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The Best Way to Wash Polyester Clothes

March 16, 2019

Synthetic fibers have become more and more popular over the past several years. As opposed to natural materials such as cotton and wool, these fibers are man-made through various chemical processes. To be more specific, they are synthesized from polymers of small molecules.

As you might expect, these types of fibers come with a number of advantages. For one thing, they are cheaper and easier to obtain (cotton and wool production are both resource intensive processes). Not only that, but they are more durable and easier to dye than natural fibers. Furthermore, they are more resistant to stains—some are even made to be waterproof!

Synthetic fibers also have the upper hand when it comes to insects. After all, they are not a good food source for moths and beetles, both of which are commonly found in closets. Considering this, they are less prone to damage and are more likely to last longer.

Polyester – One of the Most Common Types of Synthetic Fibers

When it comes to synthetic fibers, polyester is probably the most common. Invented in the early 1940’s by a group of scientists, the material is inexpensive as it is derived from plastic. How does that work? The process is simple—the plastic is heated, melted, and turned into fibers by a large machine; the resultant fibers are then stretched and knitted into fabrics. In some cases, it is incorporated with other materials such as cotton or spandex.

how polyester is made

As with all synthetic materials, polyester is strong and resilient. Often used for clothing, it is flexible, easy to clean, and resistant to shrinking and wrinkles. When washed, it also dries quickly, which fends off bacteria growth. Another great thing about polyester is that it is naturally moisture-wicking; this means is that it is able to draw moisture away from the skin. What good does this do? It keeps you dry even when you’re sweating! 

Having said that, there are a few disadvantages to the material. For instance, it is not nearly as breathable as say, cotton. Depending on how they’re made (some are treated with certain chemicals), they might even be flammable. If burned, they will melt into a hot compound that will stick to and damage the skin. Given that they’re made out of plastic, they also go into our landfills, where they generally stay for many centuries (they can take hundreds of years to degrade).

What is Polyester Typically Used For?

Polyester is used in all kinds of clothing. However, it is most commonly seen in activewear such as leggings and sports bras. Remember what we said about it earlier? The fabric directly pulls perspiration away from the skin; that in itself makes it an ideal choice for athletic clothing. After all, wouldn’t you want to stay dry during your workout?

Another reason why it is often used for activewear is because it is flexible—this is especially true if it is blended with spandex or elastane. This flexibility allows you to move freely during your exercise routine.

How to Wash Polyester Clothing – Best Practices

Polyester might be more durable than some fabrics, however, it can still wear down in the wash. Given how pricey some activewear can be, it’s important that you take proper care of the material. As you probably already know, it’s easy to ruin and damage your clothes if you’re not careful when doing the laundry!

What are some things that you should avoid doing with polyester items? Is the fabric prone to color bleeding? How should you dry the material? These are some of the questions that we’ll be addressing below. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll know exactly what to do with your activewear!

Machine Washing Instructions for Polyester Clothing

Polyester is generally machine washable. With that said, you should always read the care labels on the individual garments before putting them in the washer; this is especially true for if you’re washing the items for the first time. For instance, some polyester clothes may contain other fabrics that require special care (e.g. dry cleaning).

checking polyester care label

As a general rule, you should always flip polyester clothing inside out. Why? The way the fibers are woven together, the fabric is prone to snagging and catching on buttons and clasps. By turning them inside out, you’ll be able to prevent the garments from being damaged by your other laundry. In addition to that, it will help to prevent the colors from fading. If you’re washing a sports jersey or something similar with embroidery, it will also prevent the design from coming off. Laundry bags can also be used to protect your polyester clothes.

Pour two scoops of ACTIVE detergent into the washing machine. Place the polyester items into the machine and wash with warm water on a gentle cycle. Alternatively, you can wash them with a permanent press cycle. For those who are curious, this setting is often used for synthetic materials as it helps to remove wrinkles; by spinning slowly, it will also prevent new creases from forming on the fabric.

Note: Cold water can also be used to wash polyester, however, it will not be as effective for removing stains—especially grease and oil.

As much as you might be tempted to, refrain from adding fabric softener. While it reduces static cling, the chemicals will also affect the material’s moisture-wicking abilities; that is, it will coat the surface with a wax-like layer, which will ultimately prevent sweat from being able to evaporate. What can you use instead? Try white vinegar. Believe it or not but this sharp-tasting liquid will help to neutralize the static electricity. Pour in 1/4 cup into the machine and you’re set.

