A Guide to Fabric: the Laundry Room
Now that you are all extremely knowledgeable about both synthetic and natural fabrics, you may be wondering, “so now that I know which fabrics to look out for, how do I care for them when I bring that dress home?”. Fear not, for in this final installation on fabrics, I will tell you just how to care for all those types of fabric at home.
We've talked previously about reading the fabric label to see which fibers went into the creation of your garment. Now I want you to flip the label over, and voila! It tells you what you must (or must not) do when washing and drying your garment.
If the garment contains acrylic, it can generally be washed in your washing machine. Your fabric care label will most likely tell you if it is to be hand washed. When in doubt, I like to avoid washing machine disasters and wash the clothing articles by hand (the more daring ones can pop them in the machine on a hand wash cycle). For those acrylics, use the warm water setting and add a fabric softener during the final rinse cycle. When hand washing, wash in warm water. Static electricity can even be reduced by using fabric softener every third or fourth wash. Gently squeeze out the water, smooth or shake out the garment, and let it dry on a non-rust hanger. Sweaters and anything with a circular knit should be dried flat. To iron, use a moderate heat setting.
Cotton is a bit more straight-forward to care for. Any good detergent can be used in the wash. You can even bleach your white cotton if desired. I would recommend colour safe bleach on dyed cottons, if you're planning on bleaching anything other than that white t-shirt. A higher heat setting is needed in the dryer to dry cotton, and must be ironed with a hotter iron (although you probably knew that from studying your iron's heat settings!)
Some linen is washable, others are dry-clean only - so be sure to read the care label. White linens should be dried in the sun to help them keep their whiteness. Linens may need frequent pressing, unless the fibers are combined with another type of fiber - polyester, for example.
Nylon and polyester can both be machine washed and tumble dried at low temperatures. And to minimise static, you can use a dryer sheet in the machine. Ironing can be done with a warm iron. Definitely two of the easier fabrics to care for!
Silk is a bit more tricky, due to its delicate nature. Dry cleaning is definitely recommended, mostly because laundering detergent and the dyes in other clothes can be harmful to the silk. For garments without linings and embellishments attached, careful hand washing with mild soap (or a special delicates detergent) and lukewarm water is permissible. Chlorine bleach should stay away from silk, as should the dryer.
Wool garments can be refreshed quickly after wearing or unpacking by hanging them in an area where moisture is high - like a steamy bathroom. The moisture from the steam will remove wrinkles in the wool fibers. If you do spill something on your wool garment, try to remove the stain quickly. You should always steam when pressing wool, using the wool setting on your iron, and avoiding pressing the wool completely dry. When possible, press on the reverse side of the fabric, or if not possible, use a press cloth to avoid shine on the right side of the garment. Lower and lift the iron instead of sliding it back and forth. You can also prevent the imprinting of inside detail by placing a piece of brown paper or tissue paper under folds, seams, or darts in the garment.
There you have it, a comprehensive guide to caring for the most common fabrics in your wardrobe. Although following these instructions will keep your precious garments safe, read your piece's sewn-in care label for extra peace of mind.
- Lena Aseeva