How to Keep Your Black Clothes Looking Their Best

While fashions change, wearing black never goes out of style. But show up dressed in black that’s faded and covered in fuzzies or detergent streaks and the look is anything but cool. Here’s how to keep your black clothes looking good from the pros at Consumer Reports. (Learn how to keep your white laundry white). 

Wash only when needed

The more you wash, the more black dye washes away, especially with denim. So in between washings try airing out clothes. “Blot stains with a white cloth and a mixture of 1/2 cup water and a teaspoon of clear or white liquid dish detergent. Then blot with plain water,” says Pat Slaven, a textile engineer at Consumer Reports. “Gently scrape semi-solids with the edge of a rounded spoon, then blot with a white cloth and the cleaning solution above.” 

Sort by color and weight

Mixing fabrics, colors, and very dirty items with not-so-dirty can have disastrous results. Black clothes when new can bleed dye onto lighter colors. Washing delicates with heavy fabrics, using the delicate setting, can damage the fine items and do a poor job cleaning the heavier fabrics. So sort like items by color and weight.

Turn clothes inside out

Protect the outside of the black garment by turning it inside out, shielding it from the agitation, which breaks down the fibers and causes them to appear faded. Zip zippers and button shirts to prevent snagging. 

Wash in cold water

The cold water helps keep the fibers in black laundry from losing their color. Inspect the garments to see how dirty they are, and adjust the washing machine’s soil setting, using the light-soil setting when possible as it’s gentler on fabrics than the medium- or heavy-soil setting. And use the shortest cycle possible needed to get them clean. Less time in the washer means less fading.

Measure detergent

Streaks of laundry detergent jump out on dark clothes and the culprit is usually too much detergent or water that’s too cold. Liquid detergent doesn’t dissolve well in very cold water and can leave streaks. Powder can clump and leave patches on clothes. So measure detergent—no pouring.

The detergent’s enzymes work best when the water is at least 60° F. Most cold tap water is around 60° to 75° F, but it may be 40° F or less in colder regions in northern states. Automatic temperature control can help. This washer feature adjusts the water to the optimal temperature for the selected setting. All front-loaders and most top-loaders in our tests have this feature. 

Hang dry

Tumbling in the dryer with other clothes roughs up the surface of the fibers, creating a halo of fuzz that catches light and makes black clothes appear faded. Instead, keep the garments turned inside out and hang them to dry in your laundry room, or lay sweaters flat to dry. The sun will fade them so do not hang them outside. 

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