Step by step instructions to keep your black denim black, dark jeans dark, and preserve the color in your jeans.
It is so frustrating to buy black jeans and they immediately fade to grey after a couple washes! I love the look of dark blue jeans and have been known to buy printed and bold color denim, which I have now figured out how to keep from fading.
Vinegar Soak to Seal in Color
Before the first wash, turn your jeans (or denim) inside out and soak in a vinegar solution.
In a 5 gallon bucket, mix 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with 3-4 gallons of water, then soak the denim for 30 minutes. The water/vinegar solution should completely soak your denim, make sure there is enough water to submerge the denim in the solution. Thoroughly rinse with cold water, then hang dry.
For multiple pairs or jeans at a time, use the pre-soak feature on your washing machine. Fill the washing machine with cold water, add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and let soak for 30 minutes. Adjust the load size setting to ensure that the denim is totally soaked in the washing machine. Then run the rinse, drain & spin cycle, remove and line dry.
Even if you have previously washed your jeans, the vinegar soak method still works (best results are prior to the first wash). And the vinegar soak method can be done at anytime with your jeans to continue to preserve and seal in the color, if you start to notice any fading (or simply what to stay ahead of any fading).
Back to Black
There is no need to despair, or toss a great pair of jeans, if they have faded, there are several options to get those jeans back to black (or the original dark color).
Liquid fabric dye works wonders to restore (or change) the color of your denim. Also available in powder form, but that tends to be very messy and can occasionally leave streaks if not mixed thoroughly. Liquid fabric dye can be used to darken or change (to a darker color) the color of your denim.
How to Wash Denim
Once you have sealed in the color with the vinegar solution, on-going cleaning can be in the washing machine.
Sort your denim and other dark, heavy fabrics as a load for washing. A good general rule for sorting laundry is to sort & group by similar colors and fabric “thickness”. Avoid washing thin, delicate fabrics and lingerie with heavy towels or denim, as an example. Double check care & laundry instructions on the tag, if you have any doubts or questions about an item for the wash to prevent an accidental shrinking or dark colors bleeding into lighter color or white fabrics.
Turn your jeans and denim inside out before washing. The agitation from the wash contributes to fading, so always turn dark or printed fabrics inside out to preserve the garments from fading (great habit for printed tee shirts).
Use cold or warm water, never hot when washing jeans. Warm water should only be used for stubborn stains, and cold pre-soak is really the better option. The warmer the water the more the color will “bleed” and fade so cold water is the best setting.
Use the short or gentle wash cycle for dark jeans to wash the denim with the least amount of friction that causes extra wear & tear which can only lead to fading.
Beware of the Dryer
Line dry or hang your jeans to air dry, while they are still inside out.
Any time in the dryer will slightly fade your denim, so I completely avoid the dryer for pitch black jeans!
I frequently finish drying my slightly damp (mostly dry) jeans in the dryer on air fluff or delicate setting. Use the lowest heat for a very short (15 minutes or less) drying cycle.