Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fabric Cleaning Guide

As I posted yesterday in my "how to determine a fabric" guide, I am following up today with how to properly clean different fabrics.  But before stepping into that I want to add to yesterday's post by stating that it can sometimes be difficult to determine a fabric if it is a blend.  There are LOTS of blends on the market and something that looks like one thing can be a completely different kind.  And even attempting to figure it out via the Burn Test (see previous post) can leave us with very ambiguous results.  Now that you are confused by all that uncertainty I will simply say to go with your best guess.  After all, aren't most of us going to just wash the item anyway?  It IS nice to figure out whether to wash warm or cold and if we should use the dryer or line dry, but it has been my experience that if something requires a lot of fuss I will usually just take a chance and machine wash/line dry.  Of course there are exceptions;  Wool being the main one.  But more on that in a minute.  

Here are the cleaning suggestions for common fabrics:

Acetate-  Dry Clean Only.  *I have experience with this.  If you want it to shrink a lot and have a real weird appearance, feel free to wash and dry.  Otherwise DC Only!

Acrylic-  Machine wash warm or cold, and either use fabric softener or a dryer sheet in the dryer.  Dry on low.  And that thing about using softener or a dryer sheet---  yeah, do that, or you will have nothing but a ball of static when it comes out of the dryer.  I know this from experience too.  Another thing, remove from the dryer as SOON as it is done as it will wrinkle wrinkle wrinkle.  And it isn't fun to iron.  But if you have to, us a 'cool' iron as it doesn't like too much heat.  Or use a press cloth.  

Cotton-  What a fabric huh?  What would we do without the most commonly worn fabric on the planet?  One of the best things about it is that it is so easy to take care of.  Machine wash/ dry.  I do occasionally hand wash something that is embellished or somehow fancied up, but for the most part, cotton is best cleaned using our laundry equipment. 

Linen-  I break every linen rule that was ever made.  And with great results per my preference.  BUT if you want linen to keep its crisp appearance, dry clean only.  For the rest of us, machine wash either cold or warm (I wash on warm) and line dry.  Then I iron which sometimes requires misting the fabric with water to get the wrinkles to relax.  Once I put on a linen garment I WELCOME the created-from-wearing wrinkles as I love that about linen.  It is casual and relaxed but still classic.  It is comfortable and one of my favorite fabrics.  FYI, if you purchase a linen item from my website, I will have prewashed the fabric prior to creating the garment.  No worries about shrinkage.  Another nice thing about linen is the more you wash it, the drapier and softer it becomes.  Again, want it crisp?  DC Only.

Polyester-  Polys tend to be cast iron when it comes to cleaning.  All polyesters can be DC'd but why would you since they are easy to launder in most cases.  Typically if a poly SHOULD be DC'd it will tell you on the label.  If there isn't one you can be fairly certain it will be fine to launder it but you will want to use fabric softener or a dryer sheet as it tends towards static.  This is especially true of
Poly Fleece-  Soft.  Warm.  Easy to work with.  Makes divine warm weather wear and blankets.  But YIKES!  If you wash and dry without softener or dryer sheet you will generate enough electricity to impress Ben Franklin!   We are talking serious zappage!  *enter lightning and thunder crack >HERE

Rayon-  This is a really great fabric as it drapes beautifully and wears really well.  BUT.  My experience with rayon in regard to cleaning has been challenging.  DC-ing is usually recommended but I don't like doing that to anything but wool.  What I have found with rayon is that it will USUALLY do fine being washed in cold, and drying by either laying it flat OR on a hanger.  I have done both.  I have also had a real bad rayon failure by choosing to wash it.  I had a dress shrink very badly one time.  I bet it reduced by almost 1/3 of the original size.  And that was by hand washing in cold.  I could feel the fabric of the dress 'densify' as I moved it around in the water.  The dress was ruined.  Don't be scared.  That happened a long time ago and I have never had that experience with rayon again, but I still recommend (if you don't want to DC) hand washing and line drying.  But read your labels and use common sense.

Silk-  I break all the rules about silk too.  I always prewash my silk yardage when I get it.  Once silk is washed it shrinks all it's going to shrink.  This allows for my buyers to wash the garments they buy from me and not fuss with DC-ing.  BUT most garments off the rack will not have been prewashed.  If they have been, the labeling with reflect that;  "Washable Silk" or some such verbiage.  I typically hand wash any silk items I have purchased and have had great results.  Read the labels and use common sense.

Triacetates-  I have read that these can be laundered but I have never had success doing that.  Although it HAS been a lot of years, so they might be better now than they used to be....  My suggestion is to do EXACTLY what your label tells you to do.  If you don't have a label and are wondering which way to go I need to be straight with you and tell you...  I have NO idea.  I don't buy them as either fabric or garments and my 25-year-ago attempt to launder was disastrous.  Sorry.  I am guessing not too many of you are buying triacetate garments anyway, but they do use it for coat and jacket linings so you could run into it there.

Wool-  Dry Clean Only.  Period.  Unless your label says you CAN wash it.  Often times, wool blends CAN be laundered as the percentage of wool is so slight it won't make a difference.  But for anything where the majority of the fabric content is wool then be wise and DC.  One nice thing about wool is that it releases odors easily.  If you have worn your wool item somewhere that it has picked up odors, then hang it in an open area for a few days to let it air out.  Also, if you have spilled something on it you may be able to spot clean it without paying to DC the whole thing.  Check with your cleaner to see if he can remove the spot.  Or be brave and try it at home.  I have done this with a damp cloth and have had success.  Again, common sense rules. 

Hope this helps to clarify as to how to clean some of those items in your closet.  I like to keep things simple so if a fabric is too fussy I will USUALLY try to wash the thing and if it survives, great, it will live to see another wearing.  If not, oh well.  Simplicity is the rule at my house.  I would rather save the DC-ing for my wools and keep the chemicals out of my house.  
ON THAT NOTE:  when you do DC it is always wise to remove the bag and let the item air out several days before wearing, if possible.  

Cheers!  :)

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