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 John Lawton

Q. I love the versatility of black plants, but mine fade too quickly. And please don’t say I need to take them to the dry cleaner. I just don’t have the time.
Mary Messinger
Albuquerque, New Mexico

A. Don’t wash them (as much). If you primarily wear your black pants indoors―in an office, for example―you can get away with wearing them four or five times between washings. A purse-size bottle of OxiClean Spray-A-Way Instant Stain Remover ($5 for two at drugstores) will help you spot-treat stains (blot; don’t rub) and avoid excessive washings. To eliminate chalky marks from makeup, deodorant, or powder, try a dry sponge like Miss Oops Rescue Sponge ($10,

When you are ready to do a load of laundry, turn the pants inside out to minimize color loss caused by the friction from rubbing against other clothes, then choose a short, delicate cycle. “The colder the temperature, the better, since warm water tends to break down fibers and fade clothes faster,” says Steve Boorstein, author of The Clothing Doctor’s 99 Secrets to Cleaning and Clothing Care ($5, A specialized detergent for cold-water loads, such as Tide Coldwater ($8 at drugstores), helps neutralize the color-sucking chlorine that can be found in tap water. Then hang or lay the pants flat to dry; don’t throw them in the dryer. And the next time you’re in the market for black trousers, look for a fabric that retains dark dyes, like a washable wool blend or nylon, as opposed to acetate or linen.

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