Can You Wash White With Black?

Laundry day is as easy as placing clothes in the washer and forgetting about them. However, what if you have a large load of clothes to wash? Is it safe to mix white fabrics with black ones? If that's your concern, let's go over the details.

There's a reason why many recommend separating white items from dark ones. The primary concern is dye transfer. Although dye transfer isn't a big problem nowadays, it's still something to consider.

Mixing white with black could give the white items a dull or gray appearance.

Long gone are the days of horrific dye transfer laundry days. It was a big problem in the past. However, it's not a big deal nowadays. Though, some colors still manage to ruin the brightness of the white item you're washing. If you'd like to learn more on the topic, keep reading!

White and black T-shirts on hangers for design presentation, Can You Wash White With Black?

Washing White And Black Items Together

It's obvious why people are hesitant to mix white items with black ones in a washer. Most people would like to retain the colors of their items. It's one of the reasons we avoid using pure bleach on black clothes. 

The same principle applies to white and colored items. You want to avoid mixing them with darker or lighter colors because it can change the appearance of the white clothes or fabrics.

However, how dramatic would the change be?

It's a tricky question to answer. Most washing machine manufacturers recommend separating whites from black clothing as a precaution.

folded black, grey and white color tshirts

Exploring Different Scenarios

Generally, there should be little to no dye transfer if you wash the clothes with cold water. However, that depends on the items you're mixing. For example, a pair of black jeans could transfer more dye than a black t-shirt.

It's especially the case if it's your first time washing it. After a few washes, the dye transfer shouldn't be as severe. Still, most people will be able to notice the difference.

Your white clothes won't be as white as they were. Instead, they'll turn slightly darker. However, they'll still be white.

Here's a video showing what mixing colors can do to white clothes/fabrics:

Summing It Up

The video above demonstrates what happens if you don't separate reds from whites. As you can see, the results vary. It all depends on the situation.

Darker and lighter colored clothes will transfer more dye if it's new. After a few washes, they shouldn't do much to your whites. Of course, you can minimize the effects by washing with cold water.

Still, you want to be careful with some black clothing. Dark jeans are one to consider separating. Jeans are notorious for dye transfers that sometimes never stop.

In any case, you can avoid color changes in white clothing by following a few rules. Avoid washing them together with a new black or light-colored item. To minimize the dye transfer, use the cold water setting.

You can mix new black and other colored items once you've washed them three or four times separately. If you don't want to risk dye transfer, it's better not to mix them.

There's a slight chance your whites won't be as bright as they were.

Why You Should And Should Not Separate Colors

One coloured one white pile of washing and a pile also of all white clothes

As we've seen in the video above, the dye transfer between whites and colored clothes isn't too substantial. However, colors do fade when you mix different fabrics and colors.

It's one of the reasons why most washing machine manufacturers recommend separating them.

It raises the question, is there any reason to keep separating them in this day and age? Yes, but you only need to follow these rules depending on your situation.

Some people may live in a household of more than five people. In this circumstance, there are likely a lot of clothes to wash. If you separate the white and colored clothing, laundry days will take more time out of your day.

That's not to mention the excessive amount of water you'd need to wash them separately. In this case, it's better not to separate the clothing as there's no need.

It becomes more practical when you don't have a large load to wash. Separating has a purpose. It preserves the brightness of white clothing. In addition, it prevents rich black colors from fading.

How To Separate Laundry Correctly

Baskets with clothes from the laundry

If you plan on separating fabrics by color, you may encounter some situations that leave you with questions. For example, how would you separate an item that uses two colors?

Separating By Color

Some items may use a black and white color pattern. Where would it belong, in the darks or whites? There are four separate categories you can use.


You would only include white items in the white category. In other words, the towel or clothing doesn't have embroidery or patterns. It makes sorting whites much easier.


White clothing with patterns should go into the lights category. It can't be white because it contains other colors. Pale yellow shades and different pale tones also belong in this.


The bright category includes the louder colors. Your greens, reds, light blues, orange, and light yellows belong in this area.


As the name implies, you place the darker colors in the dark category. So, anything with black, purple, brown, and blue go here.

If you want to be strict, you can separate it by washing the black fabrics separately. Otherwise, lump them all in together.

Separating By Fabrics

Some people don't mind risking color transfer. Thus, they're less strict in their categories. Instead, they'd separate their laundry by fabric.

Fabrics have different washing requirements. Some are quick to clean, while others require longer drying times. Why does it matter?

It matters because you may be accidentally shortening the lifespan of some items. If you dry lighter ones with heavy items, the lighter items will over-dry.

As a result, the heat stresses the fibers of the lighter items you're washing. Of course, you can avoid this by shortening the drying time. However, that would probably leave the heavy items damp.

For this reason, it's better to separate them by fabric. This way, you don't risk damaging clothes without knowing.

Heavy Fabrics

It's easy to distinguish heavy fabrics from lightweight ones. Jeans, towels, denim, and wool fall into this category. Cotton t-shirts are another that you can put into this area.

Lightweight Fabrics

Your silk and synthetic fabrics are in the lightweight category. Separating them from the heavier ones ensures they won't get damaged in the washer. They're in constant contact inside the machine.

Thus, it makes sense to avoid putting them in with items that have abrasive material like zippers. You can use a mesh bag to protect the more delicate items.

Sorting By Dirtiness

The last aspect to consider is the extent of the dirtiness. How heavy are the stains? If the clothes are dirty, it would be best to separate them.

Soiled or stained laundry needs longer, heavy-duty cycles.

Otherwise, you'll still be dealing with the stains out of the washer. In addition, you wouldn't want the stains transferring to the other much cleaner clothes.

Can You Dry White And Black Clothing Together?

Blank black and white folded square t-shirt

After the washing cycle finishes, you may think it's time to mix them in the dryer. After all, dye transfer occurs more frequently in wet conditions. However, that's not the case.

The dye can still transfer between fabrics in the dryer. At this point, they're still damp. However, you add heat by putting them in the dryer. So, that slight risk increases.

It also increases with the more items you put in there. If you want to dry white with black, avoid putting too much of either inside. This way, you can limit the amount of contact.

As a result, you reduce the risk of color bleeding.

To Wrap It Up

White and black T-shirts on hangers for design presentation

Color transfer isn't as big of a deal as it was in the past. However, it's still a problem. As we've found out, you can wash white with black.

But, the darker-colored items can give your whites a duller, grey appearance. We hope you found this informative.

Before you go, do you have other washing machine concerns? We go more in-depth on the fabric topic in our post:

Can You Run A Washing Machine With Just Cold Water?

Are you thinking about running your washing machine empty? To learn more, check out:

Can You Run A Washing Machine Empty?

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