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Caring for different types of fabric

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 9 January 2008
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Different fabrics need caring for in different ways, and laundry labels don't always tell you enough about how to treat your clothes. Here's a list of tips on washing and caring for fabric.

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Different fabrics need caring for in different ways, and laundry labels don't always tell you enough about how to treat your clothes. Here's a list of tips on washing and caring for fabric.

Delicates
- Silk
Washing
: Silk is very delicate and should be hand-washed if possible, except if the laundry label says it can go in a machine (in which case, use a delicates wash at 30°C). Hand-wash silk in lukewarm soapy water without soaking it. You can also add a few drops of vinegar or sugar to cold water to rinse.
Drying: Silk shouldn't be twisted or rough-dried. Spread it flat on a towel or sponge to dry. Shirts and blouses can be dried on a hanger.
Ironing: Iron while still damp.

Did you know?
- Silk should never be exposed to sunlight, which can make it go yellow. To remove an offending yellow hue, soak the garment in three parts ordinary water to one part oxygenated water with a drop of ammonia, then rinse in ordinary water.
- Never let silk get wet or it will get damp marks.

- Linen
Washing
: Any stains should be treated prior to washing. You can machine-wash linen as long as you wash it at less than 50°C to preserve the colour and the natural fabric. Use non-chlorine washing powder/liquid for linen, and use a whitening product to stop it going yellow.
Drying: Don't dry linen in the sun or in a tumble-dryer to prevent it from shrinking.

- Cashmere
Even if cashmere doesn't get dirty or smell of sweat easily, it should still be washed (after 3 outings). Cashmere is very delicate and the less often it's washed, the longer it lasts.
Machine washing: Pop your cashmere in a special underwear bag or in a pillowcase in your machine and use special wool washing products. Select a cold wool programme and don't spin at over 600 rpm.
Hand washing: Use a wool washing product or diluted shampoo. Don't leave cashmere to soak for too long in your washing water; it should be washed and rinsed fast. Rinse carefully in cold water until it runs clear.
Drying: Dry without twisting. Roll your cashmere in a towel and then dry it flat on a dry towel. Never tumble-dry it.
Ironing: If you need to iron cashmere, don't use a very hot iron. Iron cashmere carefully on the underside.

- Pashmina
Like cashmere, pashmina is a treasued and very delicate material, and its wool is just as fine. Wash, dry and iron with care, as for cashmere.

- Cotton should be washed, dried and ironed in the same way as linen.

- Wool
Wool is very delicate and shouldn't be boiled or washed with chlorine-based products. Hand-washing is best, but you can machine-wash wool mixes. Always check the laundry label and set your machine to a short non-spin programme.
Hand-washing: Wash wool at a maximum temperature of 30° using special wool washing products and without soaking. Scrub gently and rinse in lukewarm water, gently squeezing the water out, then rinse in cold water.
Drying: Dry using a towel (without twisting) and then dry flat on a fresh towel.

- Viscose
Viscose is a semi-synthetic material containing natural fibres treated with chemicals.
Machine-washing: Wash viscose clothing inside out at a maximum of 40°C on a delicates programme. Your machine should be two-thirds full.
Drying: Dry on a hanger (never tumble-dry) and iron while still slightly damp.

Take care with the following:
- Underwear lasts longer if you hand-wash it, but it can easily be machine-washed as well. Protect your underwear in the wash by putting it into a special bag or a silk or satin pillowcase. Use special washing powder/liquid and wash on a delicates programme.
- Sleeping bags, quilts and pillows: Pop a tennis ball into your machine with feather items to catch any build-up of feathers and prevent clumping. Use gentle washing powder/liquid and make sure your machine turns properly.

General tips:
- Separate your laundry by colour. Put dark with dark, white with white and colour with colour.
- To stop colour from fading: Check whether a garment will fade or not by placing a piece of white cloth underneath it while it's still damp and passing a hot iron over it. If the colour comes through, you know you need to hand-wash it separately in lukewarm soapy water. New garments should always be washed separately the first time (using washing powder!) to get rid of surplus colouring. And never leave wet washing in a pile: the colours could run and stain other garments!

by Sarah Horrocks

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