Does Ironing Fade Clothes?

Why is it that it’s always your favorite wardrobe item that fades first? The answer is actually pretty simple… and obvious now that we’ve looked into it in more detail. Because it gets more wear, this results in more exposure to the elements that cause garments to age. Here’s a more in-depth view of what causes clothing to fade.

Does ironing fade clothes? Ironing does not cause clothing to fade. Clothing fades because of poor quality, over washing, over-drying, and exposure to sunlight. Thankfully, these factors can be reduced or avoided to prevent premature fading.

Understanding that there are several factors that contribute to the fading and aging of clothing is good news because it means there are several areas where we can improve… and you don’t have to give up ironing. If you want a brand that’s tried and tested, check out our reviews of the best steam irons for home use. How often you wear an item, how you wash it, how well the garment is made, and how gentle you are with it, are all factors within your control.

Let’s look into each aspect to help avoid simple mistakes while extending the life expectancy of your entire wardrobe.

Also see: Does Ironing Shrink Clothes?

So, What Causes Clothing to Fade?

Let’s look at the real reasons clothes tend to fade…


1. Poor Quality Dye

When the dye is applied to the fabric, bonds are formed. These bonds determine how strong the dye has attached to the fabric, and in some cases, these bonds are weak.

Manufacturers test the fabric for rubbing and washing fastness. This means how firmly the dye has adhered to the fabric. Poor washing fastness means that on washing, the bond between the material and dye is easily broken. In lower-quality clothing, you can expect these bonds to be weaker and thus, the garment will fade faster.

If you want your clothes to fade, you should buy clothing with good washing fastness, but how can you tell the difference.

How Do You Test For Good Color Fastness?

  1. Take a small corner of the garment in your hand and wet it
  2. Let it rest over the sink for a few minutes
  3. With a white face cloth, rub the moistened area of the garment with the cloth
  4. If color transfers from the clothing onto the white towel, the garment has poor color fastness and will run in the wash
  5. Wash the item separately until no more dye runs from it

This is a great test, not only to avoid your clothes fading but to avoid colors running and damaging other items in the same wash.

2. Frequent Washing

Washing your clothes regularly is essential to keep them clean, however, it is one of the key factors that cause clothes to fade.

Gentle Detergents and Wash Cycles

Gentle cleaning detergents will have less of an impact on the garment and keep colors looking brand new for longer. The same applies to gentler washing settings. Choose the cycle with the least soaking and fewest spin cycles would be best.

Take special care of delicate fabrics like silk or lace using the following tips.

  • Follow the cleaning instructions on the garment label
  • Use laundry bags for delicate items so they don’t snag on other items
  • Adapt the wash cycle to suit the type of fabric of your clothing and use a gentle cycle for delicate items
  • Hand-wash protects delicate fabrics from harsh spin cycles
  • Cool water will keep items looking fresher for longer
  • Use as little detergent as possible. Liquid detergents are not as harsh as powdered
  • Avoid harsh cleaning chemicals containing bleach

Spot Clean Stains

If you get a spot of grease or dirt on a piece of clothing, treat the stained area before tossing it in the wash. It is unnecessary to clean the entire garment with the same force required to remove only a small spot.

3. Overusing the Dryer

The lint you clean out your dryer is literally your clothes being worn out. It’s best to air-dry clothing as the heat from your dryer can ruin some fabrics. The elastic in stretch fabrics ages faster with repeated drying. The dryer can also scuff and dull metal details like buttons and zippers.

If you need to use the dryer, then set it to a lower heat setting. Also, be sure to read the care instructions on your garment label as some fabrics will shrink in the dryer.

4. Ultraviolet Rays Fade Clothing

Sun is especially damaging and will cause bright colors to fade. When wearing your clothes outdoors as well and when you dry them on the washing live, the UV rays play a major role in the fading of your clothing.

Ultraviolet rays have a bleaching effect and can break down the bonds between the dye and the fabric. This is called photodegradation.

Red absorbs higher energy waves of UV rays making it the most likely color to fade, whereas blue tones and colors closer to the violet end of the color spectrum absorb lower energy wavelengths and are less likely to fade.

There is little you can do to stop clothes fading while you wear them, but you can protect them while drying outdoors.

  • Hang clothing inside out so even if they fade, it’s not visible.
  • Hang darker colors on the inside of your washing line where they get the least sun exposure.
  • Don’t leave clothes in the sun any longer than it takes them to dry.
  • Dry them in a covered area where they don’t get direct sunlight.

5. Take Care When Ironing

Although ironing does not damage your clothes or cause them to fade, there is always the risk of human error.

Ironing helps to maintain the perfect shape that your garment was meant to hold so it fits you better. But, you can damage your favorite outfit by ironing it incorrectly. If you’re new to ironing or a seasoned pro, these are simple ironing tips that help you stop shine when ironing…or worse, irreversible scorches.

Also see: Does Ironing Shrink Clothes?

Check the Irons Temperature

The common mistake is ironing a fabric at too high a temperature.

If you are unsure of the correct heat setting to iron a garment, check the care label. If you still have no indication, start with a low heat setting and use a pressing or ironing clothe as a barrier between the garment and the iron’s soleplate.

Ensure the Iron is Clean

Next, always ensure the iron and the ironing board are clean. If the iron has burn marks on the soleplate, clean this off to avoid stains transferring onto your clothes.

Test out the iron on the ironing cloth first to ensure there is not rusty water in the iron that could mark your clothing.
Note: Never store your iron with water in it to avoid corrosion and rust.

6. Frequent Wear

We all have those favorite clothing items that we wear again, and again, and again. That classic black ‘T’, or weekend sweat pants, these are usually the first items to show their age because they get that much more wear.

Because they are worn twice as much, they will wear twice as fast. The solution, buy more than one!

Investing in a second piece of the same item will mean double the life span. Also, apply the above care tips when washing, drying and ironing to ensure they don’t age prematurely.

In Conclusion

So what’s the ultimate goal? The average life expectancy of a garment is 2 to 3 years so if you’ve got an item from longer back than you can remember, you’re doing a pretty good job!

Different pieces of clothing have different life expectancies. A leather jacket will outlive a pair of trousers because it gets less wear and it’s made of a tougher fabric.

Expect blends to be replaced sooner than natural fibers, and for items that you want to wear for longer, spend a bit more on quality made and quality dyed garments that won’t fade fast. If you’ve spot tested an expensive garment for colorfastness, and it fails, return it and rather spend your money on quality.

No garment will look store-bought forever, but with a little care, it can last longer and look newer.