Make your clothes last longer by washing them the right way. Garment labels attached to each piece of clothing tell you exactly what type (or types) of material is involved, so remember to always check them before chucking into the washer. Here are 10 common fabric types you might find in your wardrobe and some handy tips on cleaning them:
Soak cottons, if necessary, then wash in hot water with standard detergent, or cold water with cold water detergent. You can wash more delicate cotton fabrics by hand, if you wish. For cotton jersey, wash as for wool (See #4) and roll in a towel to remove some of the moisture. Dry flat.
Wash frequently by either hand- or machine-washing. If machine washing, use a gentle cycle, but don’t spin dry.
Acrylic, acetate and triacetate: Warm water and standard detergent powder; roll in a towerl and dry flat, away from heat.
Nylon: Wash in hot water with standard detergent; never use bleach; rinse well and drip dry.
Generally, it is best to have silk dry-cleaned. If the label says “colourfast” and “washable”, hand-wash as for wool (point 4), but the last rinse should be cold. If you are unsure if it’s colourfast, or if the silk is multi-coloured, wash in cold water, adding 1 tbsp of white vinegar to 4 litres of water.
A little white vinegar in the final rinse will help restore sheen to silk, but soak in cold water for at least 10 minutes before the next wash to remove the vinegar. Drip-dry silk in the shade and iron the garment while still wet with a moderately hot iron.
Always wash wool in a recommended product and unless the item is labelled “dry-clean only” or “machine washable”, wash by hand only. Dissolve the detergent thoroughly in lukewarm water (heat is the enemy of wool and can lead to shrinking) and work the suds through the garment.
Do not rub or twist, which can also cause shrinking. Rinse well in lukewarm water – it’s important to always wash and rinse wool in the same temperature water. Roll in a towel to absorb excess moisture and ease the garment into shape for drying. Lie the garment flat on a towel to dry, out of sunlight and heat, and turn occasionally to dry evenly.
It’s safer to wash linen garments by hand or machine rather than dry cleaning as the latter might cause permanent creasing. As linen softens and get more absorbent with each wash, load your washing machine to half capacity so that your clothes don’t get twisted and pulled out of shape.
Always use the gentle cycle for your washing machine and lukewarm or cold water works best. Put them in the dryer and remove while still a tad damp, as they can become very stiff if over-dried.
While denim is made of 100% cotton (see #1), there are ways to take extra care of this material to prevent fadin and softening. To minimize losing the original colour of your jeans/jacket/skirt, turn them inside out before putting in the washer. Remember to fasten all zips and buttons too!
It’s also not a crime to wash your jeans after a few wears, as overwashing jeans can cause them to fade and look aged faster.
Related: Why You Should Try Not To Wash Your Jeans
Related: 5 Ways To Stop Colour Run From Your Jeans
This denim look-a-like is also usually made of cotton, but unlike denim, it softens even more easily with each wash. So try to wash only after a few wears, unless it’s dirty or you’ve sweat in it a lot.
Cashmere sweaters and jumpers need to be carefully handwashed. Don’t wring out – spin drying is best, but ensure you put a towel or other soft clothing item into the dryer to act as a buffer. You could also try rolling the wet garment in a large towel and pressing out the water. Cashmere will stretch with water weight, so lift with both hands and dry inside out. Never put cashmere in a dryer.
Always wash satin pieces in cold water and a gentle detergent by hand or using the delicate cycle of your washing machine to keep it looking glossy. Let it soak for a few minutes, then gently squeeze without twisting the material. Don’t use a dryer; instead, lay it on a towel to air-dry in the shade.
With flannels, always wash in warm water to maintain their colours and prevent pilling. Never use hot water! Adding a fabric softener to maintain the textile’s softness so you can keep wearing them in comfort.
Text: Australian Women’s Weekly / Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew