Laundering . .
... Modern Fabrics
University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
Buying "wash and wear" clothing is a family affair. From
men's tailored suits to women's daytime dresses and children's play
clothes, many items of clothing are now designed to require little
care. Since the introduction of wash and wear, the number and
types of garments have increased each year. The jobs of dampening,
smoothing, and ironing have been replaced to some degree with
some easy-care features. Consumer acceptance of such garments
indicates that wash and wear is here to stay.
"Wash and wear" is the term used most frequently with gar-
ments that require little care. The term refers to garments that can
be washed and worn throughout the life of the garment with little
or no ironing. There should be a high resistance to fabric wrinkling
in laundering and wearing, plus wash and wear features in all
notions used in the garment.
Wash and wear garments are made from: 1) 100% synthetic
fiber; 2) a combination or a blend of a synthetic fiber and a nat-
ural fiber; 3) a resin-treated fabric; or 4) a chemically modified
Several ease-of-care terms are used in labeling. Some commonly
used are: drip-dry, no-iron, and minimum care.
Wash and Wear Fabrics
Wash and wear is not new. For years, we've had knitwear,
pliss6 crepe, and seersucker which are considered wash and wear.
The fabric's weave and yarn may contribute to the amount of care.
Some loosely woven fabrics are less apt to show wrinkles than
tightly woven fabrics. Textured fabrics may show fewer creases
than plain woven fabrics.
A large number of wash and wear garments are resin treated.
This treatment is used on both cotton and rayon, but mainly
on cotton. Good finished fabric will go through many launder-
ings and show less mussing than regular cotton or rayon gar-
ments. They also dry faster, but may feel warmer since there is
less absorption of moisture. Cotton fibers can now be modified
chemically to give a permanently high degree of wrinkle resistance
when wet. These fabrics may be resin treated, too, to give wrinkle
resistance when dry. The combination of a chemically modified
fiber and a resin treatment produces fabric which is highly resist-
ant to wrinkles whether wet or dry.
Fabrics made of synthetic fibers have "built in" wash and wear
properties. The synthetics are well suited for wash and wear gar-
ments. They are strong, durable, and have a permanent resistance
to wrinkling. Easy washing and a minimum of ironing are also de-
sirable properties; however, they vary with different fabrics. Syn-
thetic fabrics dry quickly because they absorb little moisture, but
are apt to feel warm. Today's clothing may be made of 100 per cent
synthetic fiber or a blend of synthetics with cotton, silk, wool, or
linen. Since the first synthetic wash and wear garments of 100 per
cent nylon tricot, several other fibers have been introduced. Often
the synthetics are used alone or blended with one another.
Consider print and color in the selection of wash and wear.
While neither makes the garment wash and wear, both tend to hide
wrinkles after wear and laundering. A print pattern tends to mini-
mize the appearance of wrinkles and creases more than solid
Good wash and wear combinations or blends must have enough
synthetic fiber to perform like wash and wear. This requires 50
per cent or more. Check the labels for the percentage used. Here is
a list of desirable wash and wear blends:
65% Dacron polyester-35% cotton 80% Acrilan acrylic-20% cotton
55% Dacron polyester-45% rayon 70% Orlon acrylic-30% wool
55% Kodel polyester-45% rayon 70% Acrilan acrylic-30% wool
65% Dacron polyester-35% linen 70% Orlon acrylic-30% rayon
80% Orlon acrylic-20% cotton 70% Acrilan acrylic-30% rayon
Wash and Wear Garments
A wash and wear fiber or fabric does not guarantee a wash and
wear garment. Fabrics which have been carefully woven to be wash
and wear need to be made with notions that have the same easy
care features. Whether buying ready-to-wear garments or fabrics
for construction, look for these features:
Interfacing-made of nylon, Dacron, or a fabric similar to
garment; all should be shrunk well.
Shoulder pads-washable or detachable.
Stays, tapes, and seam binding-made of nylon or Dacron
taffeta or fabric that is shrunk; these are often left out be-
cause of puckering.
Pockets-made of nylon or Dacron taffeta or fabric similar
Linings-washable with seams finished to prevent fraying.
Trimmings-washable and can be ironed at same tempera-
ture as garment.
Thread-matched to dominant fiber in fabric.
Buttons belts, and buckles-washable.
Zipper-made with nylon tapes or tapes that are shrunk.
