It may not be on the same level as launching a satellite into orbit or finding a cure for the disease, but there’s a science to keeping colors bright. Colors fade when the chemical bonds between the dye and the fabric break down, so the best way to keep your colors bright is to wash clothes in a way that either prevents dyes from dissolving, protects the fibers in the fabric — or both. Follow these tips, and your colors will look as good as new!

Turn clothes inside out — According to experts, the tumbling action of the wash cycle and the dryer can cause fabric fibers to break as clothes collide into each other and against the walls of the machine. While you can’t prevent the damage entirely, turning clothes inside out before you wash them will keep the worst of the fraying on the inside, where it’s out of sight. If you dry your clothes on a clothesline, hang them inside away from direct sunlight to help prevent fading.

Soak clothes in saltwater — Salt is inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and great for keeping your colors bright. Before you wash that colorful new top, soak it overnight in saltwater. Simply fill your washer with cold water, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt, and then add your clothes. In the morning, just add detergent and run the washer as you normally would. You can add additional clothes at this point, too — just be sure not to overfill the washer.

Wash only when necessary — The simplest way to prevent colors from fading in the wash is to wash your clothes less frequently. If you’re careful, you can get several wears out of clothes you wear to work in an office or for a few hours to a dressy event. Promptly blot and spot-treat any liquid spills, and use a dry sponge or a fabric softener sheet to remove white deodorant streaks or powder makeup.

Wash in cold water — Washing in cold water instead of hot not only helps keep your colors bright, but it also conserves energy and saves you money. For best results, use a detergent formulated for bright clothes and cold-water washing.

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