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Feeling a Little Faded? Try These 10 Detergents for Black Clothes

Cleaning black clothing can make it fade, but it still needs washed. Try a detergent designed specifically for them.

laundry detergent for black clothes

There’s something that’s incredibly satisfying about a black outfit. It’s an easy way to pull off the Parisian look I’m personally always striving for, while not having to worry too much about wrinkles. Plus, with a little extra weight since Covid, I’m desperately leaning into the notion that black is a slimming color.

And so, over the last few years, I’ve amassed my fair amount of black tees, jeans, beanies, and even a pair of overalls. It’s easy to match and I can fake looking put-together when really I just rolled out of bed for my next Zoom meeting. But there’s a downside to this uniform. Yep, you guessed it: fading. What was once my ultra-chic head-to-toe ensemble noir now is a bit more grey, which just doesn’t have the same Alain Delon (a famous French actor) effect I’m always striving for. On top of that, it’s a pitiable thing to try to match black jeans with an aged and grey tee. Something about it looks off. It ruins the mood.

Why Black Clothing Fades

Darker clothing contains dye. It's a simple fact, no matter whether it was altered before or after being assembled. Washing a darker garment will not only clean dirt and debris from its surface but also strip the dye ever so slowly. It washes away. Wear can do this as well, because abrasions reveal light spots (see: raw denim) and the loosening of fibers causes less light refraction (making the shirt seem brighter). The sun, despite tanning skin, fades colored clothing, too.

      How Dark Detergents Work

      Detergents designed for darker clothing contain chemicals that slow the process. They can't technically restore the color, but they'll trap the ink before it lifts from the material. (I've heard coffee can bring back a bit of the lost black, though.) Some detergents tighten the fiber to reduce the shirt's overall vibrancy.

          The Best Detergents for Black Clothes

          If you’re looking to save those perfectly inky Levi’s or that vintage band tee, keep reading.

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            Best Overall Detergent for Black Clothes
            Renew Black 3D Liquid Detergent

            • Depending on the amount of black in your wardrobe, this bottle could last you for quite a while
            • Eco-friendly
            • Concentrated formula

            • Very expensive compared to other brands
            • Henkel (Perwoll’s parent company) has faced allegations of animal testing
            • Product best used with only black/dark clothes, not with mixed loads

            This may be the holy grail of detergents on this list, given the cult-like status of Perwoll’s product. While other detergents prevent further fading, Perwoll actively renews faded color. Fading can occur in two ways: Either the dye itself washes away over time on a garment, or the garment's fibers break and loosen, causing less light refraction (and therefore vibrancy). This solves the latter. By washing with Perwoll, the detergent coats the fibers to strengthen them a bit and add a little more color to your otherwise drab pair of jeans.

            Best Upgrade Detergent for Black Clothes
            Studio Liquid Laundry Detergent for Darks and Colors

            • Paraben and phosphate free
            • Dosage cap is easy-to-follow with a tiered system
            • Good for bright colors too

            • Reviewers complain of a permeating scent
            • Not completely chemical-free or hypoallergenic

            While its orange-bottled cousin may be the journeyman detergent, Studio by Tide takes it to the next level. Like others on the list, it flattens the fibers of your black clothing to keep pilling to a minimum, which in turn keeps your clothes not looking as faded and the dye intact. This launched in place of other discounted Tide darks detergents.

            Best Affordable Detergent for Black Clothes
            Woolite Darks Liquid Detergent

            • Easily found in most grocery stores
            • Comes in two sizes: 50 and 100 oz
            • Includes Woolite’s EverCare formula, which helps prevent stretching and pilling on sweaters and heavier garments
            • Designed for both synthetic and natural materials

            • Not hypoallergenic
            • The scent is a bit dull and seemed to fade more rapidly than other competitors
            • More expensive than other big box detergent brands

            The ubiquitous favorite in most grocery stores, Woolite Darks is an easy-to-find and popular favorite for anyone worried about a little bit of fading. It promises that your favorite black tee won’t fade —even after 20 washes. This is the detergent to trust whenever you must wash that (new) vintage band tee you just bought, because its formula prevents pills and stretching.

            Darks Pacs Laundry Detergent Pods

            • Packs are convenient for storage and measuring
            • Same formula as the standard, bottled detergent
            • Easily found in most grocery stores

            • Not hypoallergenic
            • Being in a pack makes it hard to account for smaller loads and one-offs
            • Pay more for less loads than liquid form

            Woolite is back on the list, but in an easier-to-use form. If you’re like me and hate futzing with some of the more unwieldy detergent bottles out there, then a detergent pack can be your best friend. What Woolite Dark Packs lack in size, they make up for in efficiency, offering the same fade-resistant technology as its liquid counterpart.