Seams-sturdy with correct tension. Garments with much
outside stitching do not launder as well as those with a mini-
mum of stitching.
Label-indicates the fabric has colorfastness, durable finish,
or desirable blend and less than 1% shrinkage.
The time to cope with the problem of care is when you select
the garment or fabric. What does the hang-tag tell you about the
qualities of your purchase that relate to care? Are all of the inter-
linings, buttons and trimmings washable? If the fabric is a blend
of more than one fiber, what percentage of the fiber is present that
gives the garment its wash and wear qualities? What laundering
recommendations are given-machine or hand washable, drip dried
or dryer dried? What ironing is necessary? What other precautions
does the hang-tag indicate?
The American Society for Testing Materials lists laundering
instructions on hang-tags in four general classes:
1. Hand-washable, drip dry. Follow instructions and wash
these garments by hand. Avoid twisting or wringing as this may
set hard-to-remove wrinkles. Hang the garments on rust-proof
hangers to drip dry.
2. Machine-washable, drip dry. It's safe to wash these gar-
ments in conventional or automatic washers. Use a water tempera-
ture for modern fabrics. Set the washer for either a "medium" or
"normal" water level. Four or five minutes of agitation time is
enough for most minimum care garments. To reduce wrinkling, re-
move garments before the "spin" period, and allow them to drip dry.
3. Machine-washable, line dry. These garments may stay in
the washer during the "spin" period. Dry on non-rust line or
4. Automatic wash and wear. This tag indicates that the gar-
ments can be washed and dried in automatic machines. Select a
"wash and wear" or "medium" heat setting for your dryer. Remove
the garments from the dryer before the tumbling stops. If allowed
to lie on the bottom of the dryer drum, wrinkles will develop.
Caring for Wash and Wear
The new fibers and finishes can be laundered successfully if
good laundry methods are practiced. You need to know 1) whether
to machine-wash or hand-wash the garment; 2) how to condition
the wash water to get good results; 3) what temperature of wash
water is most desirable; 4) what type of detergent (all laundry
cleaning agents are detergents) to use; 5) when and what kind of
bleach to use; 6) what the effect is of fabric softeners; 7) how to
dry wash and wear; 8) how to press the garments if necessary; and
9) what special laundry problems (yellowing, wrinkles, etc.) you
may find in your laundry room.
The most satisfactory laundering results will come through
frequent washings. A good rule of thumb is to launder the garment
after each wearing. While this may seem like more work, soil
removal will be much easier.
Clothes should be sorted according to color, amount of soil, and
construction. White nylon and Dacron are color scavengers and pick
up even the most delicate of colors from the water. Garments made
of these fibers should be washed only with white clothing in "clean"
water, as any soil in the wash water may re-deposit in the gar-
ments. Re-deposited soil is difficult to remove.
Pretreatment is a must for most wash and wear articles. Pre-
treat the most heavily soiled areas by rubbing extra detergent into
the wet garment by hand or brushing with a soft brush. Synthetic
fibers, particularly the Dacron or Dacron combinations so popular
in shirts and blouses, have a special affinity for oil or grease. Resin
finished garments also have this affinity. Hot, sudsy water alone
does not always remove the grease or oil. For its removal, give it
special attention before laundering. Body oil on collars and cuffs
may be removed by lukewarm treatment, using lukewarm water to
moisten the spot and a full strength liquid laundry synthetic
detergent. (Granular detergent may be used if first dissolved.) Rub
the detergent into the soiled collar and cuffs using a sponge or soft
brush. Then rinse the garment in cold water and wash in the usual
way. Rubbing the moistened collar and cuffs with a bar of yellow
laundry soap prior to regular laundering is effective in removing
body oil stains.
Some greasy or oily spots can be difficult to remove, partic-
ularly on garments with easy care finishes. In order not to lose
the spot when pretreating, baste a colored thread about half an
inch from the edges of the spot. Remove spot with a solvent such
as a dry cleaning solvent or carbon tetrachloride. Place a pad of
clean cloth beneath the stain and sponge with a clean cloth mois-
tened with the solvent. Work from the wrong side of the material
to push the dirt and grease out rather than to rub it into the
material. Use light, brushing motions; work from the outside of
the spot toward the center; and "feather-out" the solvent into the
cloth around the stain. If the stain is persistent, you may need to
soften it with lard or mineral oil and sponge again with the solvent.
