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How to Properly Care for These 10 Different Types of Fabrics

by Ann Ferguson

Have you ever lost a beloved sweater to the washer? Mourned the loss of a new T-shirt you didn't even have the chance to break in? Don't beat yourself up — we've all been there.

But once you know more about proper fabric care, you don't have to worry about ruining any more of your outfits! We'll show you how to properly wash these ten different types of fabrics, from natural fibers to synthetic materials.

1. Acrylic

Acrylic fabric is a synthetic fabric that is soft and warm, with a wool-like feel, and is often used for hats, socks, sweaters, and gloves. To care for this fabric properly, you'll need to do the following:

  • Machine-wash on the gentle cycle with warm to cool water. Be sure to place items in a lingerie or mesh bag first.
  • Use fabric softener in the final rinse for softer results.
  • Dry using low heat.

For more delicate garments, make sure to hand wash in warm to cool water.

2. Cotton

Folded cotton clothes with cotton plant on top

Cotton is a natural fabric made from cotton plant fibers and is best known for its softness. It is a commonly used fabric from dresses to shirts to baby clothes, so you might think you already know how to wash them, but even cotton fabrics need proper care.

  • Use cold water to hand or machine wash (hand-washing prevents shrinkage).
  • Line drying your clothes is ideal, especially after the very first wash or use medium heat in the dryer.
  • If machine dried, promptly remove your clothes after the cycle finishes.

If your clothes state that they have been pre-shrunk, you don't have to worry about additional shrinkage.

3. Fleece

If you've ever worn a really warm coat or sweatpants, chances are they have a fleece lining. Fleece is an excellent insulator used for baby blankets, jackets, coats, sweatpants, socks, and any other number of winterwear garments. Even though fleece is synthetic, it can still be damaged if not washed carefully.

  • Hand-wash or machine-wash fleece with cold water in a load with similar colors.
  • Use the gentle cycle with mild detergent.
  • To dry, use the air fluff setting as hot temperatures can cause the fabric to pill. Or air dry if you can.

4. Linen

Hanging linens to dry on clothesline

You might think that linen is a fabric only used in curtains and drapes, but it's also used in tablecloths, handkerchiefs, and apparel, too. Linen fabric is woven from the flax plant and is prone to wrinkling, so you'll need to wash your linens carefully.

  • Hand- or machine-wash with cold water and mild detergent. You can use chlorine-free bleach if needed.
  • Use the gentle cycle if machine washing.
  • If hand-washing, avoid wringing, scrubbing, or twisting the cloth.
  • Air dry as much as possible or machine-dry on medium heat.

5. Nylon

Commonly used for windbreakers and activewear, nylon is a synthetic fabric woven with other fibers to improve its durability and versatility. Other applications include swimwear and bedspreads because of their elastic properties. But in either case, to make your nylon garments last, be sure to:

  • Machine wash using cold water but don't mix the load with other fabrics.
  • Use non-chlorine bleach to remove stains, if any.
  • Place garments in the dryer and put on low heat.

6. Polyester

Garment tag that says 100% polyester

You can't find a more versatile fabric than polyester. Polyester is often used in pillows, carpets, curtains, sheets, bedspreads, and all kinds of apparel, so knowing how to care for it is essential.

  • Machine-wash with warm water on the permanent press cycle.
  • For softer results, be sure to use fabric softener in the last rinse.
  • Air dry if possible, or use low heat in the dryer.

Don't forget to check the tags for the recommended wash instructions!

7. Silk

One of the most luxurious fabrics, silk is notoriously tricky to care for. Silk is made from the protein fibers of silkworms and is dyed in rich colors that you can't help but love. But can you wash it yourself? Very, very carefully.

  • Hand wash in cold water or wash on the delicate cycle inside a mesh bag to prevent damage.
  • Make sure your load only has garments made from silk to prevent snags.
  • Always air dry or lay flat to dry, but make sure not to dry it in direct sunlight, or it'll cause the color to fade.

But if you're worried about damaging your silk, get them dry cleaned!

8. Spandex

People jogging in spandex

Spandex is a synthetic fabric typically used in stretchy clothing and other various clothing. From exercise clothes to underwear to skinny jeans, you can find spandex in just about anything, so double-check what your clothes are made of and wash them with care.

  • Hand wash using lukewarm water to retain flexibility but don't wring it or twist. Rinse thoroughly in cool water.
  • Or you can machine-wash in a mesh laundry bag using the gentle cycle.
  • Air dry or machine dry using the lowest temperature settings.

Pro Tip: Never use chlorine bleach, fabric softener, or dryer sheets as they can destroy the elastane fibers and ruin the elastic properties.

9. Rayon

Rayon is made from wood pulp treated with chemicals to provide a cool and comfortable feel. Caring for rayon fabrics requires a delicate touch, as they tend to shrink, bleed, and lose crispness if laundered. But if you want to try your hand at washing, be sure to use cold water with mild detergent and then air dryer or iron while slightly damp.

If in doubt, you can always take out your clothes to be dry cleaned!

10. Wool

Woman wearing wool-knit cap and scarf

Often used in winterwear, wool is a natural fiber woven from the undercoats of hairy mammals, like sheep. Wool is very durable, but they still require expert care. So be sure to wash your clothes with cold water and mild detergent if they are machine-washable. Once they're done washing, leave them out to air dry.

But if the tag on your clothes says to dry clean, by all means, take them for cleaning.

Upgrade Your Laundry Machines

Knowing how to care for your fabrics is half the battle, but the other half is making sure your laundry appliances are in tip-top condition. If your washer keeps shaking or your dryer doesn't tumble well enough, it can harm your clothes — which means it’s time for an upgrade!

But don't worry; At Downeast Home Appliance Center, we have the laundry appliances that'll suit your needs. And if you have any questions, contact our team — we're always happy to help!