Causes of Fading Fabric

Written by susanne koenig
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Causes of Fading Fabric
Keep your clothes bright and beautiful by exercising a bit of caution. (Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

If you've invested good money into clothing only to have it fade quickly, you will want to know how to avoid fading in the future. The causes of fading are usually very commonplace and easy to avoid through proper care, better quality, and storage. Keeping your clothing's colour beautiful and bright can be achieved with a few simple precautions.

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One of the single most potent contributors to fading fabric is sunlight. Over time, sunlight changes the colour of fabrics by reducing the molecules in the dye to colourless by-products. This is because the sunlight will break down the carbon rings that make up most principal dyes. This is an inevitability in even sun-resistant dyes. To increase the life of fabrics exposed to the sun, including draperies and sofas, use light-blocking liners for your drapes and toss a throw over your couch.


One of the problems with keeping colours bright is the lack of care when it comes to washing. Agitating clothes has the same affect as sunlight on the carbon rings in the dye's molecular make-up. This is due to the amount of heat the carbon experiences, which is why you want to wash your coloured clothes in cold water. Add a bit of vinegar to your wash when washing bright colours to help keep the dye steadfast. You can also try soda ash fixer causing the dye to adhere to the fabric better. Soda ash is available at pool supply stores.

Using the Wrong Detergent

Often an article of clothing will fade when you use the wrong sorts of fabric care products in the wash. Adding bleach to colours is not necessary to remove germs and other microbes from colours -- colour-safe bleaches and detergent will take care of those sorts of problems and eliminate odours. Spending a bit more on the better detergents can make a difference, as any consignment shop owner will attest. Also, use only as much detergent as you need -- experiment with lesser amounts as the recommended amount is specified with hard water in mind. You may need as little as half as the amount you are using.


One of the problems with keeping fabrics fresh and new looking is the friction the cloth undergoes day-to-day. Everyday wear can present some problems when it comes to fabrics fading, but often the effect of friction can be reduced on fabrics by turning them inside-out in the wash therefore eliminating the amount of friction the surface of the fabric is exposed to. Switching from a top-loading friction-heavy washing machine to a front loading washer will also help eliminate the effects of friction on your clothing.

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