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Used often in linings because it does not pill or suffer from static cling, acetate is also made into dresses, suits and sportswear.

Most acetates are dry-clean only, but some are washable.

For the washable variety, you typically hand wash in warm water with mild suds. (Don’t soak coloured items.)

Do not wring the item dry. Instead, lay it flat to dry.

While it’s still damp, press it inside out with a cool iron.

If you are finishing the right side, use a pressing cloth.

When removing stains from acetate, never use acetone or a nail-polish remover that contains acetone.

The acetone will dissolve the fibres.



Known for its ability to draw moisture away from the body, acrylic is a popular material for socks, as well as other clothing items.

Garments made from acrylic can be washed or dry-cleaned.

Generally, you should machine wash, using a warm-water setting.

Add a fabric softener during the final rinse. Acrylics are heat-sensitive, so tumble dry at a low temperature.

To avoid wrinkling, remove from the dryer as soon as dry.When hand washing is required, as with delicate items, use warm water and a mild detergent.

Rinse and gently squeeze out the water, smooth out the garment and dry on a rustproof hanger. Lay jumpers and knits flat to dry with a clean towel underneath.

For ironing, use a moderately warm iron.


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Made from the fine, soft hair of the alpaca, a cousin of the llama, alpaca is gaining in popularity as a substitute for wool.

Nearly all alpaca can be dry-cleaned, and some can be gently washed.

Woven items should be dry-cleaned, whereas knitted garments, such as jumpers, should be washed by hand in cool water with a mild, undyed soap or shampoo.

Don’t twist or wring.

Lay them out flat to dry, pressing with a dry towel to remove excess water.

Touch-up with a cool iron as needed.



A fine wool made from the undercoat of the cashmere goat, cashmere is as soft as it is expensive.

Most cashmere can be drycleaned, and some can be gently washed.

Most woven cashmere requires dry-cleaning to retain its shape.

But knitted cashmere, such as jumpers, can – and should – be hand washed.

Careful washing helps them retain their lustre and loft.

Use a natural, undyed soap and cool water.

Move the jumper around in the cool water for a few minutes.

Rinse repeatedly – until the rinse water is clear.

Lay out the jumper to dry, pressing it with a dry towel to remove excess water.

If you need to touch it up with an iron, do so carefully, using a pressing cloth.


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By far, cotton is the most widely used fibre found in today’s wardrobes.

Since not even boiling hurts the fibres, cotton can be machine washed in high temperatures using any good detergent.

You can use chlorine bleach safely on cotton whites (but never soak for more than 15 minutes, since the bleach will break down the fibres) and all-fabric bleach on dyed cottons.

Cotton is an absorbent fibre and requires lots of drying time.

Because it wrinkles easily, it often requires pressing. Use a hot steam iron.



Linen is made from flax, one of the oldest textile fibres. (It dates back to at least 5000 BC!)

Today, you can wash some varieties of linen, but others should be dry-cleaned. Sometimes it’s up to you.

Linen has a natural pectin that keeps it stiff and crisp.

Washing removes the pectin, making it softer.

If you prefer crisp linen, then have your linen dry-cleaned.

Otherwise, machine wash it in warm water and tumble dry.

It tends to wrinkle and often requires pressing. Use a steam iron on medium or high heat.



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The second-most common synthetic after polyester, and the strongest fibre available, nylon is relatively easy to care for.

It can be machine washed in warm water.

To reduce static cling, add a dryer sheet to the dryer and remove clothes from the dryer as soon as they have finished drying.

If you need to iron nylon, use a warm iron.


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Strong, durable, shrink- and wrinkle-resistant, polyester is a miracle fibre, the most common of the synthetic fibres.

It does tend to take on oily stains easily, however. In general, polyester is easy to clean, which helps account for its popularity.

Most polyester items can be washed or dry-cleaned.

Wash in warm water and tumble dry at a low temperature setting.

To prevent pilling and snagging, turn knits inside out.

To reduce static cling, use a dryer sheet (see below) and remove garments as soon as they have dried.

When ironing, use a moderately warm iron.



A vegetable fibre similar to flax, ramie comes from the stem of a shrub that originated in Asia.

The fibres are strong (but they have low twisting and bending strength), do not shrink and have a lustrous appearance.

Much like linen, ramie can be machine washed in warm water and tumble dried or dry-cleaned.

It tends to wrinkle and often requires pressing.

Use a steam iron on medium or high heat.



Developed in 1910, rayon was the first synthetic fibre.

Originally, most rayon was dry-clean only, but there are now washable rayons on the market.

Check the care label for any rayon garment you’re unsure of.

Dry-clean-only rayon that gets wet (even in the rain) can bleed dyes, shrink and grow stiff.

Washable rayon is typically hand wash only. (Since it loses up to 50 per cent of its strength when wet, rayon can be destroyed easily by the agitating action of most washing machines.)

Wash in lukewarm or cool suds, squeezing the suds through the fabric and rinse. Never wring or twist rayon. Shake out or smooth the garment and hang it on a rustproof hanger to dry.

Lay jumpers flat to dry. While the garment is still damp, iron inside out on low heat.

For finishing on the right side, use a pressing cloth.

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