How to Clean Synthetic Fabrics


Cleaning synthetic fabrics can be confusing, as there are so many different types.
Cleaning synthetic fabrics can be confusing, as there are so many different types.
© Publications International, Ltd.

­The first step in­ keeping your clo­thes in good condition is to know what each item is made of and the best way to care for it. Most garments manufactured and sold in the United States have permanently attached care labels. When it comes to synthetic fabrics, these labels can be of enormous help in determining exactly how you should remove stains and clean an­ item.

Certain information is not included on care labels, though. This article will help in these situations, with tips and guidelines for cleaning all kinds of synthetic fabrics -- from acrylic to polyester:

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Acetate

Acetate is made from cellulose and has a silklike appearance. It is closely related to rayon and has good body and drapes well. Taffeta, satin, crepe, brocade, and double knits often contain acetate. It is not very absorbent or colorfast and loses its strength when it is wet.

  • If the care label specifies that the article is washable, hand-wash it carefully in warm water, using a light-duty detergent.
  • Do not soak colored items or wash them with white articles.
  • Line-dry acetate away from heat or direct sunlight.
  • Press acetate at the coolest setting, on the wrong side, while the article is damp.
  • Nail polish remover and perfumes will permanently damage acetate.

Acrylic

Many acrylic weaves resemble wool's softness, bulk, and fluffiness. Acrylics are wrinkle-resistant and usually machine-washable. Often acrylic fibers are blended with wool or polyester fibers. Acrylic's biggest drawback is its tendency to pill. Blends will do this less than pure acrylic.

  • Dry-clean acrylic garments, or wash them by hand or in the machine.
  • Turn garments inside out before laundering to reduce pilling.
  • Wash delicate items by hand in warm water, gently squeezing out the excess. Machine-wash sturdy articles with an all-purpose detergent, and tumble-dry at low temperatures.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass fabrics are wrinkle- and soil-resistant, but they have poor resistance to abrasion. They are not absorbent, but stand up well to sun and weather, which makes fiberglass fabrics ideal for curtains and draperies. Fiberglass is never made into wearing apparel because it sheds small glass fibers.

  • Dust fiberglass periodically with the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner.
  • For best results, hand-wash fiberglass using an all-purpose detergent. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from fibers.
  • Drip-dry fiberglass articles; do not iron them.

Modacrylic

Modacrylic is a fiber often used in fake furs, fleece robes, blankets, stuffed toys, and wigs. It is resilient, soft, and warm, and it resists mildew, sunlight damage, and wrinkling.

  • Hand-wash delicate modacrylic items, such as wigs, and machine-wash sturdy items in warm water with a gentle cycle and a light-duty detergent. Use fabric softener to reduce static electricity.
  • Use a low-heat setting in the dryer, removing modacrylic articles as soon as the tumbling stops.
  • If pressing is needed, use a cool iron.

Nylon

Nylon fabrics are extremely strong, lightweight, smooth, and lustrous. They are also nonabsorbent and have excellent wrinkle resistance. Often combined with spandex, nylon knits are very stretchy but recover their original shape. Nylon is used to make many items, including lingerie, carpets, rainwear, and tents.

  • Machine-wash sturdy articles in warm water with an all-purpose detergent.
  • Hand-­wash lingerie and hosiery, using warm water and a light-duty detergent, or machine-wash in a mesh bag to prevent stretching or tearing.
  • Use fabric softener to significantly reduce static electricity.
  • Tumble-dry nylon at a low temperature setting. Press at a cool temperature setting.

Polyester

Polyester fabrics are strong, resilient, wrinkle-resistant, colorfast, crisp, and hold pleats and creases well. But they are also nonabsorbent, attract and hold oil stains, may pill when rubbed, and may yellow with age. Polyester is used for clothing and filling garments and coats; some bed linens and towels are also made from polyester blends. Polyester can be safely dry-cleaned or machine-washed.

  • Turn polyester-knit garments inside out before washing to prevent snags.
  • Machine-wash polyester in warm water, using an all-purpose detergent. Use a chlorine bleach if necessary. Fabric softener will reduce static electricity.
  • White polyester fabric will look even whiter if you soak it overnight in a mixture of 1/2 cup automatic dishwashing detergent and 1 gallon warm water. Launder as usual, but add 1/2 cup vinegar to the final rinse.
  • Tumble-dry at a low temperature setting. Do not overly dry polyester; this will cause gradual shrinkage.
  • Press polyester fabrics at a moderate temperature setting, or use steam.

Rayon

Rayon is a strong, absorbent fabric, but it tends to lose strength when it is wet. It is used for drapery and upholstery fabrics as well as for clothing.

  • Dry-clean rayon, or wash it by hand unless it is labeled "Machine-washable." For hand-wash, use lukewarm water with a light-duty detergent. Machine-wash rayon in warm water on a gentle cycle with a light-duty detergent.
  • Chlorine bleach can be used on rayon unless it has been treated with a resin finish.
  • Drip-dry and press rayon on the wrong side with an iron at a medium temperature setting while the fabric is damp.

Spandex

Spandex is a lightweight fiber that resembles rubber in durability. It has good stretch and recovery, and it is resistant to damage from sunlight, abrasion, and oils. Always blended with other fibers, spandex provides the stretch in waistbands, foundation garments, swimwear, and exercise garments.

  • Hand- or machine-wash spandex-blend garments in warm water using an all-purpose detergent.
  • Use only oxygen bleach. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Line-dry or tumble-dry garments made with spandex at a low temperature setting.

Triacetate

Triacetate resembles acetate, but it is less sensitive to heat; this allows it to be creased and crisply pleated. Triacetate is often used in jersey, textured knits, and taffeta.

  • Pleated garments can be hand- or machine-washed in cold water. Set the gentle cycle to agitate for three minutes. Drip-dry permanently pleated garments.
  • Most triacetate articles can be machine-washed with an all-purpose detergent in hot or warm water.
  • Tumble- or line-dry triacetate. Press using a hot temperature setting.