How to Care for Corduroy Clothes

Folded corduroy next to detergent bottle, soft bristled brush and lint roller

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Corduroy is a sturdy, long-wearing fabric that needs a bit of extra care to keep it looking its best. A true corduroy is made from cotton fibers and is woven to have lengthwise cords, wales, ridges or ribs with a napped pile on each ridge that is similar to velvet. There are corduroy fabrics that contain polyester fibers, a cotton/poly blend that reduces wrinkling.

The width of the cord or ridges is referred to as the size of the wale and is measured by the number of cords per inch. A lower wale number means the cord is much thicker and offers a softer, more plushy finish to the fabric. Fabric can vary between one and one-half wales per inch up to 21. The widest wales are most often found in home furnishing fabrics used for upholstery or pillows.

For clothing, wider wales are usually found in pants and structured jackets, while shirts are often made from fine-waled corduroy.

Most corduroy can be machine washed in cold or warm water. Avoid excessively hot water that can cause shrinking. However, it is important to check the garment's care labels first. Some structured corduroy garments like jackets should only be dry cleaned. While the outer fabric is cotton and washable, the inner materials that help the garment hold its shape can be destroyed by washing. This is not something that can be reversed or repaired easily. You can use a home dry cleaning kit to refresh a dry clean only corduroy jacket and help remove surface stains and odors.

Corduroy Washing and Drying Tips

  • Special care will help keep the pile from being crushed or distorted. Button or zip garments and turn corduroy clothes inside out before washing to lessen the matting of the pile and wrinkling of the fabric.
  • Do not overload the washer when washing corduroy clothes because it can cause excessive wrinkling.
  • For dark colored corduroy fabrics, use cold water. White or pastel colors can be washed in warm water. Always sort clothing correctly, and never wash corduroy with any fabric that produces lots of lint like terry cloth, fleece or felt. Corduroy loves to hold onto lint!
  • For best results, shake out the garments after removing from the washer. Tumble for about 10 minutes on low heat to remove wrinkles. Remove corduroy from the dryer while it is still damp. Smooth seams, pockets, and shirt plackets and hang clothes to finish air drying. If the pile is flattened, it can be revived by brushing gently with a soft-bristled clothes brush and then allowed to finish drying.
  • If you have allowed the garment to air dry, you probably won't need to iron it. If you do, be sure to iron on the wrong side of the fabric only. Use medium-high heat and don't leave the iron in one place too long or you'll crush the nap and you'll have an iron imprint on the fabric.
Reviving corduroy from dryer by brushing with soft bristled brush

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Remove Lint From Corduroy

Accidents happen and tissues get left in pants pockets when they are tossed in the washer. For corduroy or other napped fabrics, the twisted fibers that feel so plush also love to grab onto the lint.

After washing, turn the garment right side out and you can usually save the day by picking off the biggest clumps before putting the load in the dryer. The dryer lint guard will catch most of the smaller pieces. Remove the clothing while it is still slightly damp and shake out the garments to remove any clinging pieces.

Use a clothesbrush on the damp fabric to catch any pieces still caught in the fabric. For fine-waled corduroy, use a lint roller or pieces of packing tape wrapped around your hand.

If you still have lint, place the garments back in the washer. Add one cup white distilled vinegar and run the items through the rinse cycle. The vinegar will help the fabric fibers relax and release the lint. Place the wet clothes in the dryer with a couple of microfiber cloths (the lint will stick to the microfiber cloths) and tumble until slightly damp. Remove from dryer and use a clothes brush or sticky lint roller to remove the remaining lint. 

If you don't have time to rewash after a major lint mishap, spray the garment with an anti-static spray and then brush with a lint roller or a dry, cellulose sponge.

Be sure to clean your dryer filter and check your washer for leftover pieces of tissue. Clean them out to prevent more problems!

Lint roller going over fine-waled corduroy pants

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald