Fabulous tips for washing natural fabrics

July 28, 2015

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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