Fabric Care 101

It happens to the best of us. In a rush, you forget to read the label on your clothes and accidentally mix a red shirt with your favorite white one, turning it pink. Proper fabric care is not only crucial to your clothes’ longevity, but to your sanity (and let’s face it, your wallet).

Proper fabric care starts with reading the care label generally found inside of apparel along with the neck opening or sewn into a seam. Care labels were specifically created for your garment, so heeding their advice can save you a lot of heartaches. Care labels generally detail how to wash, bleach, dry, iron, or dry clean your fabric.

Unless you’re sanitizing bedding that’s not made of natural flax or hemp, always wash your fabrics in cold water. Cold water protects color and fiber length over time. As an added bonus, using cold water to launder your clothes can lower your power bill 6-8% a year. You fabric care ninja you.

If your clothes have printed designs or if you want to keep them vibrant longer, simply turn clothes inside out before washing to better protect against designs fading and pilling.

For clothes without a care label, here are 7 key tips for taking care of your fabrics:


In general, natural fabrics – cotton, linen, wool, silk – require cold water, gentle detergent, and agitation, as well as low or no heat during the drying process. Natural fabrics are often cultivated from plants, seeds, animal hides, or even silkworms. They tend to be naturally breathable, but need some extra care.

Avoid bleach, which shortens natural fibers leaving them brittle and likely more yellow over time. If you need to get those whites extra bright, choose hydrogen peroxide-based bleach, a natural alternative or hang your fabric in the sun, which acts as a natural bleaching agent.


Derived from a plant, cotton is breathable and soft. While it’s machine washable and can handle low heat during the washing and drying cycles, cotton should be washed on cold for best results. Some manufacturer care labels suggest you can dry cotton on high heat, but your cottons will last much longer if you air dry. However, washing cotton bedding on high heat is generally fine. Iron cotton on medium, steam for stubborn wrinkles.


Denim is a type of sturdy, warp-faced fabric that can withstand a lot of abuse. But don’t let that fool you into thinking you can get away with washing and drying your jeans on high heat. Denim should be washed with cold or warm water, inside out. As durable as it is, even denim can fade. Not to mention, not all types of denim are the same. Some are thicker than others or blended with synthetic materials that give them some stretch. If washing denim that is mixed with synthetic fabrics, always follow care directions for the more delicate fabric with which the denim is mixed. Hang denim to dry and iron on high heat.


Not exactly a fabric, but a structure of the fabric, flannel is most often made of cotton or wool. Cotton flannel tends to be thicker than regular cotton, while wool flannel is even thicker. Whether made of cotton or wool, flannel can be washed in cold or warm water. However, if your flannel derives from wool, even if its washable wool, avoid the dryer completely since it can dry out its fibers. Non-washable wool flannel is just that – avoid laundering it at home and take it to the dry cleaners.



In contrast to natural fabrics, which tend to require low or no heat from wash to dry, synthetic fabrics are artificial and tend to dry much faster than natural fabrics when hung to dry. However, synthetic fabrics’ mixture requires a lower iron heat, cold or warm water, and low dryer heat, if used at all. Avoid using bleach, as well, on synthetic fabrics.


A wonder fabric, polyester is durable, stretchable, and doesn’t wrinkle easily. Wash polyester on the low tumble setting in cold or warm water, but always avoid drying it on high heat. A better approach would be to simply hang your polyester clothes to dry to avoid shrinkage and scorching. You’re welcome to use steam when ironing but keep the heat low or on medium.


Strong and stretchable, spandex should be washed only in cold water with no bleach. Instead of using the dryer, hang your spandex to dry in order to avoid scorching the fibers. As an added concern, especially forgo using fabric softener with spandex, which remains in the fibers preventing it from being cleaned thoroughly. Always iron spandex fabrics on low heat.


Like spandex and polyester, acrylic fabrics retain their shape; however, it’s a more delicate fabric, so be careful not to wring, iron, or dry on warm heat whenever possible. If you really need to iron acrylic, turn your item of clothing inside out and iron on low heat. When in doubt, hand wash acrylic fabrics and let them air dry.

Fabric care can be challenging, so make sure to read care labels closely and wash on cold, avoiding bleach when you’re uncertain how to approach. Consider these fabric care guidelines from Clothing Shop Online!

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