Keeping black jeans black

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Denim 101: How to Keep Black Jeans From Fading In the Wash

And why you should mist your jeans with … vodka. By Emily Goulet· 2/17/2015, 3:53 p.m.

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Sometimes, fading is good. Take old band tees, for instance. The more worn and faded they are, the better. But not all things look best with a lived-in look. Exhibit A: Your black jeans. These look best when they’re fresh off the hanger, inky black and just soft enough.

But wear and tear inevitably leads to the graying of even the most jet-black jeans. Lucky for you, the jean experts over at Madewell offered five easy tips for maintaining your dark denim. (And clean freaks, don’t worry. They didn’t recommend never washing them.)

1. Pre-soak them to set the dye color.
Turn your jeans inside-out and soak them in cold water with one cup white vinegar and one tablespoon salt.

2. Mist them with vodka and water.
Madewell’s experts recommend filling a spray bottle with half cold water and half vodka and spritzing your denim. Let ’em dry and put them in the freezer to kill smells and bacteria.

3. Use Pine-Sol to get rid of grease stains.
Yep, really. Go here for other household cleaners that double as denim-savers.

4. Wash on gentle cycle — and turn them inside-out!
Click here for their detergent suggestions.

5. Skip the dryer.
Let jeans air dry to preserve the fibers. Hang them to dry by a back belt loop to decrease wrinkles.

Read more over on the Madewell blog! Hey, the more you know.

Black jeans are always in season.
You have to take extra care of your new high-waisted skinny midnight black denims because they are comfortable and look great on you. They set you apart because of the inky saturation of the fabric. However, you already know that black jeans fade in time, so you must pay extra attention to keep your new pair’s lovely color locked in. Washing the color wash away is no laughing matter. It just breaks your heart to see the saturated fabric fading into something less compelling.
There are a few secrets we are willing to reveal to help you out. Are you ready to learn how to keep black jeans from fading?
Lesson One: Cleaning solutions to lock in color and prevent fading
The wear life of midnight black denims can be extended if you use specific cleaning solutions when washing them. When buying detergent check the label if it is especially intended for black or dark clothes. And yes, these products are available in the supermarket.
Another measure you can start adopting from now on with your brand-new black skinnies, is setting the dye, This means soaking the pair in a solution before washing it with a machine, or by hand. The soaking solution consists of cold water, salt, and vinegar. Use one tablespoon of salt, and one cup of white vinegar. You can easily apply this method even this very minute because the soaking solution calls for items, which are already in your pantry and kitchen. The solution is supposed to prevent the dye from bleeding out of the fabric during the cleaning process. When setting the dye, turn the pants inside out fist prior to soaking. This might seem a little left off center, but people do it, and it offers great results. It certainly is worth a try, don’t you think?

Lesson Two: Washing guidelines
First of all, follow instructions such as “wash inside out.” The manufacturer is telling you the fabric is better off with lesser contact with the soap. Fabrics with a tendency to bleed out color come with this important instruction. Unfortunately, many people ignore it, and their black denims pay for the neglect.
Black colors fade quicker in warm water. Remember to wash your new denim jeans in cold water from now on. High temperature affects the fabric in a way that allows for bleeding of colors from the fibers of the cloth. Cool water works best to preserve the richness of the midnight black color of the denim.
Moreover, wash gently especially when you are using a machine. Rough cycles induce quicker fading. Imagine your jeans spinning at high speed inside the machine, and the consequent faster bleeding out of the dark coloring. To avoid that, use the most gentle cycle setting. If you have time, hand wash instead, and do so gently.
Lastly, do not place your black jeans in the dryer, which may promote a breakdown of fibers. Instead of using the machine, air dry the pair by hanging it right side out by the belt loop. Hanging by the belt loop does not protect the color, but prevents formation of wrinkles by sheer weight of the jeans.
Denims are durable and versatile, and they look great for both casual and semi-formal occasions. Rich black jeans are a stable piece of clothing. You can do something to prevent the black color from bleeding out, and preserve the saturated look of your new black skinnies. If you care for it well and give it the attention it deserves you will enjoy wearing while looking like new for many years to come.

