What are Some Rules of Thumb for Fabric Care?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 May 2020
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By caring for fabrics properly, you will increase their life span and keep them looking clean and beautiful. Fabric care is especially important with garments, which may shrink in ways which become unflattering if they are not well cared for. The most important rule of thumb for fabric care is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. These recommendations are made with the knowledge of how the fabric was produced, and what works best in factory testing. Manufacturers want their products to keep looking beautiful through a lifetime of use, so that you can be a walking advertisement for their product.

One of the most important issues in fabric care is dirt and stains. Dirt should be removed with a fabric brush, or a moist sponge or towel. You may also find a fabric steamer and presser useful for removing stains and wrinkles. Different stains require different treatments, and you should always spot test a treatment on a corner of a garment before using it on the stain, in case the treatment damages the fabric. It is also helpful to laundry stains while they are fresh, before they have a chance to set. Make sure to hang woven clothing, store knits flat, and hang up wrinkled garments immediately. Wrinkled garments can be hung in a moist bathroom to relax the wrinkles.

Many fabrics are made with synthetic materials, all of which require special care. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for fabric care on nylon, rayon, polyester, and other synthetic garments. Without proper care, these garments may bunch, pill, or fade. For natural fibers, however, there are a few general rules of thumb which can help you on laundry day, although there are exceptions. Always check the tag for more information.

Cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to care for. Most cotton garments can be washed at any temperature once they have been shrunk, and they can also be dried at any temperature. Darks and lights should be separated, and you will find that using cold or warm water on darks helps to keep them colorfast. Drying on high heat will also encourage fading, so you should use a lower heat setting and turn garments inside out, so that they fade on the inside. By using cool temperatures in your fabric care regimen for cotton, you can keep it flexible and bright.

Silk is a more finicky natural fiber. Fabric care for silk usually includes dry cleaning. Some silks can be machine washed with cold water on a gentle setting, or hand washed. Silk should never be wrung out, and should be dried on low heat or hung to dry. Many silks are not colorfast, so test them before washing. Also try to keep silk out of sunlight, as it will fade readily.

Wool, another animal derived fiber, also requires special fabric care. Wool will shrink if exposed to warm water and heat, so it should not be run through the dryer. Many wools do best when they are dry cleaned. If a wool can be washed, wash it in cool water with a mild soap, and lay it flat to dry. Make sure to reshape it before laying it out, to help the wool keep its shape.

Another common natural fiber is linen. Linen is actually a relatively easy fiber to care for, as it grows softer and more lustrous with age. Linen should be washed on cool or warm water on a gentle cycle with mild soaps. It can be hung to dry or machine dried, but should be taken in before it is entirely dry, as overdrying can make linen stiff and crackly. If you hand wash linen, rinse it thoroughly to remove all traces of soap, which can cause brown spots to appear on the fabric. One of the most important rules of fabric care for linen is this: never wring wet linen, because you can break the linen fibers.

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Post 2

To keep cotton white, or to remove a stain, my mother used to put some detergent in water bring it to a boil, add the cloth and let is soak.

She used to have a separate pot for this purpose.

She would rinse the cloth afterward. It really brightens up whites that can withstand heat.

Instead of detergent a few slices of lemon can be added to the water.

Post 1

Does rayon shrink in the wash? I have a 100% rayon shirt.

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