Take your polyester clothes out of the washer when the cycle is done. Allow them to drip dry on a clothesline. Given that they’re quick-drying, the entire process shouldn’t take long at all.

Can you put Polyester Clothing Into the Dryer?

Ideally, you’d want to let the items air dry—this will extend the life of the polyester material. In a pinch, however, you can use the dryer. Just be sure to use the lowest setting; polyester might be heat resistant but it can still get damaged over time! Avoid using dryer sheets for the same reason as fabric softeners. Instead, you can use aluminum or wool dryer balls.

Cleaning Polyester Clothes By Hand

Polyester can also be washed by hand. In fact, it’s probably the better option—for one thing, it’s much gentler on your clothes (the machine does toss them around after all). Sure it might be a bit tedious, but your clothes, especially your delicates, are worth the extra care.

hand washing polyester clothing

To start, fill a basin or sink with warm water. Pour in a small amount of ACTIVE detergent and stir to create a soapy solution. Place the polyester items into the mixture; make sure that every piece if fully submerged in the liquid. Let them sit and soak for at least 15 minutes before washing. Avoid overloading the basin or sink as that will make it difficult to wash everything properly.

Once they’ve been soaked, you can wash the items gently by rubbing the polyester material against itself. Avoid twisting motions as that can deform your clothing. After cleaning them, rinse the detergent out with clean water; continue doing this until the water turns clear. From there, press them against a dry towel to squeeze out extra water. Allow them to air dry on a clothesline; do not put them under direct sunlight.

How to Get Rid of Stains on Polyester Clothes

As with all fabrics, polyester is prone to discolouration and stains; white garments are particularly likely to develop a yellow tinge, which can be unappealing. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to get them looking like new again.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is more than just a baking ingredient—it can also be used for stains. For this method, you want to mix it with water (one part baking soda to two parts warm water) to create a thin paste. Apply some of the paste onto the stained fabric using a soft-bristled brush; for the best results, brush it onto both sides.

Let the fabric sit for at least one hour—this will give the baking soda ample time to set into the fibers. Once the time is up, you can wash them as normal with ACTIVE detergent (either hand and machine wash are fine).

Using White Vinegar

vinegar for polyester stains

Similarly, white vinegar can also be added to your polyester clothes to remove stains. Simply create a solution by mixing 1/3 cup vinegar to 2/3 cup warm water. Soak the garments in the mixture for at least one hour (possibly longer if it’s a stubborn spot) before washing them as normal with ACTIVE detergent.

Note: You can also add 1/3 cup of white vinegar into the washer to eliminate stains and spots. If necessary, you can even combine it with the baking soda method.

Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another one of those household products that can be used for stains—especially ink spots! Using a sponge, blot a small amount onto the problem area; continue until the liquid is absorbed completely. If necessary, you can proceed to soak it in a mixture of water and soap. Otherwise, you can launder it as normal afterward.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild type of bleach that can be used to eliminate spots—including blood stains. For the best results, choose a 3% solution (they can be found in most drug stores). Apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes. From there, you can rinse it off with cool water before putting it into the wash.

Prevent Your Polyester Clothing From Stinking & Remove Odors

It’s not uncommon for polyester clothing to develop odors. After all, they are less breathable than some other fabrics. As it turns out, though, there are a few things that you can do to prevent them from smelling icky.

do not leave polyester in apile

Air Out Your Polyester Garments

One of the best ways to prevent odors is to air out your clothes. Instead of keeping them in a bag after a workout, hang them up; this will help to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria. You’ll be surprised just how effective this is!

Don’t Leave the Items in the Washing Machine

Have you ever taken your clothes out of the washer just to realize that they smell musty? If this is the case, you might be leaving them in the washing machine for too long. As it is, the dark, wet environment is a great breeding ground for bacteria. Always take the laundry out immediately after a cycle.

Skip the Fabric Softener

As mentioned earlier, you should never use fabric softener on polyester clothing. When added, it will coat the outer surface with a wax-like substance that will prevent sweat and oils from being washed away properly. Not to mention that it will impede the material’s moisture-wicking properties!

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Comment (1)

  • T Alex Reply

    Is there any potential problems if you wash 100% polyester garment with 100% cotton garment? Of course, following the “like color” rule. Thanks in advance for your comment, TD

    November 7, 2020 at 8:43 am

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