How to Wash Dark Clothes in 4 Simple Steps

1. Separate by Color and Fabric

In addition to destroying your white clothes, failing to separate light from dark clothing can cause the latter category to appear worn and dull. For heavily dyed fabrics, don’t just separate light from dark; categorize your loads into general color families (e.g., red, orange, and pink; blue, green, and purple). These categories are fairly flexible, but the more intentional you are, the less you’ll risk unwanted color bleeding. It’s also important to avoid pairing delicates with heavier durable fabrics. So avoid washing your laciest undergarments with your denim.

2. Opt for a Mild Detergent

This might seem like a no-brainer, but a common misconception is that darker fabrics can handle more intense detergents. On the contrary, richly toned dyes are the most susceptible to harsh chemicals (and avoiding bleach should go without saying). Choose a mild detergent and avoid using more than the recommended amount.

3. Use Cold Water

The safest option for all types of fabric—but especially when it comes to washing dark clothes—is to opt for the shortest wash cycle with the coldest water. Hot water can cause colors to bleed and is generally rougher on dyed fabrics. While it’s perfectly acceptable to use a lengthier or more intense wash setting for heavier loads, the gentler the cycle, the less likely your clothes are to experience abrasion and wear.

4. Avoid the Dryer

It may be the most convenient option, but understand that you’re running a risk when you toss dark pieces into the dryer. Not only can the dryer alter the shape and size of your clothing, it can also damage fabric fibers, causing garments to appear old and worn. The ideal last step in washing dark clothes is to allow them to air dry. Lay heavier garments out flat in a cool, well-ventilated space, and hang lightweight fabrics to line dry. Just be careful to avoid sunlight, which can cause dark fabrics to prematurely fade.

Up next, keep reading for three ways to style your dark-wash jeans.