The following is a general guide with basic information on how to launder a selection of fabrics. You should always look first at the care instructions and warnings on the fabric label of the garment that needs cleaning. A label that says “dry-clean only” means just that; a label that says “dry-cleaning” means that there is an unspecified alternative cleaning method. Of the fabrics listed, most are synthetic. Cotton, linen, silk, and wool are natural fibers.
Acetate. This material, which is used in inexpensive satin and the lining clothing and draperies, usually requires dry-cleaning. If the garment’s label specifically permits washing launder it in cold water with mild suds. Don’t wring or twist the garment. And don’t soak colored items. Once the garment is clean, do not dry it in dryer. Instead, air-dry it by carefully spreading the garment out on terry-cloth bath towels on a horizontal surface or by draping it over a clothesline, avoiding direct sunlight while its still damp, press the garment inside out with a cool iron. If pressing right side out, use a pressing cloth.
Acrylic. Acrylic fabrics resemble wool and are often blended with wool. Modacrylic is an acrylic faber that is flame retardant, lightweight, bulky, and warm. It is commonly use in fake fur, curtains, and wigs and for stuffing toys. Most acrylic garment are hand- or machine- washable, and they can also be dry-cleaned. Delicate items should be washed by hand in warm water. For machine-washable items, use warm water and your machine’s gentle settings. Acrylic may pill, so turn your garments inside out before washing. Use fabric softener every third or fourth washing to reduce static electricity. After laundering, gently squeeze any water from the garment. Then smooth or shake it out. Acrylic sweaters should then be pulled into shape and left to dry flat on a horizontal surface. Dry other acrylic garments on non rust hangers. If the care label permits machine drying, use a low temperature setting and remove the garment from the machine as soon as it is dry. Acrylic tends not to wrinkle, but if ironing is needed, set the iron to medium.
Cott0n. A product of the cotton plant, cotton is absorbent and comfortable, and helps keep you cool when its hot outside. The wide range of cotton fabrics includes canvas, chintz, corduroy, denim, gabardine, jersey, lace, muslin, organdy, percale,popline, seersucker, ticking, and voile. Cotton wrinkles easily and can shrink, but it irons well and is not vulnerable to ton moths. Cotton-polyester fabric combines qualities of both cotton and polyester in different proportions according to purpose and manufacturer. It’s more wrinkle-resistant than cotton and breaths better then polyester, so its more comfortable. But it can pill and is more likely to stain then cotton or polyester alone. Cotton fabrics are usually washable and can be dry-cleaned, but read care instruction on labels carefully. Unless a garment or other items made from cotton is “pre-shrunk” it may emerge from the wash several sizes smaller if you used anything but cold water. Chlorine bleach is safe for white cotton, but use color-safe bleach on dyed cottons.
To maintain shape, it’s best to air-dry cotton on line, but if you must use clothes dryer, set the machine for air drying or very low heat. Use a permanent-press setting for cotton-polyester garments, turning them inside out to reduce pilling. Since 100 percent cotton is not easily scorches, you can press it with an iron set to high. Sometimes 100 percent cotton fabrics is treated with a wrinkle-resistant finish.
Linen. Made from stems of the the flax plant, linen is similar in many ways to cotton. But it is not as strong or resilient and doesn’t hold dyes as well. Still, it is pretty durable, and its appearance and “feel” improve with laundering. Linen-polyester is blend often used in tablecloths, napkins, and place mats, which are often treated with permanent-press and soil-release finishes. Some linens-most commonly drapery, upholstery, and decorative fabrics-may be dry-cleaned only. Lines that have been chemically treated for wrinkle resistance may withstand warm-water washing. Follow the instructions on the care label. Before washing colored linen, be sure to test for colorfastness. If possible, dry white linens in the sun to help them stay white. Iron linens while damp, although wrinkle-resistant linens may not need frequent ironing.
Lyocell. Lyocell is the generic fiber name for a form of rayon that is often marketed as the brand Tencel. In 1996, it become the first new generic fiber group in 30 years to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission. Lyocell is strong and easy to care for, and is used in woven and knitted fabrics (often blended with cotton), including jersey, sweaters, hosiery, denim, sueded fabrics, chinos, sheets, and towels. A few lyocell should not dry cleaned .
Nylon. This strong, lightweight fabrics my yellow if dried in direct sunlight. It may fade, look gray, or attract dyes when washed with other garments. Hand washed nylon stockings and other garments or machines wash warm on a gentle setting with similarly colored items and fibers. Add a fabrics softener to the final rinse cycle if you plan to air-dry. If you machine dry, use a dryer sheets to reduce static electricity and remove garment as soon as they dried.