Your clothing is an investment. Knowing how to properly care for the different types of fabric in your wardrobe can help keep clothing looking its best and lengthen its life. Follow these tips to learn how to launder, dry, and iron common garment fabrics. Always read the garment's sewn-in care label before proceeding.
Acetate: While most items made of acetate are dry-clean only, some may be hand-washed in lukewarm water. Do not twist the fabric. Iron while the fabric is damp. Press the inside of the garment using a low-temperature setting. Use a pressing cloth when ironing the outside.
Acrylic knit: Most acrylic knit garments can be machine-washed. Read the label, and check for the proper drying option. Some knits retain their shapes best if reshaped and dried flat.
Cashmere: Check the care label before laundering cashmere. To hand-wash, use a mild detergent or shampoo. Gently squeeze the water through the garment, then rinse until the water runs clear. Do not wring or twist. Squeeze out excess water. To dry, lay flat on a towel, away from sunlight or heat.
Cotton: Cotton holds up well to home laundering. Remove the garment from the dryer promptly to reduce wrinkling. Press using spray starch for the crispness of a laundered shirt.
Cotton blend: Dry cotton-blend garments using your dryer's permanent-press or low-heat cycle, and remove immediately to reduce wrinkling. Touch up with a steam iron; starch for a professionally laundered look.
Linen: Most linen garments need to be dry-cleaned or hand-washed. Follow the instructions on the care label. To touch up or press, use a steam iron on a linen setting for a crisp look.
Nylon: Machine-wash nylon garments in warm water. Use a low-temperature setting when tumble-drying, and include a dryer sheet to reduce static electricity. Use a warm iron to press, if necessary.
Polyester: Read the label. Usually polyester items can be machine-washed (cool) and dried (low). Check the label to see if air-drying is recommended. Touch up with a cool -- never hot -- iron, if necessary.
Rayon: Make sure to read the care label for rayon clothing. Launder in cool water and a mild detergent. When machine-washing, use the gentle cycle and promptly remove garments after washing. When hand-washing, do not wring or twist the garment. To dry, roll the item in a towel to squeeze out excess water. Lay flat to dry. Iron when still damp and with the garment inside out to prevent the fabric from becoming shiny. Use a pressing cloth when ironing the right side of the garment. Pressing cloths can be purchased, or use something as simple as a piece of white cotton fabric.
Silk: Dry cleaning may be required. Some silks are hand- or machine-washable. Do not dry silk in a clothes dryer. Garments usually look best when professionally dry-cleaned.
Spandex: Use warm water when hand- or machine-washing items made with spandex. Line-dry or use a low temperature setting when machine-drying to preserve the elasticity of the garment.
Wool knit: Typically wool knits need to be dry-cleaned, but check the label. If hand-washable, use cool water and a detergent for fine washables. Squeeze out excess water, then reshape and dry flat.
Wool (lined): Lined garments generally look best when professionally dry-cleaned once a season. Between dry cleanings, remove surface soil with a brush or damp cloth. Refresh the item by hanging it from a padded hanger in a steamy bathroom; moisture will help garment shed wrinkles. When touching up with an iron, use steam in an up-and-down motion (rather than sliding the iron along the fabric).
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