Fabulous tips for washing natural 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 natural fabrics.

Fabulous tips for washing natural fabrics

1. Cashmere

  • A fine wool made from the undercoat of the cashmere goat, cashmere is as soft as it is expensive.
  • Most cashmere can be dry cleaned, and some can be gently washed. Most woven cashmere requires dry cleaning to retain its shape. But knitted cashmere, such as sweaters, can — and should — be hand washed.
  • Careful washing helps them retain their lustre and loft.
  • Use a natural, undyed soap and cool water. Move the sweater around in the cool water for a few minutes.
  • Rinse repeatedly — until the rinse water is clear.
  • Lay out the sweater to dry, pressing it with a dry towel to remove excess water.
  • If you need to touch it up with an iron, do so carefully, using a pressing cloth.

2. Cotton

  • By far, cotton is the most widely used fibre found in today's wardrobes.
  • Since not even boiling hurts the fibres, cotton can be machine washed in high temperatures using any good detergent.
  • You can use chlorine bleach safely on cotton whites (but never soak for more than 15 minutes, since the bleach will break down the fibres) and all-fabric bleach on dyed cottons.
  • Cotton is an absorbent fibre and requires lots of drying time.
  • Because it wrinkles easily, it often requires pressing. Use a hot steam iron.

3. Linen

  • Linen is made from flax, one of the oldest textile fibres. (It dates back to at least 5000 BC!)
  • Today, you can wash some varieties of linen, but others should be dry cleaned. Sometimes it's up to you.
  • Linen has natural pectin that keeps it stiff and crisp. Washing removes the pectin, making it softer.
  • If you prefer crisp linen, then have your linen dry cleaned.
  • Otherwise, machine wash it in warm water and tumble dry.
  • It tends to wrinkle and often requires pressing. Use a steam iron on medium or high heat.

4. Silk

  • Made from protein fibre produced by the silkworm, this ancient material connotes fabulous wealth and exotic locales.
  • It is expensive and must be treated accordingly.
  • Most silk is dry clean only, since laundry detergents can harm silk.
  • If the care label says that hand washing is okay, use a mild soap and lukewarm water.
  • Never use bleach with silk.
  • When ironing, iron inside out on low heat.

5. Wool

  • A natural fibre that comes from sheep, wool has been around for thousands of years. It is known for its warmth and ability to shed wrinkles.
  • There are many types of wool and different ways to care for it.
  • Generally speaking, you should dry clean wool at least once a season or when needed.
  • You can also hand wash wool.
  • Since wool loses its shape when wet, when washing a wool sweater, first lay the sweater out on a piece of clean paper and trace the shape. You'll use this for laying the sweater out while drying.
  • Use warm water and a mild detergent that contains no bleach.
  • Don't soak.
  • Rinse well.
  • To dry, roll the sweater in a clean towel and squeeze out excess water.
  • Put a piece of plastic over the pattern you made, to prevent dyes from the paper from bleeding onto the sweater.
  • Pat the sweater out to fit the shape.
  • Smooth out wrinkles.
  • If the item needs pressing, use light steam and a press cloth.
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