7 Essential Tips for Washing Fabrics Like a Pro

Caring for your clothes, linens, and household textiles properly is key to keeping them looking and feeling their best. However, washing different fabric types requires specific techniques to avoid damage, shrinkage, and premature wear. 


Follow these 7 in-depth tips to wash your delicate fabrics and everyday essentials like a pro. : 


1. Sort Items by Colour and Fabric Type

Proper sorting before you wash clothes and other fabric items ensures the best results. First, separate lights and darks to prevent colours from bleeding, fading, or turning murky. 


Next, group items by fabric type. This allows you to wash according to ideal settings for each fabric’s needs. For example, sturdy denim can handle hotter temperatures that would damage delicate silks. Check clothing labels to identify material content and required care.


Finally, sort by soil level – lightly worn items in one pile, heavily soiled items in another. This prevents traces of dirt and oil from redepositing on clean clothes. Outfits worn in muddy conditions or kids’ grubby play clothes may need a targeted pre wash treatment before going in with everyday laundry.


2. Pre-Treat Stains Before Washing

Don’t throw stained clothes straight into the laundry, as you run the risk of setting the stains permanently! Start by identifying the type of stain:

  • Oily stains like grease, tar, or makeup benefit from dish soap, baking soda, or stain pre wash sprays
  • Acidic stains like juice, wine, or coffee do well with diluted white vinegar or lemon juice
  • Protein stains like blood, egg, and sweat respond to enzymatic treatments or ammonia
  • Opt for a non-chlorine bleach to keep your whites bright without damaging the fabric
  • Mud and dirt stains need brushing/sponging off dry fabrics first before using stain removers

Gently dab or spray targeted pretreatments and allow time to work before washing. Avoid vigorously rubbing stains, which can further grind them into the fibres. When possible, hold the fabric taut to prevent distortion. Once pretreated, you can launder the item as usual. 

Remember that catching stains early is vital for easy stain removal.


3. Use the Right Water Temperature

Water temperature matters more than you may think. The heat of the water impacts how well detergent dissolves and activates enzymes that attack stains and soils. While hot water loosens oily, tough stains, cooler water is gentler on dyes and delicate garments. 

Here are the main temperature guidelines for different fabrics:

  • Use hot water for heavily soiled laundry, linens, towels, and non-delicate cottons
  • Warm water covers everyday laundry loads with a mix of fabrics
  • Cold water is ideal for lightly soiled clothing, darks, prints, as well as silks, wools, and speciality performance fabrics prone to shrinking

Follow the garment labels for the recommended temperatures and adjust washer settings accordingly for best results.


4. Measure Detergent Correctly

Detergent lifts dirt and stains, softens water minerals, and boosts cleaning enzymes. However,  too much detergent creates excess suds that deposit a sticky residue on fabrics that attracts dirt over time.

Follow the amounts recommended on the packaging based on your load size. In standard machines:

  • Small loads need 1-2 tablespoons of laundry detergent
  • Medium loads need around 3 tablespoons
  • Large/extra-large loads need 4-5 tablespoons

For HE (high-efficiency) machines, use only 1-3 tablespoons due to the low water volume. Too many suds can even damage the washing machine, so start with less detergent and increase gradually only if needed. Proper measuring prevents waste, residue, and wear on fabrics.


5. Use Fabric Softener Wisely

Fabric softener makes clothes smell fresh and feel soft. But did you know overuse can create a waxy buildup on fabrics that diminishes their natural absorbency? Follow these tips for best results:

  • Only use 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended amount per load
  • Dilute concentrated softeners before adding to the rinse cycle
  • Skip softener on athletic wear and towels where absorbency is important
  • Look for plant-based softeners with fewer added perfumes and chemicals

A little softener goes a long way in keeping clothes fresh and static-free without becoming oversaturated.


6. Dry with Care

Knowing how to dry your fabrics properly is just as important as washing them. Proper drying preserves the feel, fit, and vibrancy of fabrics wash after wash. Follow these drying guidelines for various fabric types, including those you might be choosing for upholstery

  • Lie sweaters flat to air dry to help maintain shape and size
  • Hang sturdy linens, shirts, pants, jeans, and socks to dry completely
  • Check garment labels; for example, natural fibres like linen often prefer line-drying
  • Keep drying clothes out of direct sunlight to prevent fading
  • If you’re using a tumble dryer, ensure it’s set to the correct setting for your fabric type
  • Take clothes out of the tumble dryer immediately once finished to prevent wrinkling

Taking a bit more time to hang-dry whenever possible helps to preserve fabrics’ look, feel, and structure over time.


7. Dry Clean When Needed

While you can successfully wash many modern fabrics at home, delicate materials like silk and wool often require professional dry cleaning to prevent damage, shrinkage, yellowing, or misshaping. Consider dry cleaning for:

  • Sheer silks, chiffon, crepe de chine, and other delicates
  • Cashmere, fine wools, and wool blends like gabardine 
  • Rayon, which loses shape when agitated
  • Heavily embellished evening and cocktail wear
  • Suits, tailored overcoats, tuxedos, and other speciality garments

Remember to always check the clothing label – if it says ‘dry clean only’, do so to be safe. Find a quality eco-friendly dry cleaner that uses greener methods and chemicals.

Get Expert Advice from I Want Fabric

Fabric care doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these 7 washing and laundry tips, including sorting, pretreating, washing, and drying different materials, to keep your favourite fabric items looking and feeling fabulous.

If you’re revamping your wardrobe or sprucing up your living spaces, take a look at I Want Fabric’s wide selection of affordable apparel fabrics, upholstery textiles, trims, sewing supplies, and more. Our friendly team is also on hand to offer advice on how to best care for your fabric of choice.