When winter is upon us - the natural tendency is to take short-cuts when attempting to get our clothes washed & dried during excessively rainy periods. It is appropriate to include in this bulletin a fabric care guide to ensure "short-cuts" don't result in expensive mistakes. For fabrics made from a blend or mixture of fibres, use the treatment recommended for the most sensitive fibre.Natural Fabrics
Cotton creases on washing, wrinkles in wearing and requires considerable ironing. Very fine cottons like lawn require much more gentle handling than does a fabric like denim. Many coloured cottons are non-colourfast so wash them separately when new. It's also best to go on washing dark and light coloured items separately. Permanent press cottons should be squeezed only lightly during washing and rinsed thoroughly. To avoid crumpling and the need to iron - don't spin. Cotton knits tend to stretch sideways and shorten when washed, but can be gently pulled back into shape after washing. Cotton knits can also twist and become misshapen if the fabric has not been cut and sewn with the straight grain of the fabric. Cotton is weakened and may be destroyed by contact with acids - even mild ones like fruit juice - if left for long periods. Wash out any staining immediately. Although you can usually use a chlorine bleach, check the garment label first. Follow the instructions on the bottle as too high a concentration may cause yellowing.
Although a resilient fabric, wool is damaged by alkalis - the cleaning agents in wash powders and bar soaps. Special non-alkaline wool washing products should be used. Wool garments are best laid flat to dry away from direct heat, though if they've been wrapped in a towel and spun-dried, finely knitted garments can be hung on the line as there's no risk of being stretched by the weight of water. Steam iron or use a damp cloth but afterwards give the wool time to cool and allow it's shape to be set. Wool behaves something like hair - if you set it, it keeps it's shape until wet again and it holds the set better if heat is applied.
As for wool. Angora clothing is particularly sensitive to rubbing and shrinks very easily.
In general, linen fabrics do not soil quickly and unless stained do not require bleaching to stay white. Good quality linens can be safely washed using a normal wash cycle, but make sure the garment does not contain other fibres that could be damaged. Some heavier linens shrink and should be dry-cleaned.
Dry-cleaning is preferable, but some garments can be gently washed in a neutral detergent, such as the special wool washes. It is preferable that the wash water and the rinse water are used at the same temperature. Spot cleaning tends to leave rings and should be avoided. If you need a bleach, use peroxide, not a chlorine because chlorine causes yellowing of white and cream silks. After washing, hang briefly to remove excess water and press or roll between towels. Avoid steam pressing or sprinkling with water because it may cause water marks. Iron shirts and blouses on the inside - it stops the fabric getting a glossy look if the iron is a bit too hot.Processed Natural Fibres
Rayon is a cellulose fibre (made from wood fibres). Handle gently because Rayon becomes weaker when wet. Use a gentle wash cycle. Rayon can shrink and distort so should not be left to hang for long periods. Iron while damp or steam press.
Viscose rayon, one of the newer high performance rayons, wrinkles less, can be washed and is also woven into heavy or light fabrics. Washable rayon will state the care on the fabric label. Like silk, if you pre-wash rayon fabric prior to construction of the garment, you have a washable garment.
Therefore, if the label is still on the garment, it would pay to treat it as suggested. If it is a VISCOSE RAYON you are probably quite safe to wash it on a gentle cycle, or by hand. Washing with a mild wool or quilt washing liquid detergent is kinder to the fabric.
Modified cellulose fibres, which means they have been chemically treated to add strength and special appearance - gloss, for example. They're both heat sensitive, although triacetate can withstand higher ironing temperatures. Don't twist or wring while wet as it may take considerable ironing to remove the creases. These fabrics are damaged by acetone - for example, nail polish remover.Synthetic Fabrics
Synthetic fibres are petroleum based. They're all sensitive to heat and will get a glazed surface and shrink if heated too much during ironing. They wash easily without much wrinkling and dry rapidly. Remove grease and oil before washing by applying liquid detergent and allow to soak in. Dry-cleaning is best for bad stains. Use a fabric softener to help reduce static. Tumble dry on a low heat or line dry.
This fibre has a tendency to absorb colour and dirt from other items during washing. To minimise the problem, rinse thoroughly. White nylons should be washed alone or with other white items as they can be difficult to bleach white again. Do not use a chlorine bleach.
Polyesters are very wrinkle resistant and resilient and are often used in blends. If other fibres are suitable, the garment may be washed warm. Common trade names include Terylene, Dacron, Trevira.
Commonly used in pullovers, often together with other fibres like wool. Acrylic is a very heat sensitive fabric and must be washed at below 50°C. Wash gently by hand or gentle machine cycle. Rinse thoroughly and use a fabric softener to minimise static. Don't tumble dry. Don't steam iron as steam can shrink acrylic fabrics.
Common trade name Lycra. This fibre is at least 85% polyurethane and is used only in blends - especially in swim-wear, exercise wear and foundation garments. Use low/warm temperatures for washing and don't put these garments in the dryer. If you wear these in chlorine-treated swimming pools, rinse thoroughly afterwards or the fabric will soon lose elasticity and break down.
LA & HA Campbell