Velvet is a luxurious, soft fabric that has been a part of fashionable clothes, accessories, and home furnishings since the Middle Ages. Originally made from silk fibers, it was a fabric held exclusively for royalty or the very wealthy. Today, because silk fibers are so expensive, most velvet fabrics are woven from nylon, acetate, or rayon fibers to create a fabric with a thick, soft pile of cut or uncut loops. A similar fabric, velveteen, is manufactured using the same technique but from cotton fibers.
No matter the fiber content, velvet or velveteen fabrics need special care because of their texture and finish.
How to Care for Velvet Clothes
When a velvet garment becomes stained or needs cleaning to remove body soil and sweat, you will get the best results with professional dry cleaning. Dry cleaning will protect the fabric finish as well as the interior structure of the garment especially if the garment is tailored like a jacket.
You can freshen a velvet garment at home by using steam. Steam will help remove odors, lift the pile if it has been crushed, and remove creases that come from sitting. Always steam on the wrong side of the fabric only. A handheld clothes steamer works well or you can hold the garment over the spout of a steam kettle or over pot of boiling water. In all cases, never allow the garment to become overly wet.
For very light wrinkles and to help remove odors like cigarette smoke or cooking odors, hang the velvet garment over a bathtub filled with very hot water in a steamy bathroom. Use a sturdy, preferably padded, hanger to prevent shoulder marks. Allow the steam to penetrate the fabric for at least fifteen minutes and then allow the velvet garment to air dry at room temperature. Do not wear velvet while still damp because creases will become more difficult to remove later.
When a spill or stain occurs on velvet clothes, use a dull-edged knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away any solids. Blot up any liquids with a plain, white cloth. Do not rub or attempt to clean the stains. Instead, as quickly as possible, head to the dry cleaner. Point out and identify the stain.
How to Iron Velvet Clothes
Technically, you should never iron velvet. Velvet should be steamed. Velvet fabric has a pile or extra fibers added to the weave of the fabric and then clipped to make the lush texture. Ironing will crush the fibers and leave a near-permanent imprint. (Patterns in panne velvet or velour are actually created by running velvet under extremely high heat presses.)
If you wear velvet often and want to iron the fabric, you will need to invest in a needle board. A velvet or needle board has metal needles mounted in a canvas backing perpendicular to the surface. Velvet fabric is placed face down on the needle board surface when ironing to prevent flattening of the pile. If you don't have a needle board and must use an iron to remove wrinkles, hold a steam iron at least 1/2 inch above the fabric and allow the steam to penetrate the fabric. NEVER place the face plate of the iron directly on the fabric.
How to Steam Velvet to Remove Wrinkles
A clothes steamer does the best job on velvet for removing wrinkles and rejuvenating crushed pile. Hang the garment from a shower rod and move the steamer up and down the garment at least 1/2 inch from the fabric. Don’t hold the steamer too close or stay in one spot too long or you will damage the material. Use your hands to smooth and lightly shape areas.
Whether you are steaming to remove odors or heavy creases, after steaming give the fibers a light brushing with a soft bristled clothes brush to lift the pile and remove any lint.
If the velvet piece is more wrinkled than you think you can handle, take it to a good dry cleaner.
How to Store Velvet Clothes and Accessories
Velvet clothes should always be hung, not folded. Folding will leave creases that are difficult to remove. If you must fold, pad the folds with acid-free tissue paper to prevent creases. Use a sturdy, padded hanger to prevent shoulder marks and sagging.
To protect velvet from dust, cover the shoulders of the garment with easy-to-wash cotton fabric like a bed sheet or pillowcase. For long term storage, always use a breathable, washable fabric storage bag. Plastic can trap moisture that can damage fibers and promote mildew growth in damp areas. Store in a cool, dry area that does not have huge temperature swings.
Velvet accessories should be stored in fabric bags or acid-free boxes to protect them from dust and soil. Be careful that the pieces do not get crushed.