6 timely tips for cleaning synthetic fabrics

Not all fabrics are alike, and not all fabrics can be cleaned the same way. Although you should always check the care label in a particular garment, here are tips for cleaning some of the most common synthetic materials.

6 timely tips for cleaning synthetic fabrics

1. Acetate

  • Used often in linings because it does not pill or suffer from static cling, acetate is also made into dresses, suits and sportswear.
  • Most acetates are dry clean only, but some are washable.
  • For the washable variety, you typically hand wash in warm water with mild suds. (Don't soak coloured items.)
  • Do not wring the item dry. Instead, lay it flat to dry.

2. Acrylic

  • Known for its ability to draw moisture away from the body, acrylic is a popular material for socks, as well as other clothing items.
  • Garments made from acrylic can be washed or dry cleaned.
  • Generally, you should machine wash, using a warm-water setting.
  • Add a fabric softener during the final rinse. Acrylics are heat-sensitive, so tumble dry at a low temperature.
  • To avoid wrinkling, remove from the dryer as soon as dry.
  • When hand washing is required, as with delicate items, use warm water and a mild detergent.
  • Rinse and gently squeeze out the water, smooth out the garment and dry on a rustproof hanger.
  • Lay sweaters and knits flat to dry with a clean towel underneath.

3. Nylon

  • The second-most common synthetic after polyester, and the strongest fibre available, nylon is relatively easy to care for. It can be machine washed in warm water.
  • To reduce static cling, add a dryer sheet to the dryer and remove clothes from the dryer as soon as they have finished drying.
  • If you need to iron nylon, use a warm iron.

4. Polyester

  • Strong, durable, shrink- and wrinkle-resistant, polyester is a miracle fibre, the most common of the synthetic fibres.
  • It does tend to take on oily stains easily, however.
  • In general, polyester is easy to clean, which helps account for its popularity.
  • Most polyester items can be washed or dry cleaned. Wash in warm water and tumble dry at a low temperature setting.
  • To prevent pilling and snagging, turn knits inside out.
  • To reduce static cling, use a dryer sheet and remove garments as soon as they have dried.
  • When ironing, use a moderately warm iron.

5. Rayon

  • Developed in 1910, rayon was the first synthetic fibre.
  • Originally, most rayon was dry clean only, but there are now washable rayons on the market.
  • Check the care label for any rayon garment you're unsure of. Dry clean-only rayon that gets wet (even in the rain) can bleed dyes, shrink and grow stiff.
  • Washable rayon is typically hand wash only. (Since it loses up to 50 per cent of its strength when wet, rayon can be destroyed easily by the agitating action of most washing machines.)
  • Wash in lukewarm or cool suds, squeezing the suds through the fabric and rinse.
  • Never wring or twist rayon. Shake out or smooth the garment and hang it on a rustproof hanger to dry.
  • Lay sweaters flat to dry.
  • While the garment is still damp, iron inside out on low heat. For finishing on the right side, use a pressing cloth.

6. Spandex

  • Developed in the late 1950s, spandex is lightweight, durable and known for being flexible. That's why it turns up in swimsuits, pantyhose and tights.
  • You can machine or hand wash spandex.
  • Don't use chlorine bleach, however.
  • Either let it drip-dry or put it in a dryer on a low setting.
  • When ironing spandex, use a low temperature setting and iron in swift strokes, never letting the iron linger in one spot.
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