach for whatever reason do check the fabric care labels first. The sign for the bleach is as follows. A cross across the bleach sign will tell you not to bleach at all. If you plan to use bleach, use an oxygenated bleach. This will reduce fading

bleaching laundry care symbols

Donot hang the dark coloured clothes in direct sunlight for a long time. Take them inside as soon as they are dry.

Never ever put detergent directly on dark clothes and then add water. Always dissolve the powder detergent in water and then put it to the soaked fabric.

5 Detergent powder residue causing fabric to go stiff

You can try the home treatment of vinegar and water solution to remove this detergent powder residue. This is common in areas where water is hard. You can stop using powder detergent and use liquid detergent instead or use water softener to prevent water hardness .

But if you already have this problem try this home treatment . Use a solution of vinegar and warm water in a 15:1 concentration. Soak the fabric in this solution and then rinse thoroughly.

6 Lint on clothes

Lint is a pain – they particularly go and find your most beautifully dark clothes and then refuse to be removed. Just like a pimple popping up on my nose just before a wedding I have to attend.

There are many ways that you can prevent lint and then if they happen (they inevitably do) remove them

One point to note is never to mix your dark clothes with lint shedding clothes: woolen clothes like sweaters and blankets, napped fabrics  like towels, flannels, velvet, chenille, velour, corduroy.Clean your washing machine lint cover and dryer lint cover frequently.

For more details checkout the post on 15 ways to prevent lint and remove them

Keep your hair dandruff free. Well, this is one lint you donot want on your dark clothes. 

7 Fold marks and moth holes and fading in storage

These are results of improper storage of coloured clothes. Donot hang the dark coloured clothes outside ; never near sunlight, only for short peiods outside your wardrobe. Keep them inside properly stored in a wardrobe without humidity.

Donot fold the clothes the same way for thoudsand of years. well it happens. you have this beautiful dress you wish to wear after you have lost that excess 5 inches around the wiast and when you eventually get the courage to try to fit into it, the dark garment has fold marks or they have started to wither at the folded line. This does happen especially with silk clothes. Check out the post on proper storage of clothes for more details

8 Scorch marks from ironing

An unattractive shiny look can appear on dark clothes after ironing. To prevent this use another cloth on top ( press cloth) when ironing dark coloured clothes. 

Use the appropriate temperature for each type of clothing. A yellow coloured burn mark can result from too much heat.

9 Clothes looking lumpy or worse with starch spots

Improper starching is the reason for this. There is something to be said about starching which makes a garment look elegant, especially on collars and cuffs.

But starching a dark garment is with its own challenges. Improper use of starch can make your dark cloth look shabby with starch marks and streaks. Always dissolve starch thoroughly and use appropriate quantities. You can use a spray starch for a better appearance and even distribution. 

Check out the post on home made starch recipes

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