How to Keep Your Favorite Black Jeans From Fading

Timur Emek/Getty

Even though they are made from a durable fabric that’s been an essential part of everyone’s wardrobe for well over a century, we still have a reverence for our denim that is unmatched by any fabric. We care for it meticulously, we shop for it obsessively, and we wear our favorite and most flattering pairs of jeans like a badge of honor, a prize won.

When it comes to black jeans specifically, the stakes are even higher because, they require a special kind of love and attention to maintain their inky, saturated color. Like Carrie Bradshaw on a rainy New York night, we couldn’t help but wonder: Is there a secret to keeping our black jeans black? Being the intrepid journalists—cough, denim fanatics, cough—that we are, we set out to find the best way to keep our jeans midnight black.

Throughout our research, one (perhaps rather obvious) tip kept coming up: If you can, avoid washing your jeans too frequently. The more times they go through the spin cycle, the more coloration you’ll lose. The good news is that unless you spill on your jeans or wear them on a particularly humid summer day, there’s no need to wash them after each and every wear. (Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr suggests washing every five to 10 wears.)

Below, our best tips for how to keep your black jeans black.


1. Turn your jeans inside-out before washing, which will help preserve the color and expose the dirtiest part of the jeans (yes, where your skin, body oils, and sweat touch).

2. Use cold water. This is essential for giving your jeans their best shot at staying dark because the cold water will reduce bleeding.

3. Set the washer to the gentle cycle. The more aggressively your machine spins and tosses your clothes about, the more wear and tear they will undergo, which fades the color.

4. Wash your denim with similar colors and don’t overload the washer.

5. Do not use the dryer. Always hang or air dry your black jeans.


According to Kerr—who pens an ‘Ask a Clean Person’ column on Deadspin—a great way to seal in the dye on your black denim is to soak your jeans for 15 to 30 minutes in cold water and a cup of white vinegar, rinse, and hang dry. (The denim experts at Madewell recommend turning your jeans inside out for this process as well.) You can also try this method as a pre-treatment, soaking your jeans in the washing machine filled with water and the vinegar (on a 30-minute delay) before running them through the cycle listed above and then hang-drying.


Retayne Color Fixative Solution: This product is a “color fixative for commercially dyed cotton, linen, and rayon fabrics that bleed.” It can be used in the washing machine or when hand-washing with hot water.

Carbona Color Grabber: Toss one of these sheets into your wash to grab dyes and prevent them from bleeding or running into your other garments. (Use one in the wash with just your black jeans to reduce fading.)

Woolite Darks: This detergent (which you can use just like your regular product) is specially formulated to “keep your darks darker” for up to 30 washes.


1. In lieu of a wash, the Madewell blog suggests misting your jeans with a mixture that is half cold water and half—wait for it—vodka. After lightly saturating your denim using a spray bottle, put them in the freezer overnight.

2. Note, however, that freezing your jeans does not clean them or kill bacteria, but it will reduce odors temporarily.

3. A few different sources suggest adding one or two tablespoons of salt to your vinegar and cold-water soak. No real reason was given, except that it helps seal the dye along with the white vinegar.

4. Hang dry your denim by the belt loop, not a clipped hanger, which can make those weird creases in the waistband. Also, after washing or soaking your jeans inside-out, dry them right side out.

The Definitive Denim Care Guide

Unzipped Staff
Levi Strauss & Co. April 20, 2018

There’s more than one way to do right by the planet.

Take your jeans, for example. As we gear up for Earth Day this weekend, we offer you these easy steps to take proper care of your denim. Presenting the Definitive Denim Care Guide – advice straight from our denim experts.

