How to keep your black clothes looking great for longer

woman in black long sleeve shirt sitting on black chair

Black clothes can last a lifetime, no matter how you care for them.

In an essay entitled On Maintenance, Nora Ephron wrote that everyone I know has a closet filled with black clothes. Although I do not like to promote clich├ęs, requests for tips to keep black clothes from becoming faded have outnumbered all others in this series.

Here’s some expert advice to help you maintain your black wardrobe. Everything matches black, even black.

Use less soap and more care

Kair founder Sally Hughes says that black clothes should not be faded by washing in a cold, gentle cycle with a liquid detergent. “You want toagitate the garment as much as you can,” she said. Sally Hughes recommends that you turn the garment inside-out and wash it on a cold cycle using a liquid detergent. Avoid tumble drying.

Rebecca Van Amber, RMIT University’s textile scientist, agrees. Black clothes should be washed infrequently in the washing machine, because the water and agitation can cause the dye to run out, especially if the clothes are made of natural fibres.

Van Amber explained that different types of fibres react with water differently, which affects the way they are dyed as well as how fast they can be dyed. Natural fibres are highly absorbent so the dye used will be soluble in water.

water droplets on black background

Synthetic fibres are different from natural fibres in that they have a different relationship to water. They shouldn’t be as faded. Because they are less absorbent, the dyes used to dye fabrics such as nylon and polyester tend to be more stable. They may not require water to dye them, but they can be dyed in the fibre stage more than the garment stage.

Fashion designer Bianca Spender recommends spot cleaning black clothes with a little soap and water.

Van Amber suggests pre-treating trouble areas with a stain stick, such as marks left by deodorant. You can also use a fabric refreshing spray to lightly mist the fabric before you let it air dry.

Avoid sun and damp

Van Amber advises that black clothes should be dried out from the sun when drying. UV light is the strongest fading agent for clothing. You want your colours brightest, so don’t hang them outside in direct sunlight.

Spender warns coats and tailoring are vulnerable to mould. “It is important to store your clothes in an aerated area that is protected against dampness and moths.” Spender recommends natural repellents like  lavender.

Refreshes in a flash

Spender suggests bringing back textured knit fabrics with a clothing brush.

She suggests that special garments, such as silk evening dresses, be covered with a make-up scarf when putting them on or taking them off. This will prevent any marks from occurring. If marks do occur, here’s a tip: Rub the fabric against itself to remove them.

Fixing the Failure

Van Amber suggests that faded black garments can easily be dyed at home with a Rit dye. But there are some things you should keep in mind. Dyeing natural fibres such as silk, cotton, and linen will be more successful than dyeing synthetics like nylon or polyester. Wear protective gloves, a mask, and use a plastic bathtub to prevent your bathtub from turning black.

“The most important thing to do is make sure that the garment is completely wet before you dye.” She says. Once it’s in the pot make sure to stir it constantly and keep the water moving. Otherwise, “you’ll have a streaky fabric.”

Spender also suggests home dyeing in a large soup pot. Or, for favorite garments that are too delicate to dye, she suggests “another option”: “A faded black with prints, flowers, or lighter tones.” Ephron also said that all black is the same, even faded.

woman in black long sleeve shirt sitting on black chair

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