Construction of the fabric and of the garment affect the degree
of washability. Fragile fabrics call for more care in washing than
do the more durable and the more heavily constructed fabrics.
Weights of fabrics within a load need to be balanced to reduce
wrinkling and extra wear on the lighter weight fabrics and those of
less durable construction. Delicate articles should be washed with
lightweight articles or alone. Quality of construction will affect
the amount of agitation an article will withstand. In general, a
shorter agitation time and a slower spin speed are desirable for
most wash and wear. Manufacturers of washers and dryers have
helped by providing choices in regard to time, agitation, and water
temperatures available in their controls. Some equipment has cycles
programmed to the particular type of load being handled.
Soft water is an invaluable aid to good laundering. If you do
not have a zeolite water softener in your home, the addition of a
packaged non-precipitating type water softener (such as Calgon
or Spring Rain) to the water will help prevent a "dingy" look.
Use the water softener in both the wash and rinse water. Its
addition is most important to the rinse water as an aid in removing
suds. Water softeners should be used with white fabrics made of
synthetic fibers. Follow directions on the package.
Some man-made fabrics and finishes are softened by the heat
of washing, rinsing, and drying. Spinning and wringing while in
a softened condition will leave set wrinkles and creases. Water at
the correct temperature is important. Too high a temperature
may cause extreme wrinkling of wash and wear garments. It
may be impossible to remove these wrinkles. In recent years, there
has been some emphasis on cold water versus hot water wash. A
cold water wash will cause the garment to have fewer wrinkles, but
the garment may not be as clean as one washed in hot water.* Is
it more important to you to have a cleaner garment that will require
some pressing, or possibly a "dingy" appearing garment that
requires no pressing? Cool water (about 800 F.) is best for treating
spots before washing and for rinsing wash and wear garments.
Water temperature of 1050F. for synthetics and blends, and 1400F.
for resin finished cottons are recommended. A higher temperature
may soften the resin finished cottons.
All-purpose (built) soaps and synthetic detergents are rec-
ommended for laundering most wash and wear garments. Synthetic
detergents are available in high sudsing or low sudsing, granular,
or liquid forms. Examples of synthetic detergents are: high suds-
ing-Tide, Cheer, Oxydol, Wisk (liquid); low sudsing-All, Dash,
Ad. Examples of all-purpose soaps are: Duz, Fels, Rinso White.
Mild synthetic detergents such as Dreft, Vel, Lux, Ivory, Trend, or
soaps such as Ivory Snow or Lux Flakes can be used on delicate
garments. Follow the directions given on the container.
If a soap is used, best results will be obtained by first condi-
tioning the wash water with a non-precipitating water softener.
If cold water is to be used in washing, a liquid all-purpose de-
tergent or special cold water liquid soap may give better results
because it is in soluble form. Do not judge the correct amount of
detergents by the suds formed. Measure and follow directions.
If the garments are hand washed, care should be taken to
avoid too much rubbing and wringing.
Best washing results are obtained when wash and wear gar-
ments are well-constructed and are entirely washable, including
buttons, interfacings, trimmings. Some delicate garments can be
washed in the washer if placed in a mesh bag to protect them. Resin
treated garments should not be soaked as the process may soften
Bleaching is not a substitute for good laundry practices-hot,
soft water, measured, correct detergent, and good rinsing; nor is
it a substitute for pretreatment of heavily soiled areas. Bleaches
can: 1) aid in soil removal by complementing detergents and soaps
in loosening soil; 2) remove stains; 3) help white fabrics retain
* Wash Water-Should It Be Hot or Cold by Elaine Knowles Weaver and Maurine Miller Welch,
Ohio Farm & Home Research, Vol. 42, No. 308, Sept. Oct. 1957, Ohio Agricultural Experiment
Station, Wooster, Ohio.
whiteness; and serve as a disinfectant. The foremost rule in using
bleaches is to measure! Avoid over-use. Liquid or dry chlorine
bleaches should not be used on a resin-finished garment unless the
label indicates the garment can be bleached with it. Chlorine
bleaches are not always compatible with resin finishes and their
use may cause the fabric to yellow. Some trade names of liquid
chlorine bleach are Clorox, Fleecy White, Purex, and Roman
Cleanser. Examples of the dry-chlorine type are Action and Star-
dust. If yellowing occurs in a white garment, due to chlorine bleach,
the garment may be restored to whiteness by using a color remover
such as Rit in warm water. Follow the instructions on the package.
