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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

How to wash dark denim

By Dr. Laundry October 5, 2012

How do I wash out excess dye from denim so that it doesn’t rub off on everything?

It’s always a good idea with new denim to wash the item separately for the first few washes since denim tends to bleed into wash water. Even after several washes, always be sure it is only washed along with other dark items in the future. You can get past the major bleeding stage faster by washing and drying the denim 3-4 times before wearing. The hotter the water, the more the dye will come off—using a little detergent will also help. I don’t know if you typically dry your denim in a hot dryer, but if you don’t have to worry about shrinkage, then the heat from the dryer can also help set the dye somewhat. This is all geared toward preventing dye transfer through the wash water—you mentioned that the color is rubbing off. That’s actually called “crocking.” If after washing the item several times your denim continues to be a problem then you would have a good argument for the manufacturer to refund what you paid given that the item probably doesn’t meet industry standards for resistance to crocking. Note that sometimes hang tags for garments include disclaimers that basically remove the manufacturer from any liability—something like “the beauty of this denim is enhanced by the richness of the dye, which may transfer to other items…” You can probably guess my opinion of such disclaimers!