Whitening Cotton Fabric: How to Fade Cotton Fabric Easily

There are those who don't like the bright colored new look when they buy new clothes. They want those items looked used and broken in. When they get the chance, they take the tags off and put those new clothes through a fading process to appear older than they really are.

Not all cotton fabrics are made to dye easily but some are, like denim. To fade those clothing options easily, all you need to do is put them out in the sun and let the sun’s rays d the work for you. Or wash them in hot water and then put your cotton clothing in the sun to dry.

To learn more about fading cotton just keep reading our article. It has the information you want to know about so you can fade our cotton clothing easily and without damaging the dress, shirt or pants, etc.

Does Cotton Fade in The Sun?


Yes, it can although some cotton fabrics are faded easier in the sun than others. Denim is a good example of this as it is only surfaced dyed. That means that all the cotton fibers didn't absorb the blue or black dye color and the dye comes out real easy.

Other cotton clothing items that have been thoroughly dyed will still fade in the sun but it may take a little longer for that process to get to the point where you like the change.

The other issue you should know about here is that some fabrics are chemically treated to resist fading. This is done for synthetic materials and it can also be done to natural fibers to help them hold their color longer.

If you air dry and do not want the clothing to fade, just keep your cotton items out of the direct sunlight. This will help prevent shrinking as well as fading and keep your cotton items lasting a lot longer.

Proper care will ensure that you do not lose that nice, bright attractive look that caught your eye when you were shopping in the mall. More about sun fading clothes here.

Does White Cotton Fade

While it is a good question, it should be understood that all cotton starts off as white material or an off white material. Any color you see on a cotton dress or shirt or blouse has already been dyed.

You really can’t fade the original color as it has nowhere to go. You might make the natural white color look a little dingy but you will always have white color when you get rid of the color from your cotton clothing.

The natural color of cotton will not fade on you but if you try to fade it all you will be doing is weakening the fibers and ruining the feel of the cotton material. If you have white cotton shirts, etc., there is no color to fade

What helps you see how much fading actually goes on in the sun, is how dark the original color was when you bought it. The darker the color the easier to see how much has been lost over time.

These darker colors may appear to fade faster but that is not always the case. It just looks that way. When you see fading in the darker cotton items, the lighter ones may have faded at the same rate but you can’t tell because the original color was so light.

Why Does Cotton Fade?


Depending on the method of fading you choose, the bond between the dyes used and the cotton fabrics have become weaker and the fibers let go of the dye a lot quicker. The laundry detergent you use can be the source of that weakened bond.

Another reason why cotton will fade on you is that the clothing items are of low quality. Whoever made the clothing went cheap on the dyeing process and the dye did not adhere that well to the fibers.

It may only take 2 to 3 washes to see how low quality those cotton clothing really are. Denim is an exception to this rule as those items are only surfaced dye and they do fade quickly even if they are made from high-quality material.

A third reason why cotton fades is friction. You will see this a lot in the thigh area of pants. The more the cotton rubs together the more the dye comes off. This is why you should use the gentle cycle on your washer and dryer when cleaning cotton clothing.

The more agitation and friction the items get the more the dye will come off and ruin the look of the clothing.

Does Cotton Fade Easily?

This will depend on how the cotton was made. There are those cotton items that are made to resist fading, even though it will happen eventually and it takes a lot of effort to get the new bright look off the blouse, etc.

We have already mentioned denim and those clothing items, whether jeans, jackets, or shirts you should see them fade quicker than other cotton clothing. The surface dye is not attached to a lot of fibers nor are those fibers holding onto the dye very well.

Denim is not the only cotton that will fade easily and you usually have to go on a case by case basis as some low-quality cotton materials will fade fast while the higher quality maintains their color.

If you do not want to have your cotton fade, here are some ways to protect the color and keep your cotton clothing looking like it was still new:

  • Do not dry your cotton clothing in direct sunlight.
  • Do not dry your cotton clothing in direct sunlight.
  • Do not dry your cotton clothing in direct sunlight.
  • Do not dry your cotton clothing in direct sunlight.
  • Avoid using powerful laundry soap.
  • Don’t mix the colors when washing.
  • Try hand washing instead of machine washing.
  • Turn your clothing inside out before washing them.

