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Clothing Care Tips

How to care for the most common fabrics

How to care for the most common fabrics

We have some news for you: different fabrics require different care. Okay, so this might seem obvious, but if you’re really being honest with yourself, you’re probably not as good at separating your laundry by material types as you are your whites and darks. And you should be. Not only does proper care help your clothing last longer, it will ultimately save you money, and is better for the environment.

So if you’re fed up with fading colours, but completely lost when it comes to looking after the various fabric types that make up your wardrobe, then look no further. This is how you should be washing the most popular types of fabrics.

Cotton

What is it?

Cotton is the most widely used textile fabric in the world with about 75% of clothing containing at least some cotton, so it’s fair to assume you have a whole lot if it in your wardrobe. 

How to wash it

As there’s so many kinds of cotton and cotton-blend clothing, always refer to the care label of each item before washing. But as a general rule, most cotton should be washed at 30 to 40 degrees, either in the machine or by hand. Hotter water will shrink your clothing, is more likely to cause discolouration, and is worse for the environment. 

How to care for it

Cotton left in your laundry basket is more susceptible to being moth-eaten as they’re attracted to the natural oils cotton absorbs from your skin, so don’t be too lax when it comes to your washing. If you’ve stained your cotton clothing, run it under cold water through the back of the stain for five minutes, then rub gently, repeating up to three times if needed. For older stains, moisten the cotton and apply liquid detergent. Leave to dry for six minutes then rub the stain to loosen it and rinse with cold water.

Other things to consider

Air drying in the sun is best for cotton, and if you have an item that you know is prone to shrinkage, hand wash and never tumble dry it. You should also avoid ironing cotton where possible. Instead, try stretching your clothing after it’s been washed and air dry it flat. You may find it doesn’t crease as much, reducing the need for ironing (a small win in itself).

Cashmere

What is it?

Cashmere ismade from the wool of the cashmere goat, and even though it has a reputation for being a high-maintenance fabric, it doesn’t have to be. 

How to wash it

Despite what the label may say, your cashmere doesn’t have to be dry cleaned. Hand washing is just as good, if not better, for keeping cashmere soft. Soak for two to three hours for extra fluffiness, and use a mild detergent, baby shampoo, or wool wash. If you’re not too precious about your cashmere, you can always wash it in the machine, just check for a gentle wool cycle, and turn it inside out beforehand. Heat shrinks cashmere so make sure the water is cold, and don’t use fabric softener as it will have the opposite effect.

How to care for it

An easy way to keep your cashmere in good shape is by investing in a depiller to stop it from bobbling, or using lint tape or a razor blade to keep the fuzz away. If you’ve not stained your cashmere, you should also wear it more than once before washing as this puts the fabric at risk of shrinking. Instead, try to wear it at least three times before resigning it to the laundry basket.

Other things to consider

When drying cashmere, never wring out the water. The fabric is most delicate when wet, so press the water out using a towel, then lay it flat and out of sunlight to dry. Never tumble dry, as it will shrink.

Wool

What is it?

Wool is a natural textile obtained from sheep, goats, and other animals, which consists of proteins and lipids. You probably know it best from your favourite winter knit that you’re scared of shrinking in the wash.

How to wash it

Wool and wool-blend clothing comes in many forms, so it’s important to check the washing instructions before throwing it in the machine. Many wool items require hand washing or dry cleaning (check the label to identify which ones), but for others, the wool cycle on your washing machine should do the job. 

How to care for it

To keep your wool in the best condition, avoid washing it too regularly. Brushing to remove surface stains, airing to remove odours, and steaming to keep the fabric fresh are all easy ways to care for wool between wears.

How to store it

As a rule, woven wool should be hung, whilst knitted items should be folded to avoid stretching. Resting wool clothing for 24 hours before re-wearing also keeps the fabric in better shape and stops it from sagging. If your wool gets wet, dry it at room temperature and avoid direct contact with heat or sunlight. The natural oils in wool can also attract moths, so make sure it is clean before storing in air-tight containers or bags, preferably with a Woolmark moth repellent.

Jersey

What is it?

Jersey is a knit fabric made of wool, cotton, and synthetic fibres, so although it might seem hardwearing, it needs to be looked after carefully. 

How to wash it

Wash jersey items at a cool temperature, and avoid overfilling the machine as this will cause your clothing to crease more. 

How to care for it

Jersey is prone to shrinking in the tumble dryer, so instead, try gently stretching your garments to the right shape before air-drying them flat or on a hanger. This will also remove creases, so should mean you don’t need to iron your clothing too often – something we’re not complaining about. If you do want to iron it, turn the clothing inside out and stick to a medium heat. 

Other things to consider

Jersey can also be easily mended at home using a stretch stitch technique, but don’t pull the stitches too tight as the fabric will pucker.

Linen

What is it?

Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant. It’s similar to cotton, but more hard-wearing, absorbent, and dries faster. It’s also known for being a cool summer fabric so you’re probably getting ready to dust yours off for the season.

How to wash it

You might think that linen needs to be dry cleaned, but this is only true of more structured or tailored items like jackets and suiting. Most linens can be machine washed, but heed our earlier advice and always check the washing instructions first. The benefit of linen is that, unlike cotton, it becomes softer with each wash, but use gentle cycles at low temperatures, or hand wash, to avoid damaging the fabric. Linen is also more sustainable than cotton as it uses fewer resources in the production process, and is less likely to become threadbare or weakened with use.

How to care for it

Linen can be tumble dried, but remove it from the dryer while it’s still slightly damp, and finish by air-drying it whilst laid flat to stop the fabric from becoming stiff. As a rule, linen doesn’t need to be ironed, but if an item has become especially crumpled, steam iron white linen on both sides and dark linen on the reverse side only. 

How to store it

Luckily, linen is naturally insect-repellent so you won’t have to worry about it being moth-eaten, but it should be stored in a cool, dry place avoiding plastic bags and cardboard boxes which may cause an odour.


Words: Ella White