How to prevent fading of eco-print fabrics

All dyed fabric will fade eventually, from washing and sun exposure. Eco-printed cotton does fade more quickly than synthetically dyed cotton but there are a few ways you can reduce this to enjoy your fabric for longer.

I find that machine washing eco-printed fabric is fine, although I recommend hand washing for very special items. More important is to use a mild washing detergent. Most washing powders and liquids are too harsh and will quickly strip off the natural plant dyes. I use soap nuts, which can often be bought from health food stores or co-ops. Simply soak the soap nuts in boiling water for a few minutes, then add this liquid to the washing machine.

UV rays in sunlight will also fade dyed fabric over time. After washing eco-printed clothing, dry them in the shade or at least turned inside out. Bring them in as soon as they have dried and store in the dark. Also, try to avoid wearing eco-printed clothing if you will be in direct sun all day.

I have some eco-printed clothing that is still looking quite good after a couple of years of gentle wear. Once they become faded, clothes that have previously been eco-printed also tend to re-dye well. Re-mordant the fabric then dye as usual. Faint traces of the previous print can be seen on the cotton sample below, providing a lovely ghost effect.

How to prevent eco-print fabric from fading




11 thoughts on “How to prevent fading of eco-print fabrics”

  1. I just made my first Tshirts with Eco printing. It’s wet and drying. Can I put it in the dryer to dry now instead?

  2. I just did my first Eco printing shirt. It’s wet and drying outside in the shade now. Can I dry it in the dryer instead? Thank you!

    1. I haven’t tried it but it’s probably fine. The only possible problem I can think of is that the heat could change the colour of the prints – I’ve seen that happen with avocado dye. But if you cooked the bundles at a very high temperature, then I don’t think it would matter.

  3. Your blog is amazing. Lovely documentary of your experiments! Soap nuts can be used to wash naturally dyed cottons too? Have you any opinion on it. Will it be gentle on the natural dyes or will it dull them quicker? Thank you in advance for any response. Have a nice day

    1. Hello Diya. Yes, I’ve used soap nuts for many years and found them to be very good for washing eco-prints. Sun exposure is always going to cause a lot more noticable fading than any gentle detergent.

    1. Hello, sorry for my slow reply. My understanding is that dry cleaning will fade or change the colour of naturally dyed clothes, and as eco-printing is a type of natural dyeing it would be best to avoid it.

    1. I think you can do natural dyeing with the ice technique, but for eco-printing you really need to wrap the fabric tightly and then heat to release the colour. I guess you could do the ice dyeing before or after eco-printing, as a way of combining the techniques?

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