You have likely owned almost every fabric on this list without even realizing it! Many of the fibers used to make our clothing and household items consist of various materials, which can result in some serious confusion come laundry day. From our curtains, rugs, sheets, couches, shirts, and blankets, our homes are filled with different fabrics that all require different care. Rule of thumb: always read the label. But, if you’re tired of squinting your eyes trying to decipher the worn-out labels, skip the hassle and save this article for your future reference. Here is our list of tips on how to care for every kind of fabric:
1. Acrylic: Acrylic Fiber is made from acrylic acid—sort of the same stuff your acrylic nails are crafted from. This fabric has been around since the ’40s, and you can typically find it in sweaters. It’s usually mixed with other fabrics, and it’s relatively weak. Wash this fabric on a delicate cycle in warm or cold water, or by hand. Air dry and iron on a low setting on the wrong side to avoid pilling.
2. Cashmere: Since cashmere takes an incredible amount of labor and resources to craft, it’s expensive. So, we understand why you might be afraid to tackle washing it at home in fear of ruining it. But, keep reading to learn how to wash your cashmere safely, so you don’t have to send it to the dry cleaners anymore! What you want to do is put cashmere garments in a mesh bag and wash on a delicate or wool cycle. You can also hand-wash it by soaking it in cold water and baby shampoo. After 30 minutes, rinse it, but don’t wring it—let it dry flat.
3. Bamboo: Yes, bamboo. Some manufacturers are making clothing and sheets out of bamboo fiber now! It’s actually known for its SOFTER than silk feel but inexpensive, ethical, and sustainable methods of producing (unlike silk). To wash, make sure it’s in cold water on a gentle cycle by itself. Use a mild, liquid, biodegradable detergent. Line dry to preserve the fibers.
4. Cotton: Durable, cheap, and easy to manufacture. That’s why it’s “the fabric of our lives.” Cotton will shrink in hot conditions unless it has been preshrunk or processed. So, if your label says “Cold Water Only,” it means it will shrink if placed in hot water. If this is the case, wash in cold water and air dry if possible. However, if your cotton has been processed or preshrunk, it can handle hot water, but check the label to match the right color with the right temperature. Tumble dry on warm, but remember that over-drying can make all cotton shrink!
5. Denim: Made from a cotton blend and strengthened by its twill weave, this fabric is incredibly durable and desirable. Wash your denim in cold water and tumble dry on low heat. Follow the same set of rules as regular cotton. Remember, you don’t need to wash denim every time you wear it.
6. Leather: Needs to be washed every now and again. To space out the need to clean it, use a leather dressing to keep it soft and fresh. You can wash leather with warm water and mild soap and air dry.
7. Linen: This ancient fiber comes from the flax plant. If the label says machine washable, match the temperature of the water to the color of the garment. Linen absorbs more water than any other fibers, so don’t overload the washing machine. Air dry and iron it from the inside out, using steam on a hot setting.
8. Polyester: This synthetic fabric is crafted from recycled soda bottles, which makes it cost-effective and most commonly used. It can be machine-washed in warm water. Tumble dry on low heat. If ironing is required, use low heat because it can melt.
9. Rayon/Viscose: This synthetic fiber is derived from wood-pulp—the same thing paper is made from. You are probably going to have to get this dry-cleaned, but if not, hand-wash in cold water and air dry. It’s incredibly hard to remove wrinkles from this fiber, so smooth it out before drying.
10. Silk: As one of the most expensive, luxurious, and expensive fibers, it does require a dry cleaner most of the time. But this is not just because of the fabric itself—the weave pattern is what determines whether or not the silk garment can handle the washing machine. If the label says it’s able to be washed, hand-wash with baby shampoo without additive oils and waxes. This is a good option because it will clean the natural protein and revive the fiber. Or, you can wash it in the machine with cold water. Machine-dry with cool air or preferably, hang to dry. Press with a warm iron.
11. Spandex: Avoid hot water and machine drying. Air dry and hand-wash in cold water.
12. Wool: If the label says it can be washed and not just dry-cleaned, use a gentle detergent and hand-wash in cold water and air dry.
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