Velvet is a luxurious, soft fabric that has been a part of fashion and home furnishings and accessories 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 Originally made from silk fibers, it was a fabric held exclusively for royalty or the very wealthy.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 fabrics need special care because of their texture and finish.
How to Care for Velvet Clothes
For best results when soiled or stained, most velvet garments should be professionally dry cleaned. This will protect the fabric finish and the interior structure of the garment. But to freshen a velvet garment and remove odors, lift the pile if crushed and remove creases that come from sitting, steam can be used on the wrong side of the fabric. A hand clothes steamer works well as does holding the garment over a steam kettle spout or pot of boiling water. In both cases, never allow the garment to become overly wet.
For very light wrinkles and to help remove odors like cigarette smoke or cooking odors, hanging the velvet garment over a bathtub filled with very hot water in a steamy bathroom may do the trick.
Use a sturdy, preferably padded hanger to prevent shoulder marks. Allow the steam to penetrate the fabric for at least fifteen minutes and then all the velvet garment to air dry at room temperature. Do not wear velvet when 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 use an iron to remove wrinkles, only 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
To remove light wrinkles, hanging the garment in a steamy bathroom will probably work. After steaming, give the fibers a light brushing with a soft bristled clothes brush.
A clothes steamer does the best job removing wrinkles and rejuvenating crushed pile. Hang the garment and move the steamer up and down. Don’t hold the steamer too close to stay in one spot too long or you will damage the material. Use your hands to smooth and lightly shape areas.
Use a good clothes brush to remove any lint and “fluff” the finish.
If if the velvet 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 be hung, not folded. Folding will leave creases that are difficult to remove. Always 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. 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.