How to Wash a Variety of Fabrics

When it comes to doing laundry, not all fabrics are created equal. Unless you wear or use a lot of specialty fabrics, it’s likely most of your things can be washed in the washing machine or hand washed at home. Keep reading to learn how to wash silk, wool, polyester, cotton, and a variety of different fabrics1. As always, reading the label is an important way to keep your clothes looking their best2!.

How to Wash Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber and probably the base fabric for most of your clothing, towels, and sheets—and one of the easiest to care for. The only tricky thing about cotton is that it can shrink in certain settings, so you always want to wash it in cold water unless it’s preshrunk. If it is preshrunk, wash darker colors in cold water and lighter colors in warm or hot water.

How to Wash Silk

Many silk weave patterns result in tightened or puckered fabric and their colors can bleed when washed, so most silk is dry clean only. However, if you’re going to hand wash it, be sure to use cool or lukewarm water with up to three tablespoons of white vinegar for every two quarts of water. Also add a few drops of a high-quality mild detergent. Once you’ve washed it, roll it up in a towel and press the water out. Do not wring it or you risk ruining the fabric and wrinkling it.

How to Wash Polyester

If you love polyester, you’ll also love how easy it is to wash polyester garments. Even though it is durable, it does tend to hold on to stain, so be sure you pretreat polyester clothing stains with a stain remover and let it sit for up to 20 minutes before tossing it in the wash. Use warm water and add fabric softener to battle the static cling polyester is known for. Dry on a low temperature setting.

How to Wash Wool

Definitely check for a dry cleaning label on wool garments. If you don’t find one, you can wash in your machine. See if yours has a wool-specific setting. If not, use the Delicates setting. Do not put wool in the dryer, though.

How to Wash Rayon

Rayon is extra sensitive to heat and laundering, as it’s not as durable as other fabrics. Dry clean rayon garments or hand wash in cold water and hang them to air dry.

  1. SOURCE: How to Care for Different Types of Fabrics (May 2016). DIY Network. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2017 from:
  2. SOURCE: Laundry Guide to Common Care Symbols (2010). Textile Affairs. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2017 from: