Laundry Basics: Unraveling the Proper Ways to Clean Your Fabrics

Laundry Basics: Unraveling the Proper Ways to Clean Your Fabrics

You probably know the feeling all too well, the disappointment and stress of ruining a new or favorite article of clothing due to your misunderstanding of how to wash the fabric. You have a brand-new garment of clothing that fits you just right. You throw it in the washer and dryer on the normal settings along with lots of other clothing.  

Now that it is clean you are ready to put it on and head out the door…uh oh. It is too small! Maybe the color faded or the fabric ruined in the wash. After reading this article you will know the ins and outs of how to treat all types of clothing fabrics so you never have to go through the pain of ruining one of your favorite pieces of clothing again.


colorful shirts on rack
Avoid shrinking by gently drying on the lowest setting.

Cotton is a favorite among consumers and brands alike. Most of your normal laundry load probably consists of various items made with cotton, which can be found in clothes, bed linens, jeans, sweaters, towels, etc. The biggest concerns with cotton fabrics are it’s prone to shrink and fade quickly if not washed properly. Most of the damage to cotton fabric occurs in the drying process, although some destruction can occur in the washer.     

To begin, check the label. If you read “Coldwater only” then your garment’s color is prone to fade and possibly bleed on to other articles of clothing. In this case, your garment should be washed in cold water to preserve the color and then dried on the lowest heat setting or tumble dry for no heat to reduce shrinkage. As a small amount of shrinkage can occur in the washer, it is best to wash cotton on the coldest setting possible to prevent the loss of color and to prevent any shrinkage. The warmer the water becomes, the more increase in the loss of color and shrinkage can occur.


dress shirts
Wash your linen on the gentle setting and dry on the low setting as linen is delicate.

Linen is a natural fiber and is a delicate fabric. It is prone to wrinkles, shrinkage, and weakened fabric if not washed correctly. Check the care labels on linen garments to determine if it needs to be dry-cleaned. If it does need dry-cleaning, follow those instructions to avoid shrinkage and weakening of the fabric.  

If you’re washing linen in your machine, use the machine’s gentle cycle with lukewarm water along with a mild detergent to protect the fabric’s fibers. Make sure the load is light as too many articles of clothing may twist or pull the linen fabric out of shape.      

Tumble dry your linen at a low temperature and remove it from the drying machine while still slightly damp to avoid stiffness and shrinkage. Finish the drying process by laying your garment flat to avoid hanger marks or a misshapen garment.


Polyester is tough like the athletes that wear it, use a fabric softener to reduce static electricity.

Polyester is a tough synthetic fabric. Polyester resists wrinkles, fading, and shrinkage when properly taken care of in your washing and drying machines. Although polyester resists wrinkles, it does tend to pill so to begin, turn your polyester clothing inside out for washing to avoid pilling.  

Wash your polyester at a cold temperature to avoid shrinkage and prevent any color bleeding, using a standard detergent. If you need to remove a stain, you can wash using a warm temperature. Dry on the lowest setting like most other fabrics and add a fabric softener to reduce static electricity.


Silk is delicate, treat it like your hair, seriously.

Unlike polyester, silk is delicate and complicated to clean. Start by checking the label and if it reads “Dry-clean only” it means the color will bleed in your washer.     

If your silk label does not specify this, hand wash your silk garment, inside out, in cold water. Silk is a protein similar to your hair so wash it as such, using mild baby shampoo with no chemicals, or other formulated gentle shampoo you would use on your hair. Agitate the water slowly and be sure to rinse out all soap using cool water rinse. Do not wring out your garment, just gently press the soapy water out of your garment.  

Never put your silk in a drying machine. Gently blot your silk with a cloth or press it between two towels to gently squeeze out excess water and hang dry for best results.


Wool needs to be dried lying flat on a drying rack, as to not lose its shape.

Wool is our preferred fabric when sitting by the fire. Nothing is more insulating and cozier than wool, so let’s keep it that way.    

Turn your wool inside out and wash in cold water in the gentlest setting. Do not put wool clothing in the dryer as they will shrink, instead use a drying rack, laying them flat so they don’t lose shape. You may also lay your clothing on a towel, in its original shape, and then roll up the towel to remove excess water. Then lay on a drying rack to finish the drying process. Avoid direct sunlight because it can shrink or discolor your wool garment.


Spandex does not do well with heat.

Spandex material in clothing has become more popular because it makes athletic and undergarment clothing more comfortable and more elastic. For activewear and more durable spandex clothing, you can machine wash on a delicate cycle using cold water. It is best to turn the clothing inside out and place it in a mesh bag to prevent tearing and snagging in the machine.  

Avoid the use of hot water and chlorine bleach as both will damage spandex. For intimates and swimwear, handwashing is best using cool water and a delicate detergent. Do not wring, instead, press out the excess water or gently squeeze inside a towel.  

When drying spandex, air dry on a drying rack. The drying machine will cause the spandex fibers to break and lose their elasticity. The heat will also cause spandex to lose its moisture-wicking element.


Washing your clothes and other household linens can be a complicated task when you take into account the various fibers and their needs. Always start with the clothing’s label to help identify the best way to wash, using a dry cleaner if recommended. A good rule of thumb is to turn garments inside out and wash on the gentlest cycle possible using the cooler water temps. As for drying, air dry or low heat is best. Hopefully, the disappointment of a ruined favorite piece of clothing is now in your past.    

If you want more tips and tricks about your laundry or cleaning in general, visit our blog at Dirtfree to read more, or download our app and start using Dirtfree today.

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