  1. Wash Less. Wash once every 10 wears at most to maintain fit and prevent too much “rebound.” Spot a stain? Use a damp cloth or old toothbrush with mild soap to remove them instead of washing them. You know those distinct lines and creases you see on your jeans, the ones specific to you? That unique look comes from wearing your jeans for long periods without washing.
  2. Wash Cold. Cold water keeps the color you love. Washing with cold water protects against fading and shrinking. Turn your jeans inside out and avoid harsher soaps to preserve that indigo shade. Cold water also saves energy (and money), making it better for your jeans, your wallet and the environment.
  3. Line Dry. Dryers are the natural enemy of jeans. All that lint is your jeans breaking down. Instead, hang them up. Line-drying preserves the fit and helps avoid possible shrinkage or fabric warping. Turning your jeans inside out (and hanging them in a shady space) prevents fading and avoids soggy pockets.
  4. Look to our Levi’s® Tailor Shops! We’ve all worn that favorite pair until they tear. Touch up your jeans to make them last. Instead of parting with your jeans, repair rips and tears; they’re easily patched or sewn. And if you want expert care, our tailors can alter, hem, repair and customize any Levi’s® product. Look for Tailor Shops in our select stores!

Following these instructions will help denim fit better, look better and last longer. AND it’s better for the environment. Win-win.

Tags Denim | denim care | Earth Day | featured | Jeans | Levi’s® | Sustainability | Tailor Shops | wash less

Hand washing

Our preferred method for cleaning denim is hand washing in the tub using cold water and a mild detergent. Denim is a sturdy, absorbent, and forgiving material, but it loses integrity with every cleaning. Hand washing is the gentlest way to wash your jeans and keep them in good condition over time. Stay away from anything that contains bleach, since this can damage the fabric and even cause white denim to yellow over time.

Follow these simple steps to hand wash your jeans:

  1. Fill your bathtub or sink with cold or lukewarm water, and add a teaspoon of gentle detergent.
  2. Allow jeans to soak for 45 minutes, scrubbing initially to remove any dirt or stains that have built up over time.
  3. Rinse with cold water.
  4. Lay them flat to dry.

machine washing

The safest way to machine wash denim is to launder it inside out on a short, gentle cycle. Aside from hand washing, washing jeans on gentle is the best way to preserve their original color and appearance for as long as possible. Always wash your jeans with cold water, unless you’re washing white denim, in which case you can use warm water on the same short, gentle cycle.
Don’t ever use high heat to wash or dry denim unless you’re actively trying to shrink your jeans.

How to wash black jeans without fading them

Step 1: When you’re washing black jeans it’s important to turn them inside out. This helps the colour stay in longer because the action of the water and detergent works primarily on the outer layer (which if turned inside out is the inner layer) and that’s what often causes fading.

Try and get into good habits early on by either turning your jeans inside out when taking them off or by doing it before you place them into the washing machine. Step 2: If you’re wondering how to wash black jeans you may also ask what items should they be washed with. As you might expect, washing black clothes with other dark items is one way to help your garments retain their colour and stay looking great.

This is because washing similar colours together prevents the mixture of other dyes diluting the colour of black clothes. It also protects your lighter-coloured garments from picking up dark dyes.

Step 3: If you’re still wondering how to keep black jeans black, why not try this nifty tip: wash your jeans in cold water.

It might sound counter intuitive, but it is often the heat of a wash that can cause colours to run or fade. Turn your wash temperature down to preserve your colours – just remember to check your detergent packaging and clothing care label first to see if it is suitable for use on a colder wash.

Step 4: Want one last great tip on how to stop black jeans from fading? Why not try Surf’s special new Black detergent? Not only is it specially formulated to keep black clothes black, but it combines colour fast technology with the intoxicating scent of midnight orchid.

This detergent is available in both liquid and capsule form so you’re free to choose the one that works best for you. As with any new product, it is important that you read the directions on the label before use, follow all safety advice, and store the detergent out of reach of children.