            Natural Laundry Detergent

            • Chemical-free
            • Ultra-concentrated

            • Scent-free, if you’re looking for that just-washed smell
            • May not be as strong against fading as other detergents that are specially formulated for black clothes
            • Harder to find in some stores

            Puracy’s popularity is due to their eco-derived ingredients that actually work. Puracy, while not as well-known as other detergents, is no less effective at keeping clothes fresh. Blacks in particular fare well with its formula.

            Darks Classic Liquid Detergent
            The Laundress New York

            • This detergent is made for both dark and colorful clothes, so your loads can pull double-duty
            • A highly concentrated formula, the 33 oz bottle can do up to 64 loads
            • Bottle is 100% recyclable

            • Harder to find in more rural areas/may require shipping
            • High-concentration formula makes it hard to know how much to use for a load
            • Scent does fade quickly

            This detergent somehow balances old-school charm with the on-trend, modern cottage-core. Branding aside, this is a good product for those who want an alternative to big box stores’ selections. To that end, The Laundress is an innovative brand in an antiquated space, providing a line of products that are as eco-conscious (all formulas are plant-derived) as they are hard-working. And not to mention the Dark Detergent has a great clean smell I wish came in a candle.

            Dark Protect Powder

            • Only use as-needed, so one box will last
            • Doubles as a stain-remover

            • Reviewers with sensitive skin complain of irritation on this product over other alternatives
            • Has a scent, which may compete with your liquid detergent
            • May not be for those with limited storage space

            Oxiclean’s reputation precedes it. For nearly a decade — remember the midnight Billy Mays commercials? — it’s been the top stain-fighter for laundry. Of course they have a fade protection product, too. The Oxiclean Dark Protect isn’t technically a detergent, but it works with your detergent to maintain fabric’s integrity and reduce fading by pilling and pulling after extended washing. Depending on your washer, you’ll either sprinkle it in with the clothing in the basin itself, or directly with the liquid detergent. Either way, it’s just that little extra you need to keep your blacks looking their finest.

            Liquid Laundry Detergent
            Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day
            Now 26% off

            • Not just formulated for colors, you can use this for any load of laundry
            • Highly concentrated, this 64-oz bottle can do about 64 loads
            • Can also be used as a stain remover for garments

            • The scent is not strong
            • High-concentration formula makes it hard to know how much to use for a load
            • Made with essential oils which may interact with some sensitive skin

            A perennial favorite for many who love a clean home, Mrs. Meyers is a trusted brand through and through. Their Lavender Laundry Detergent may not say “darks” in the title, but it doesn’t have to: It works on any clothes you throw in. Because the formula relies on natural enzymes and plant derivatives, fading is less likely to occur after regular washing than a detergent that’s chemical-based. It’s as much about prevention as it is about maintenance with laundry, and Mrs. Meyers is a good choice for both.

            Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent
            Seventh Generation

            • Chemical free
            • Auto-dosing nozzle
            • Ultra-concentrated formula

            • Scent-free, if you’re looking for that just-washed smell
            • May not be as strong against fading as other detergents that are specially formulated for black clothes

            Seventh Generation is known as one of the top-selling natural detergents and its Ultra Concentrated formula is a testament to its own popularity. With an auto-dosing nozzle, a formula that leans on enzymes instead of chemicals, and a concentrated 66-load amount in a 23-ounce bottle, this product is a great all-around detergent. And, being naturally-derived, it’s just as safe on darks and lights, reducing fading for any wash.

            Liquid Laundry Detergent
            Now 19% off

            • Good for all clothing types
            • Dosage cap is easy-to-follow with a tiered system
            • A clean, fresh scent

            • Not hypoallergenic and chemical-based
            • May not be as strong against fading as other detergents that are specially formulated for black clothes

            Tide remains the detergent O.G. and, as such, makes an appearance on this list. An all-around favorite for college grads and grandmas alike, it’s popularity is due to one thing: It works! With its broad pouring spout and easy-to-read measuring cup, the ubiquitous orange bottle is a good starting point when you start realizing your blacks may not be looking a little drab, but you don’t want to break the bank on a new detergent just yet. It'll do more good than it does damage.

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