How to Make Black Clothing Look Good Again

by Dan Ketchum

Faded blacks happen, especially when you're dealing with natural fibers such as cotton. But when your dark clothes start to look a little gray, they're not necessarily a lost cause. Your best bet for restoring faded fabrics to their deep, dark newness lies in off-the-shelf liquid dyes. After prewashing your clothes, you can use liquid dye and a top-loading washing machine to return them to their former glory.

Step 1

Fill the washing machine with hot water. Thoroughly shake the liquid dye and pour in the amount recommended by the manufacturer, which will depend on the weight of the clothes.


  • Check clothing labels before you begin. If clothes are dry clean only or cold-water wash only, they should not be dyed in hot water, says Rit Studio.

Step 2

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and mix the water with a clean wooden spoon. This helps ensure that the dye is evenly distributed.

Step 3

Wet the prewashed clothes and place them in the dye. To help lock in the dye for natural fibers such as cotton or linen, add one cup of salt dissolved in four cups of hot tap water. For synthetics, such as nylon or silk, add a cup of white vinegar instead. Stir the additives in.

Step 4

Allow the clothes to rest in the black dye for 30 to 60 minutes, and then start the machine's hot-water rinse cycle. Rinse them once again in the cold-water cycle to remove excess dye, and then wash them as usual with warm water and a mild detergent before hanging the clothes out to air dry.


  • For extra insurance, soak the garments in a solution of dye fixative and hot water after dyeing and before rinsing to bolster the dye's retention.


  • Some fabrics -- such as 100 percent polyester, acetate or spandex -- don't accept dye. Luckily, these synthetic fibers aren't as likely to fade. You can darken faded wool with dye, but it may give the wool a slightly gauzy, fuzzy look known as felting. Test a swatch before you begin.

Fight Fading

Whether you've revitalized your duds with fresh dye or you're trying to keep the original garment looking new, prevention is key to keeping your blacks black.

Wash black and dyed items in their own laundry load, using cold water and a small amount of gentle, non-bleaching detergent. Before washing, turn black jeans inside-out to maintain their color. Just as when dyeing, adding a cup of white vinegar or 1/2 cup of salt to the wash helps your clothes retain their color.

When it's time to dry them, avoid machine drying whenever possible -- it may fade your blacks or give them a foggy, felted look. Air dry your clothes in the shade to keep colors bright and blacks dark.


  • For lightly faded black cotton garments, or as a preventive measure, add two cups of freshly brewed black coffee to the wash cycle. Make sure you're washing only black clothing when you use this trick.

About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.