The colors of a new t-shirt are always brightest when the t-shirt is newest. Over a long period of time and many washes, the colors will begin to fade. However, there are a number of ways to keep the colors bright and to keep fading to a minimum.
One of the fading factors is UV light. Direct sunlight will eventually fade the colors of t-shirts. For this reason, dry a t-shirt indoors to preserve the bright colors. It’s also a good idea not to stay in bright sunlight while you are wearing the t-shirt. This can fade the shirt just as quickly as hanging it in the sun can do. Also consider where you store your t-shirts. If there is direct sunlight shining into your closet, that can fade your t-shirts as well as anything else being stored there.
A t-shirt with a bright color should only be washed with other clothes that have the same or a similar color. Washing the shirt with very different colors can mute the colors of all of the items as the dyes are mixed together. If the t-shirt has color like nothing else in your wardrobe, wash it by itself.
When washing the t-shirt, use a color-safe detergent. These may be color-safe bleaches or just detergent that is made for keeping colors from fading. The washing itself should be done in cold water to prevent too much of the dye from being lifted out of the material. Hot water will take it out far too quickly and will cause a faded look after a few washings. Use short washing cycles if the t-shirt isn’t terribly dirty as well to reduce the time that the t-shirt will be wet.
Because there is usually a little bit of dye that is lifted from clothing when it is washed, there are specific products that can capture that dye and prevent clothes from being dulled by the dye from other garments. One of these is dye grabber sheets. These are placed into the washing machine when the clothes are loaded. The sheet will absorb the dyes and leave the clothing looking far less faded.
Another way to ensure brighter colors is to use a common household ingredient to the wash. Many people regularly use vinegar in the wash to keep dyes from being lifted out of fabric and colors looking bright. To use vinegar in the wash, get a supply of white vinegar. This is an inexpensive type of vinegar available at any grocery store. Measure one cup of the vinegar and pour it into the washer along with the detergent. You don’t have to use less detergent than usual when you do this. The result will be t-shirts that keep their bright colors longer. The detergent generally takes care of any vinegar odor, and using a dryer sheet can also be helpful.
When drying, use a tumble dry mode instead of a heat dry mode. This will keep some fading from occurring and keep the colors looking brighter.