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How to make dull colours in clothes bright again

Updated March 23, 2017

Although it is important to maintain the colour of your clothing, sometimes it is simply too late. Over time, as clothing is worn and washed, the colours start to fade. However, this is no reason to throw out that favourite black dress or toss that green T-shirt away. You can easily restore the colour of your dull clothing and also help save bright clothing from turning dull in the future.

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Turn dull clothes bright

  1. Use fabric dye to easily restore the colour of your clothing. You can find various colours in the same supermarket aisle as washing powder.

  2. Pour the dye into hot water and soak the clothing for about 30 minutes if washing by hand, or add to washing machine and setting it at the hot water cycle. Use only one colour of fabric dye at a time.

  3. Wash the clothes and rinse in cool water if washing by hand. Then wash in warm water and detergent and dry when finished. If using washing machine, wait for the cycle to finish, add washing powder and set to cool or warm. Wait for this cycle to finish and dry clothing. Clean the washing machine after use. For best results, use a washing powder for coloured or dark-coloured clothing.

  4. Use 118 ml (1/2 cup) of vinegar if desired between these washes or as a final wash. Measure 118 ml (1/2 cup) of vinegar and pour it into the washing machine or into bowl/basin if hand washing. Let clothes soak, rinse and either wash with warm water and detergent or let dry. Vinegar is said to set the colours of newly dyed fabrics when added to the last rinse.

  5. Repeat the fabric dye process when clothes begin to fade again.

Maintaining coloured clothing

  1. Wash clothing as rarely as possible to avoid colour loss or fading. When washing new coloured clothing, soak first in salt water for a few hours or overnight or soak in vinegar to set the colour.

  2. Use washing powder for coloured or dark-coloured fabrics when washing the clothes after a salt water or vinegar soak. Turn them inside out to help retain the colours and use the cold setting to help keep them bright. Wash similar colours together.

  3. Dry clothing inside out if line drying to avoid fading from sunlight. Keep clothes away from sunlight when stored away by closing drawers or wardrobe doors. Sunlight, even if coming through a window, fades clothing when in direct contact. If drying in a dryer, remember to not over-dry the clothing. Remove while still slightly damp to avoid wrinkles and possible fading from the heat.

  4. Use vinegar from time to time to help keep the colours of clothing. Vinegar also keeps colours from running in the wash and dying other clothing.

  5. Tip

    Vinegar will not damage your clothing. Although it brightens white clothing, it does not cause darker clothing to fade but rather helps restore colours. Always read instruction labels on clothing for best care.


    Read instructions on fabric dyes and detergents. Some fabric dyes may not be used on synthetics and may damage them instead.

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Things You'll Need

  • Fabric dye
  • Colour-safe washing powder
  • Vinegar
  • Salt


About the Author

Aleksandra Ozimek

Aleksandra Ozimek has been writing professionally since 2007 for a fashion blog, various online media and the "Queens Courier," in addition to interning at "Cosmopolitan" magazine. She completed her Bachelor of Science in journalism and photography from St. John's University, where she is completing her master's degree.

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