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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Washing Machines

​10 tips to prevent clothes from fading

Keep your favorite red shirt from becoming a pink shirt you don't like nearly as much with these tips.

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Adding vinegar to a standard wash cycle will prevent color fading.

Taylor Martin/CNET

If you're the type of person that tends to ignore clothing labels or just throws all your laundry in the washer with a cup of detergent and calls it good, then your clothes are suffering. Those red biker shorts that your girlfriend told you to toss is going to become pink. That slinky black dress that makes you feel like Beyoncé is going to turn gray.

All is not lost, though. You can save your favorite garments by following these simple laundry tips.

  1. For the love of all that is washable, look at the tag. Those washing instructions on your shirt's tag isn't just to make you itchy. They're there to let you know how to wash the garment so that it will have a long and colorful life. Read the instructions and follow them.
  2. If you absolutely need to wash all of your garments together because you only have enough quarters for one load, then wash in cold water. Warm water breaks down fibers, which can cause fading and cold water prevents colors from bleeding. For the best results, choose a laundry soap that is made to work well with cold water washes.
  3. Separate lights from darks. Dark items, no matter what you do, tend to bleed color a little when you wash them. This bleed can turn a bright orange pair of leggings into a rusty, faded color, for instance. So, always wash darks with darks, lights with lights and wash whites separately.
  4. Use the right soil settings on your washer. If your clothes aren't very dirty, don't click on the heavy wash option just to make sure they get extra clean. All you're doing is putting extra wear and tear on your garment, which will make it fade much faster.
  5. Skip the dryer as much as possible. The tumbling of the dryer makes the surface of garment fibers rough, which in turn makes the colors appear faded, even if they aren't.
  6. Skip washing all-together. The more you wash an item, the more faded it becomes. If you've only worn a garment for a few hours, don't toss it in the washer. Hang it up and let it air out. Or never wash them. Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh says to never machine wash jeans and just spot clean them with a sponge.
  7. Turn your garments inside out. This protects the outer fibers from wearing down when you wash. Worn fibers equally fade, and since no one sees the inside of your garments, it's no big deal if they wear a little more.
  8. Add a fabric conditioner to your wash. Think of fabric conditioner like a magical force field. It lubricates the fibers of the fabric during the wash, so they don't wear down as easily. Once again, wear equals fading, so anything you can use to prevent friction is a good thing.
  9. Add half a cup of vinegar (118.3 milliliters) to each wash load to prevent fading. As a bonus, vinegar acts as a natural fabric softener and the smell washes away with the rinse cycle.
  10. While you're adding cooking ingredients to your load, add a half a cup of salt (118.3 milliliters) to a new garment's very first wash to lock in the color and prevent bleeding.
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