Just about every laundry detergent in the world claims to whiten whites and brighten brights, so why do our most colorful clothes seem to come out of the wash looking less vibrant than before they went in?
Keeping your colors bright may not be the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning, and we hope you're not losing too much sleep over it at night, but unless you're going for that comfortably faded look, there's no denying that clothes look their best when the colors are crisp and new. Preserving the original color can also help you save money by extending the life of your clothing, since the best techniques for brightening colors tend to be gentler on fabrics than the old tried-and-true method of jamming as much as you can into the washer and hitting "start." (It's OK, we've all done it!)
Some of the best tricks for keeping colors bright rely on inexpensive, environmentally friendly ingredients you probably already have in your home. If you enjoy doing laundry as much as I do (which is to say, not much at all), you'll be glad to know that these color-saving tips are almost as simple as the throw-it-all-in-there approach, but with much better results.
Colors fade when the chemical bonds between the dye and the fabric break down, so the best way to keep your colors bright is to wash clothes in a way that either prevents dyes from dissolving, protects the fibers in the fabric -- or both. Follow these tips, and your colors will look as good as new!
Turn clothes inside out -- According to experts, the tumbling action of the wash cycle and the dryer can cause fabric fibers to break as clothes collide into each other and against the walls of the machine. While you can't prevent the damage entirely, turning clothes inside out before you wash them will keep the worst of the fraying on the inside, where it's out of sight. If you dry your clothes on a clothesline, hang them inside away from direct sunlight to help prevent fading.
Soak clothes in salt water -- Salt is inexpensive, environmentally friendly and great for keeping your colors bright. Before you wash that colorful new top, soak it overnight in salt water. Simply fill your washer with cold water, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt, and then add your clothes. In the morning, just add detergent and run the washer as you normally would. You can add additional clothes at this point, too -- just be sure not to overfill the washer.
Wash only when necessary -- The simplest way to prevent colors from fading in the wash is to wash your clothes less frequently. If you're careful, you can get several wears out of clothes you wear to work in an office or for a few hours to a dressy event. Promptly blot and spot-treat any liquid spills, and use a dry sponge or a fabric softener sheet to remove white deodorant streaks or powder makeup.
Wash in cold water -- Washing in cold water instead of hot not only helps keep your colors bright, it also conserves energy and saves you money. For best results, use a detergent formulated for bright clothes and cold-water washing.