The Natural Way to Keep Fabric from Fading

If you’ve been sewing or quilting for any amount of time, you’ve probably come across the age-old dilemma of whether or not to prewash your fabrics. In addition to getting any shrinkage out of the way before you sew with the fabric, prewashing can keep dark fabric dyes (reds and purples) from bleeding onto lighter-colored fabrics.

But wait…don’t you want the vibrant dyes to stay in your fabrics, thus keeping them bright and pretty?

Fortunately, there are several natural remedies to help fabric colors stay bright when laundered. To keep fabric from fading in the wash, you can use some well-known items from around your house! Don’t let those brilliant hues escape your fabrics, especially if you’ve already invested hours into stitching up completed projects, like a garment or quilt.

Colorful Quilt
Photo via Craft Buds

Here are a few suggestions for how to keep fabric from fading, the natural way.


Add a tablespoon of salt to the wash, and the chloride will help our clothing pack a colorful punch when it comes out of the dryer. The reason? Chloride found in salt actually helps to seal the color in fabrics, thus keeping it from fading. Try this out on your finished quilts to keep the colors bright, or treat your clothing. Everything, including handmade garments, should come out of the wash with all of its color intact.

But what if your fabrics have already faded? Some say that salt can actually help restore the brightness of over-laundered and dull fabrics.

Cold water

Washing fabrics in cold water will not only help you cut down on your bills, but it will also help to keep your fabric colors from fading. Pair the cold water cycle with a color brightening detergent to boost your colors in the wash.


Did you know that white vinegar can help to keep fabric colors from fading? If you add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, the liquid will freshen up your laundry and help colors maintain their intensity. Prior to a first washing, you can also soak dark fabrics for 30 minutes in water mixed with ½ cup of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to help set the dyes. Organic Authority shares more tips on using vinegar to help fabric colors set.

Baking soda

It’s not just for keeping your teeth white (or erasing odors from your fridge). Baking soda can also be added to your laundry to help fabrics maintain their brightness. Add ½ cup of baking soda during the wash cycle to try it out.

Sheer Purple Blouse on a Hanger
Photo via Lindsay Sews

Air drying

If you want to help your fabrics maintain their color after washing, you can let them hang to air dry. But remember to keep them out of the sun for best results, since exposure to the sun can fade fabrics even quicker than a spin cycle.

Do you how to keep fabric from fading? We’d love to hear your tips to help keep fabric colors bright!


Jean Kilmer Roberto

Don’t hang your quilt in the sun!! Ask how I found out…..


just a comment on baking soda; As many of us remember, before dishwashers we were able to get the stains out of coffee and tea cups when we used the baking soda DRY in the cup. When it became wet it was no longer abrasive and would not take the stains out. DRY baking soda will permanently remove enamel from your teeth so not a good idea to help whiten them. I am speaking from a dental hygienists point of view.

Lady Bug

Thank you! And I am in favor of Jane’s comment about baking soda. I have a question can acidic food like orange juice help natural dyes from extracting its bright color? Thanks ^.*

Joanne Gruba

I like vinegar when I wash my fabric. But I will try the other. Thank you so much.


I read in your article that “Baking soda can also be added to your laundry to help fabrics maintain their brightness.” But I also read in another site that baking soda has a slightly whitening effect on laundry. How can I be sure it won’t fade my coloured laundry? I would rather avoid vinegar as it can damage elasticated clothing in the rinse cycle. In your view what is the best way to boost or protect the colours in my washing – I use natural grated soap + baking soda & soda crystals for white with great result. But I am still looking for the right recipe for coloured clothing. Many thanks


Thanks for the info about salt and vinegar. You give the quantities of salt and vinegar, but don’t give the amount of water to mix them with. I going to guess that the amount of dilution is really important!!!


I know for sure that the salt and vinegar work. The reason isn’t that they have magical properties that help set color in the fabric. The water that comes into our homes from our water treatment plants are filled with bleach and chloride, they products listed above help neutralize the chemicals in our water. Therefore preventing the fading. I learned recently to always hang dry quilts and fluff in dryer after. I am curious about batik. I have never worked with it. Has anyone washed several times and had fading issues. I know they bleed to begin with because of how it is made. Just curious.


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