Light duty bleaches are safe for all colors, finishes, and fibers.
They include the perborate type bleach and the persulfate type
bleach. Sodium perborate bleaches are a "preventive" type and must
be used regularly to prevent discoloration from forming. They are
most effective in hot water and have little or no disinfecting power.
Once discoloration has occurred, sodium perborate bleaches are not
as effective as chlorine bleaches in removing the discoloration.
Examples of the perborate bleaches are Dexol, Snowy, and Lestare.
The persulfate bleach is effective at all water temperatures. A
recent Ohio State University study found that with oily soil in
nylons, persulfate bleach gave better whitening than did other
bleaches (chlorine and perborate types).* In addition, the study
reported that cotton and nylon washed with persulfates or per-
borates in recommended amounts did not show any loss in strength
after 25 washings. Beads-O'Bleach (all fabric formula) is an
example of a persulfate bleach.
Fabric softeners impart a softness to garments. They also help
to eliminate static electricity, which makes fabrics like nylon cling.
Fabric softeners are used in the final rinse. Care should be taken
in using these softeners, as a buildup of the fabric softener tends
to create some water repellency. They should not be confused with
* Bleaches-Whitening Effect and Fabric Strength by Mary Lapitsky, Research Circular 112.
Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station, Wooster. Ohio. October 1962.
water softeners. Research indicates there is a marked improvement
in the appearance of wash and wear garments when rinsed with a
fabric softener. In some cases, no touch-up ironing is needed. Line
dried items, carefully hung, approach machine-dried articles in
New automatic washers have special cycles for wash and wear
with a shorter wash cycle and reduced spin speed, cooler wash
water, and a cold water rinse. If directions for a garment call for
drip drying, remove the garment from the washer before the spin
cycle begins. Always use medium or normal water level and don't
overload the washer. Automatic washers without special wash and
wear cycles can be used successfully if the homemaker manually
controls the washer to obtain the correct water temperature and
length of wash cycle. Since the spin speed cannot be changed in
most of the washers that do not have wash and wear cycles, reduce
the length of time for spinning.
In using wringer washers, "break" the safety release so that
the wringer rollers are not in contact. Garments can then slide
through the wringer by rotation of the bottom roller without press-
ing in hard-to-remove wrinkles. Three rinses with at least the first
one conditioned with water softener will give the best results.
Drying Wash and Wear
The method of drying wash and wear garments depends on
the instructions for the garment; however, many garments recom-
mended for drip drying with the exception of garments with per-
manent pleating can be dryer dried. Pleated garments should be
drip dried or rolled in a towel in tubular form to remove excess
moisture, then hung up to complete the drying. In drip drying gar-
ments, use a rust-proof metal hanger, plastic hanger, or unfinished
wood hanger. An electric fan will decrease the drying time and
make the garments more fluffy. Never hang the garments in the
sun or close to heat as wash and wear garments do not withstand
extremely high temperatures. Finger press seams, pockets, etc.,
while the garment is wet.
Use a low temperature when drying wash and wear garments
in the dryer to avoid heat set wrinkles. If your dryer has a wash
and wear cycle, use the special wash and wear setting or follow
directions in the dryer instruction book. Dry only a few pieces
at a time, to allow for free movement of the garment. It is
desirable to add clean towels to act as buffers in the drying process,
protecting the garments. In using all dryers, remove the garments
immediately at the end of the drying cycle as heat remaining in
the dryer will produce wrinkles in garments laying in a crumpled
position. Some dryers feature cool-off periods at the end of the
drying cycle to help eliminate wrinkling.
If your dryer was made previous to 1957, use low to medium
temperature (140-1600F.) and remove the garments immediately
at the end of the drying cycle. If the dryer is so old that the tem-
perature provided would be too hot for synthetic wash and wear,
remove the garments while still slightly damp. Place garments on
a rust-proof hanger to cool at room temperature.
With a dryer or washer-dryer combination that is not vented,
remove garments while still slightly damp.
Pressing is essential on some wash and wear garments while
on others only collars, cuffs, etc., require touching up. Since syn-
thetics are thermoplastic, they melt or glaze with high temperature.
Generally, a steam iron can be used for pressing unless the hang-
tag indicates otherwise. In pressing synthetics, a safe rule to follow
is to set the steam dial in the lower half of the steam range marking
on the iron. The amount of touch-up pressing required is deter-
mined by the laundering method, how particular one is about his
personal appearance, and whether the garment is designed for
sports or dress wear.