Ways To Fade Cotton

If you do want to fade your cotton clothing so they look ‘lived in’ then here are some ways to accomplish that objective:

1. Fade in the sun- no effort is needed here. Just lay your clothing out in the sun and let the rays do the job for you. You can hang them on a line as well for an even faded look. You do not have to do let them be in the sun all day. Monitor the progress and it may take several days to get the shade you want.

2. Wash in hot water- this is a good way to fade cotton. Hot water is not always good for dyes and can help strip that bright look away. Then hang in the sun for a quicker fade time. The only problem here is the color bleed that may happen. Do not mix colors if you are going to use this method.

3. The bleach method- this is the riskier option of the 3 so far. You can use your washing machine and put a little bit of bleach in the bleach dispenser and let the washing machine run through its cycle. The key is not to put the bleach directly onto the cotton items.

4. This is the riskiest method of all and it involves soaking your cotton item in bleach for 30 minutes. Of course, you may lose all the color using this method so be careful and use tongs so your hands do not get bleach on them.

How Can I Lighten Cotton Without Bleach?


If you want the simplest way to bleach cotton clothing without using bleach, just wear them in the sun. This is the slowest method to use and it will take many days of wearing to get the fabric to lose some of its colors.

If you do not want to do that, you can just lay your clothing or hang it on the ling in direct sunlight. You can control the fade better with this method but it may take some time as well to get the right amount of fade. You have to play both by ear and monitor the clothing regularly.

Finally, there is the hot water wash and hang in the sun method. It takes more work but this is the quickest method to fade your cotton items. Make sure the cotton clothing has been pre-shrunk first or you may have to pass the items on down to your children

Wash the clothes then hang them in the direct sunlight. It is not that tough to do but it still takes a little effort on your part. Monitor the clothing to make sure they do not fade too much while hanging in the sun.

How Do You Fade Cotton Clothes?

First, read the care tags and hopefully, those tags will tell you if the cotton clothing has been treated to resist fading. If those tags are there that means the coating will not stop fading, it will just be harder to do.

Second, if you are trying to fade denim then your work is half done for you. Just leave the denim items in the sun for a few hours each day until you get the shade of fade you want. Denim and similar surface dyed cotton are the easiest materials to fade as the dye doesn't penetrate the surface.

For tougher cotton materials, any of the three methods already described will do the trick for you. The key is to be careful and to monitor the fade process. Bleach is going to be the riskiest method as chlorine bleach is not kind to fabrics or colors.

Don’t try to use oxygen bleach as that is a variety of chemicals designed to help colors remain in clothing. Although, if you do use that version of bleach, the fading process may be slower and less risky.

Does Cotton or Nylon Fade Faster?


This may be a toss-up as most synthetic materials are chemically treated to resist fading. Some cotton materials are also tough to fade so you may see little change in either fabric. A lot depends on who made the material or clothing items.

But nylon doe snot fade faster than cotton. You can use the same three methods to remove the color but it is slow going when you use nylon materials. Polyester does not fade that much in the sun or in the wash and bleach can ruin the material as it can with nylon.

Nylon will fade faster than polyester but cotton will fade the fastest of all three.

How To Restore Faded Cotton Shirt

Here are some methods to try but we will not guarantee your results as there are always mitigating factors that come into play and may not produce the same results mentioned here.

1. Use salt- wash your clothes like normal using the same water temperatures and laundry soap. The only difference is to add a 1/2 cup of salt. Powder detergents leave behind a residue which often covers the color up and salt will remove a lot of that residue. Dry as usual.

2. Use vinegar- same instructions as #1 but instead of using salt use a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. You can add the vinegar directly to the washer’s drum or use the fabric softener dispenser.

3. If those two methods do not work as well as you had hoped, there is always the dye method. This works wonders and if you do it right you can restore dull faded clothing back to their original state.

Some Final Words

Fading cotton is not going to be that tough of a task to do. Just take your time and follow all instructions and you should be fine. Your results will differ from others depending on the type of cotton you own and how it was made.

There are no guarantees made here so your results will depend on how you do the fading.

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