The Ultimate Fabric Care Cheat Sheet
Your whole closet should be treated with the utmost care. After the time and care that went into trying on and purchasing your precious pieces, they deserve a little love. No two fabrics are the same and this can make caring for them a little confounding. For your convenience we have taken all of the guess-work out of fabric care and crafted this comprehensive list and a detailed chart of how to wash each of your prized possessions! Keep reading for all the facts and the FAQs.
How do I care for different kinds of fabric?
It is important to note, you should always follow the instructions on your garment’s care tag as it will give information specific to that piece. However, if your item does not have a care tag, follow the cheat sheet chart above for the safest way to launder.
Cotton fabrics are comprised of fibers derived from the cotton plant. What starts as a ball of fluff (a boll) is spun into what is one of the most commonly used natural fibers in the world. Cotton is rather durable and dries quickly making it ideal for everyday clothing, however it wrinkles easily and will shrink in heat up to a point.
You can wash cotton in a washing machine on normal cycle at any temperature. Be sure to separate colors before washing as some dyes can bleed into each other, especially on the first wash. Tumble dry on medium to high or hang up to dry (this will reduce risk of shrinking). Do not bleach cotton unless the garment is pure white in color. Though there are bleaches on the market made for colors, sometimes these can discolor your garment and take your garment to a place of no return. Because of this, bleaching should only be done when absolutely necessary on undergarments like socks, undershirts and underwear.
Because of its tendency to wrinkle, a quick go with the iron on hot or steam is sometimes necessary with cotton garments. If absolutely necessary, or if you are unsure of what course you should take when washing a specific garment, it can be dry cleaned.
Linen is a fiber made from the flax plant. Though labor intensive, the resulting fabric is extremely light and breathable which makes it ideal for hot weather.
Washing can be done at all temperatures, but separate colors beforehand as dyes may bleed into other garments. Because linen is extremely sensitive to wrinkles, it should be tumble dried on low or hung out to dry. If you choose to tumble dry your linen garment, take care to take it out of the drier as soon as it is dry. Leaving it in the dryer for a long period of time after it has finished drying can result in permanent creases. Linen fabrics look their best when they are hung in their downtime.
Wool, Mohair, Cashmere & Angora
Wool is a natural fiber (like hair) produced by sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas and more. Cashmere, angora, mohair, merino, etc. are different types of wool based on the animal it was derived from. It is a soft fiber with lots of air pockets, meaning it is highly insulating, which is why it is deemed the warmest of the bunch.
Wash your garment in machine wash cold, or hand wash in cold water and lay flat to dry away from direct sunlight. We do not advise throwing any of your wool garments in the dryer. The heat from the dryer can shrink the fibers and change the shape of the garment. Do not hang dry wool, doing so may reshape or stretch the garment.If the garment is in need of relief of its wrinkles, gently steam it and never iron.
Silk & Silk Blends (50% or more silk)
Silk is a natural fiber that is most commonly derived from the cocoon of the mulberry silk worm. It is best known for its luster, drapability and delicate hand-feel. It is a beautiful, high-end fabric often used in luxury garments and should be treated with very delicate care.
Silk should be dry cleaned only, but if you have a stubborn stain, we recommend you wash it by hand. To do this, let the silk soak in a large basin of cold water and use a delicate stain removing detergent directly on the stain. Allow to soak for 30 minutes maximum, then run room temperature water through it until the soap has run off. Never wring out or twist the silk. Instead, press off the excess water with a towel and lay it out to dry away from sunlight. Never iron silk, instead steam it to relax any wrinkles.
Acrylic fabric is made from a synthetic polymer fiber that is designed to feel like wool, but lacks the pesky itchy feeling of some natural wools. Acrylic is a more lightweight alternative and comparably soft to the touch.
Take caution: this fabric can easily become misshapen. Machine wash your acrylic garment in cold water and allow to air dry or dry clean. If necessary, iron on medium heat and never bleach.
Polyester is a synthetic material that acts similar to cotton but is even more durable, resists wrinkles, and will not shrink. It is also water resistant and quick to dry. Polyester can be used to imitate the finish of other natural fibers.Wash polyester the same way you would wash cotton. If slightly wrinkled, steam them out or press on low to medium heat.
Nylon is a synthetic fiber famously used in stockings. It is highly elastic and requires very little care. Machine wash nylon at a warm temperature and tumble dry on low to medium heat. It can wrinkle after drying so remove from the dryer quickly.
Another synthetic fiber, acetate is both wrinkle and shrink resistant. Fabrics made of this material will look great and drape well, but special attention to care is required. Instruction will usually indicate to dry-clean only, however, they can be carefully hand-washed in cold water, air dried, and pressed with a cool iron.
Viscose, also known as Rayon, is made from a semi-synthetic fiber and is a soft, highly versatile material. This fabric is comparable to silk because of its high luster and drapability, but without the high price tag. Viscose loses its strength when wet so be extra careful when washing. You can machine wash viscose on cold delicate cycle in a mesh laundry bag or hand wash in cold water. Lay flat and allow to air dry or dry clean. Never bleach and iron at low heat.
Spandex is by far the most elastic of the fibers. It is commonly used in active-wear but is often blended with other fibers to provide stretch in garments. A garment will never be made of 100% spandex, rather they will be mixed (with fibers like cotton or polyester) and comprise only 2-12% of the material. Because of this, spandex can be machine washed and tumble dried safely, unless otherwise stated on the care instructions.
Ramie is a fiber made from the ramie plant (China grass). The fiber feels like linen but with more luster, and is as strong as cotton. Garments made of ramie should be cared for like linen. It can be machine washed but hang drying is recommended because it is prone to wrinkles.
What’s the difference between Knit & Woven?
When describing fabrics, the terms “knit” and “woven” refer to the actual construction of material. Woven material is made when yarn or groups of interlocked fibers are weaved horizontally and vertically in an over-under-over-under manner (see image below). Knit fabrics are made when small loops of the yarn or thread are interlocked in a “stitch.” Up close, multiple stitches resemble columns of V’s. Knitting can be used to make anything from chunky wool sweaters to the fine-knit jersey material in T-shirts. Because of its structure, knits are inherently more stretchy than woven materials. Unless they contain some amount of elastic, lycra or spandex, woven fabrics will not stretch. Wovens also tend to wrinkle and crease more easily than knits. Linen, denim, tweed, and silk are all examples of woven materials.