Fleece jackets come in a variety of colors, weights, and styles; they are durable, warm, water-resistant, and generally easy to care for. Fleece fabric is made of polyester fibers—often recycled plastics, and the texture is created by weaving the fabric with small, loose loops on one side. After the fabric is woven, the side with the loops is passed over brushes that cut and pull the loops apart to create a soft, napped finish that contributes to the fabric's insulating qualities.
Unfortunately, the tiny fibers can trap lint and become knotted, leaving a pilled finish after washing. You can help prevent fuzzing and pilling by avoiding excessive heat and friction while washing, either in the machine or by hand.
Washing in cool or warm water should not cause a fleece jacket to fade, either, and washing the garment before use may eliminate potential manufacturing odors. Proper laundry sorting, avoiding hot water temperatures, and line drying can keep your fleece jacket looking great for years.
Equipment / Tools
- Large sink or tub
- Soft-bristled brush
- Sturdy hanger
- Clothesline or drying rack
- Mild laundry detergent
- Enzyme-based stain remover
- Baking soda
|Detergent||Mild or delicate laundry detergent|
|Water Temperature||Cold or warm|
|Cycle Type||Gentler or permanent press|
|Drying Cycle Type||Line dry only|
|Special Treatments||Treat stains with an enzyme-based cleaner|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
|How Often to Wash||Once a week for moderate use|
How to Machine Wash Fleece Jackets
Fleece jackets can be washed by hand or by machine. Choose a front-loading or top-loading washer without a center agitator. These machines are much gentler on clothes than one with a center agitator. If you don't have this type of machine at home, head to the laundromat to find one instead.
Read the Care Label
Read the care label to make sure your fleece jacket is washable. Some jackets may have trim that requires specific care.
Sort and Load the Washer
Avoid washing your fleece jacket with lint-producing clothes, like cotton flannel or cloth towels, as fleece is a magnet for shedding fibers. Fleece also attracts pet hair, so reduce and remove lint before laundering, and wash your jacket alone.
Make sure to check the pockets for tissues or paper that may disintegrate in water and stick to the fleece. Close all zippers, buttons, and fasteners, and then turn the jacket inside out to prevent snags.
Choose a Detergent
Use a mild detergent (like Hex Performance, Woolite, or Ivory Snow), as they are the gentlest on fleece fiber. Do not use chlorine bleach or add fabric softeners to the wash or the rinse cycle.
Select the Water Temperature and Start the Cycle
Always select the cold or warm water setting—never hot—when washing fleece jackets. High temperatures can damage, or even melt, fleece fibers.
Choose the gentle cycle for fleece jackets that are lightly soiled. For heavily soiled pieces, use the permanent press cycle, which has a cold rinse and a lower spin speed. Gentle cycles should last anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.
Line Dry the Jacket
Turn the jacket right side out and hang it on a sturdy hanger, or fold it over a drying rack to air-dry. When hung in a warm room, the jacket should be dry in a couple of hours, max.
Do not use a clothes dryer to dry fleece. The high temperature and the friction will cause pilling.
How to Handwash Fleece Jackets
Some care labels recommend handwashing fleece due to unstable dyes that can bleed in the washing machine. Follow the guidelines on the label for both water temperature and detergent recommendations, even when handwashing.
Choose Your Vessel
Use a tub or large sink for washing your fleece jacket. Make sure the receptacle is big enough so that the entire jacket can be fully submerged in the water.
Create the Solution
Fill the sink or tub with warm water. Create a washing solution by adding approximately 1 tablespoon of detergent to every gallon of water.
Soak the Jacket
Add the jacket to the soapy water and allow it to soak for about 20 minutes. Gently squeeze the fibers to loosen the soil, but do not aggressively rub them together or use a washing board.
Rinse the jacket well in cold water so that no residue remains on the fibers. Leftover soap can make the fleece feel scratchy. Gently wring any excess water from the fabric.
Line Dry the Jacket
Air dry your jacket in the same way you would for machine washing. If you are drying it outside on a warm day, locate it in a shady spot to avoid excess heat from the sun.
Treating Stains on Fleece Jackets
For visible food stains or body soil stains, place a dab of enzyme-based stain remover or laundry detergent on a white microfiber cloth. Rub the stained areas with the cloth to help lift the stain. Wait at least 10 minutes before washing the jacket to allow the cleaner to fully penetrate. Then, wash as normal.
Oil-based stains can be difficult to remove from polyester fibers. You may have to treat the stain for an hour or more with an enzyme-based stain remover. If all else fails, you can try dabbing a little isopropyl alcohol onto the stain before washing. Test an inconspicuous spot for fading first.
Fleece Jacket Care and Repairs
Luckily, polyester fleece rarely results in fading or shrinking. Still, hot water washing and machine drying should always be avoided. Should your favorite jacket suffer a rip or lose a button, you can easily mend it by repairing the seam with a sewing machine, or hand-sewing a new button onto the garment. Overwashing should also be avoided, as the more you wash a fleece jacket, the more the fibers will degrade and eventually mat. Fleece fabric rarely shows wrinkles, so ironing should be avoided at all costs, as it could melt the jacket.
Storing Fleece Jackets
Fleece jackets should be laundered, carefully folded, and stored in sealed plastic bins. Hanging fleece for an extended time on a hanger could result in permanent darts in the shoulders or a misshapen jacket. Make sure to always store your fleece in a cool, dry space. Hot temperatures may damage the fleece fibers, and moisture could attract mold.
How Often to Wash Fleece Jackets
Fleece jackets worn daily should be washed at least once a week. Other fleece garments worn next to the skin should be washed bi-weekly to remove body oil and soil. If you notice odors or surface stains, it's time to wash the garment.
All jackets should be cleaned well at the end of the season before storing them. While polyester cannot be damaged by most insects, some stains can become permanent if left on the fabric for too long.
Tips for Washing Fleece Jackets
- Gently remove lint with a lint roller before washing.
- Use cool water and a gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine.
- Turn your jacket inside out before washing.
- Wash fleece jackets separately without other items.
- If your fleece is matted, dampen it and carefully brush it with a soft-bristle brush to fluff.
Should fleece be washed inside out?
Turning your fleece jacket inside out may lessen the chance of pilling by exposing only the backside of the fabric to any friction.
How long will a fleece jacket last?
A quality fleece jacket, when used regularly, should remain in good condition for up to three to five years. After that, the fibers may degrade, causing the jacket to lose its loft.
Is a fleece jacket better than a wool jacket?
Fleece jackets have an upper hand over wool in terms of durability. They also make a great option for those allergic to wool. Still, both fibers will keep you warm, and some people favor the natural feel of wool over synthetics.