How to Clean Synthetic Fabrics

Understanding the materials of each item and how to maintain them is crucial for keeping them in good shape. In the United States, clothing comes with permanent care labels. For synthetic fabrics, these labels are particularly useful for figuring out how to clean them and remove stains.

However, the care labels do not include specific information. This article includes several tips and guidelines to help in these situations, including how to clean acrylic and polyester fabrics.

Key Takeaways

  • Pre-wash fabrics using the intended future washing method to prevent shrinkage.
  • Cotton: Machine-washable, prone to wrinkles, iron on high heat. Wash white cotton in hot/warm water and colored cotton in cold to prevent color running. Air dry to avoid shrinkage.
  • Linen: It is durable and doesn’t shrink or stretch. Wash in a cooler setting. A medium-heat dryer is okay, but air drying is recommended.
  • Silk: Delicate, hand wash in cool water with a special detergent; do not wring out, air dry on a cotton towel, and do not iron.
  • Wool: Handwash or use wool/delicate cycle in cold water with wool detergent. Press the damp fabric into shape and air dry it flat; do not use a dryer.
  • Cashmere: Similar to wool, use a delicate cycle with cold water and suitable detergent, and dry flat without wringing.
  • Viyella (winter cotton): Wash on a delicate setting with wool-friendly detergent and air dry flat; do not use a dryer.
  • Leather & Suede: Use a soft brush or cloth for dust, leather cleaner for stains on leather, and a suede brush for suede maintenance. Professional cleaning is recommended for both.
  • Synthetic Fabrics: Wash in cold water to reduce microplastic shedding and energy consumption. Wash less frequently, reduce the spin cycle, and use filters or bags to catch microplastics.
  • Semi-synthetic Cellulose Fabrics: Wash in cold water, handwash where possible, air dry to avoid shrinkage.
  • General Advice: Careful laundering extends fabric life. When in doubt, consult a laundry professional for best washing practices.
How to Clean Synthetic Fabrics

How to Clean Acetate

Acetate is a cellulose-based material with a silk-like appearance. It and rayon are closely related; acetate has a good body and drapes nicely. It is often found in taffeta, satin, crepe, brocade, and double-knit textiles. When wet, acetate loses its strength and is not absorbent or colorfast.

  • You can handwash the article in warm water with a light-duty detergent if the care label specifies it can be washed.
  • If you want to wash colored items with white items, do not soak them in water.
  • Avoid direct sunlight or heat when drying acetate.
  • Acetate should be pressed on the wrong side while damp at the coolest setting.
  • Nail polish removers and perfumes permanently damage acetate.

How to Clean Acrylic

Acrylic weaves are typically soft, bulky, and fluffy, similar to wool. The majority of acrylic fabrics are machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant. The fibers of acrylic are typically blended with those of wool or polyester. There is one significant drawback to acrylic: it tends to pill. Blends are less likely to do this than pure acrylic.

  • Wash acrylic garments by hand or by machine, or dry-clean them.
  • The best way to prevent pilling is to turn the garment inside out before laundering.
  • Gently squeeze out excess water after washing delicate items by hand in warm water. Sturdy articles should be machine-washed with an all-purpose detergent and tumble-dried at a low temperature.

How to Clean Fiberglass

Despite their wrinkle- and soil-resistant properties, fiberglass fabrics are not abrasion-resistant. Because fiberglass fabrics do not absorb water, they are ideal for curtains and draperies due to their resistance to the sun and weather. Tiny glass fibers are shed from fiberglass, so it’s never made into wearable apparel.

  • Your vacuum cleaner’s upholstery attachment can be used to dust fiberglass periodically.
  • Using an all-purpose detergent will produce the best results when handwashing fiberglass. To keep your hands safe from fibers, wear rubber gloves.
  • Articles made of fiberglass should be drip-dried rather than ironed.

How to Clean Modacrylic

Fake fur, fleece robes, blankets, stuffed toys, and wigs are often made from modacrylic fiber. This fiber is resilient, soft, and warm and also resistant to mildew, sunlight damage, and wrinkles.

  • Modacrylic items, such as wigs, should be hand-washed, and sturdy items should be machine-washed in warm water with a light-duty detergent. Static electricity can be reduced by using a fabric softener.
  • After the tumbling stops, remove the modacrylic articles from the dryer using a low-heat setting.
  • A cool iron should be used if pressing is required.

How to Clean Nylon

Nylon fabrics have many advantages, including their strength, lightweight, smoothness, and lustrous appearance. Furthermore, they are non-absorbent and wrinkle-resistant. Stretchy and resilient, nylon knits are frequently combined with spandex. In addition to lingerie and carpets, nylon is used to make rainwear and tents.

  • Put sturdy articles in a washing machine with warm water and all-purpose detergent.
  • When washing lingerie and hosiery in warm water and a light detergent, use a mesh bag to prevent stretching or tearing.
  • You can significantly reduce static electricity by using a fabric softener.
  • Use a low-temperature setting when drying nylon. Use a cool setting when pressing.

How to Clean Polyester

Polyester fabrics have many benefits, including strength, resilience, wrinkle resistance, colorfastness, crispness, and the ability to hold wrinkles and creases. Although nonabsorbent, they can absorb oil stains, produce pilling when rubbed, and become yellow as they age. Polyester is also used in clothing, coats, bed linens, and towels. Whether dry-cleaned or machine-washed, polyester is safe to use.

  • Before washing polyester knit garments, turn them inside out to prevent snags.
  • Use an all-purpose detergent to wash polyester in a machine at a warm temperature. In case chlorine bleach is needed, use it. An effective way to reduce static electricity is to use fabric softener.
  • Adding 1/2 cup automatic dishwashing detergent to 1 gallon of warm water will make the white polyester fabric look even whiter. Add half a cup of vinegar to the final rinse after laundering as usual.
  • Low-temperature tumble-drying is recommended. Polyester will shrink gradually if overdried.
  • Steam polyester fabrics or press them at a moderate temperature.

How to Clean Rayon

The strength of rayon decreases when it gets wet and becomes less absorbent. Fabrics made from this material are used in draperies, upholstery, and clothing.

  • Unless the garment is labeled “Machine-washable,” dry-clean rayon or wash it by hand. Use lukewarm water with a mild detergent when handwashing. Use a light-duty detergent and warm water to machine wash rayon.
  • As long as the rayon hasn’t been finished with resin, chlorine bleach can be used.
  • When the rayon is damp, drip-dry it and press it with an iron set at a medium temperature.

How to Clean Spandex

In terms of durability, spandex is similar to rubber. Abrasion, sunlight, and oils can’t damage it, and it has good stretch and recovery. In waistbands, foundation clothing, swimwear, and exercise clothes, spandex is always blended with other fibers to provide stretch.

  • All-purpose detergent should be used when washing spandex-blend garments.
  • Make sure you only use oxygen bleach. Clean thoroughly after rinsing.
  • Low-temperature line drying or tumble drying is recommended for spandex garments.

How to Clean Triacetate

Unlike acetate, triacetate is less heat-sensitive so it can be crisply pleated and creased. Tulle, jersey, and textured knits are often made with triacetate.

  • Cold water can be used to hand wash or machine wash pleated garments. The gentle cycle should be set for three minutes of agitation. Whenever possible, drip-dry garments with permanent pleats.
  • Wash most triacetate articles in warm or hot water with an all-purpose detergent.
  • Dry triacetate on a line or in the tumble dryer. Use a hot setting when pressing.

Fabric Care: How To Clean Every Type of Fabric FAQs

How should I pre-wash fabrics before starting a project?

Pre-washing your fabric is crucial to prevent future shrinkage and color bleeding, especially for natural fibers like cotton and linen. Washing the fabric as you intend to wash the finished product is recommended. If you plan to machine wash your creations, pre-wash the fabric in the machine, adhering to the specific temperature and cycle recommendations for the type of fabric you’re using.

What is the best way to wash cotton fabrics?

Cotton fabrics are durable and machine-washable. You can use hot or warm water for white cotton, but for colored cotton, it’s best to wash in cold water to prevent color fading. To minimize shrinkage, air drying is preferable over using a dryer. If ironing is necessary, you can safely use a high-heat setting.

How can I care for delicate fabrics like silk and wool?

Delicate fabrics require special attention. Silk should never be machine-washed or dried. Instead, gently wash silk in cool water with a detergent designed for silk and air dry it on a cotton towel. Wool can often be machine washed on a delicate or wool setting with cold water and a wool-specific detergent, but it should be air-dried flat to maintain shape. For both fabrics, avoid wringing or twisting to remove water.

Are there any specific tips for washing synthetic fabrics to reduce environmental impact?

Yes, washing synthetic fabrics in cold water is advised to limit microplastic shedding and energy consumption. Additionally, washing clothes less frequently, reducing spin cycles, and using a laundry bag or filter to catch microplastics can help minimize environmental impact. These steps not only protect your garments but also contribute to environmental conservation.

How should I handle stains on leather and suede?

Leather and suede require careful cleaning to avoid damage. For leather, use a soft brush or cloth for dust and a specialized leather cleaner for tougher stains. Suede is more delicate; use a suede brush to remove dust and dirt gently if suede gets wet or stained, blot gently with a clean cloth without applying pressure to avoid pushing the stain deeper into the fabric. Professional cleaning is recommended for both materials for stubborn stains or overall maintenance.

Semi-synthetic fabrics should be washed coldly to prevent shrinkage and color bleeding. Hand washing is preferable where possible. As with most delicate fabrics, air drying is recommended over using a dryer to maintain the integrity of the fabric and prevent shrinkage.

Where can I find more information on fabric care?

Visiting the Kokka Fabrics website is beneficial for detailed fabric care instructions and tips for specific fabric types. They offer an extensive guide on how to clean every type of fabric and recommendations for pre-washing and maintaining your fabrics. Additionally, consulting a laundry professional for advice on handling delicate or challenging fabrics can be invaluable.


Cleaning synthetic fabrics regularly is essential to keeping them looking their best. However, you must be careful when cleaning synthetic fabrics, as they can easily be damaged. Use a mild detergent and cool water when washing synthetic fabrics, and avoid using bleach. If you’re drying synthetic fabrics, use a low heat setting or air dry them. When ironing synthetic fabrics, use a low heat setting as well. With proper care, your synthetic fabrics will stay looking new for longer.

Also, you can read our post on what is the best fabrics for beginners.

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