Facts to Help You
It is difficult to know how long the wash and wear finish will
last on cottons and rayons.
Not all finished fabrics are properly shrunk before finishing.
These may result in excessive shrinkage after several laun-
derings or progressive shrinkage with each laundering.
Sometimes with the loss of finish there is also a loss of color.
* Resin-treated cottons continue to be made off-grain. They
cannot be straightened for construction and must be cut off-
grain. With the loss of the finish, the garment probably
neither fits nor hangs comfortably.
* In alterations or construction, seam puckering often occurs.
It may be a result of improper tension, difference in shrink-
age of fabrics, imbalance in ease of two fabrics, off-grain
fabric, wrong speed of stitching, or unsuitable thread. Wash
and wear needs a looser balanced tension than is used on
regular fabrics. Mercerized cotton thread is recommended
for cottons while Dacron and nylon are best for synthetics
or blends. Sharp shears, pins and needles and a clay chalk
that won't rub off also are excellent aids to a well con-
* Creases such as those formed at the hemline, at darts, or at
seams are sometimes impossible to press out.
As a result of a study by Dr. Nell Glasscock, Auburn
University Experiment Station, it was found that undesir-
able wrinkles may be removed from cotton, linen, or rayon
resin treated fabrics. To remove the wrinkle (1) iron fabric
with steam iron to partially remove wrinkles and also to
make the material hot; (2) apply white vinegar or 10 per
cent formic acid with a medicine dropper to the wrinkles
while the fabric is still hot; (3) let the fabric absorb the
acid for a minute or two; (4) iron over the area until the
material is dry. Should a wrinkles or crease still be evident,
repeat the process. If a shadow of a crease shows, spread
the cloth and let it air for four or five hours; the acid will
react in the material until equilibrium is reached. This
action is slow and continuous.
* Perspiration stain and odors sometimes are difficult to re-
move. Sponge full strength liquid detergent into the area
before regular laundering.
* Static electricity is a problem with synthetics or blends.
While fabric softeners and the special anti-static prepara-
tions help, using all-purpose soap in place of synthetic de-
tergent is desirable. Drying synthetic fibers or blends in a
dryer will increase the need for a fabric softener due to
increased static electricity.
* Discolored or stained garments of Dacron or Dacron and
cotton may be reconditioned by the use of Calgonite. Follow
the directions on the box.
* A wash and wear suit that has stains which will not respond
to washing may need to be dry cleaned.
To remove a build-up of soap and synthetic detergent that
causes a yellow or gray look on wash and wear garments,
recondition the garments by using 1 cup non-precipitating
type water softener to a washer full of hot water-no deter-
gent added. Add one load of clothes. Proceed as in regular
laundering. Repeated treatments may be necessary if dis-
coloration is extreme.
To dry garments that have a tendency to shrink in a dryer
(cotton T-shirts, etc.), remove garments from the dryer
while still slightly damp and stretch into shape.
It is not easy to remove heat-set wrinkles from a garment
made of synthetic fibers through home pressing. It may be
possible to remove the wrinkles by ironing the garment
(or curtains) while damp, using the steam iron. These
wrinkles usually can be removed with jet steaming done by
a competent dry cleaner.
Pilling occurs on sweaters and socks made of synthetic
fibers. Turn inside out before washing. "Pills" may be re-
moved by placing the garment flat on an ironing table, care-
fully shaving it with a safety razor or electric shaver.
You as a consumer must remember that you can't have every-
thing you desire in one product. Each fiber has some desirable and
undesirable qualities. Cotton is absorbent but wrinkles; wool is
resilient but shrinks with agitation in laundering; linen is strong
but wrinkles. The synthetics resist wrinkles, dry quickly and re-
quire little ironing but pill, create static electricity, and melt with
high temperatures. In manufacturing, fabrics are engineered to
bring out the maximum number of desired characteristics. There
is always a compromise. Some properties are altered to achieve
others. While you may encounter many laundry problems with wash
and wear garments, the advantages may outweigh the disadvan-
tages for you.
If you desire more information concerning fabrics and laun-
dering, consult your county extension home economics agent.
This bulletin was prepared in cooperation with Edna Akers and Orena Haynes,
Extension Clothing Specialists, and was revised by Lois Deneke, Extension
Home Management Specialist, The Ohio State University.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director