How to Wash and Care for Modal Clothes

A pair of gray modal pajamas

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

While some fabrics like rayon shrink or stretch when wet, modal fabric—a semi-synthetic fabric made from beech tree pulp—retains its shape and can be washed and dried by machine. Modal is 50% more resistant to shrinkage than cotton and tends to pill less due to stronger fibers and lower surface friction.

Clothes made of this fabric can be washed in the same manner as you'd wash cotton or linen. Use cold water, regular detergent, a gentle cycle, and low to medium heat when machine drying. Never use chlorine bleach on modal fabric; it will weaken the fibers. Continue reading for step-by-step washing instructions and more care, repair, and storage tips.

Infographic about how to wash modal clothes

The Spruce / Alison Czinkota

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer

Materials

  • Regular detergent
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Mesh washing bag (optional)

Instructions

Ingredients for washing modal clothing
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  
How to Wash Modal Clothes
Detergent Regular 
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Low to medium-high
Special Treatments Wash delicate items in mesh bag
Iron Settings Medium-hot iron on opposite side 
How Often to Wash After each use

Instructions

  1. Place Modal Items in a Mesh Bag, if Necessary

    If you're washing delicate modal garments, place them in a mesh washing bag. Otherwise, add the clothing directly to the washing machine.

    Modal items placed in a mesh bag
    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  
  2. Choose Water Temperature and Cycle

    Set the machine to the gentle cycle using a cold water setting. Avoid using chlorine bleach on modal fabrics.

    Tip

    Add oxygen bleach to your wash cycle to brighten your modal clothes, or pre-soak a garment in a diluted oxygen bleach solution for two hours.

    Someone setting a washing machine
    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  
  3. Tumble-Dry

    When you remove the clothing from the washer, give each piece a good shake to help release wrinkles. Modal should be dried at a temperature between low and medium-high, and the items should be taken from the dryer while slightly damp to reduce wrinkling.

    The control panel of a clothes dryer
    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  4. Hang, Fold, Iron, or Steam

    Knitted modal fabrics are resistant to wrinkling if removed from the dryer immediately and then folded or hung. Woven modal fabrics like cotton usually need a bit of ironing to look crisp. Steaming your modal garment will also work to loosen wrinkles.

    Modal clothes on a drying rack
    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

What Is Modal Fabric?

Modal is a bio-based textile and registered trademark of Lenzing AG, an Austrian fabric company. The fabric's fibers are made from beech tree pulp. It's semi-synthetic since it requires a chemical process to form this type of rayon. In the United States, modal is used for activewear, underwear, shirts, towels, bed linens, and bathrobes. Items comprise 100% pure modal or a blend.

Modal fabric can be knit or woven. It's very soft; drapes well; resists creasing; and has a smooth, lustrous finish. The fibers are often blended with cotton, elastane, wool, and other fibers because of their silky quality. Because modal is both absorbent and breathable, it's cool to the touch. The fibers take and hold dye easily, resulting in deep, brilliant colors and no dye bleeding during cleaning.

The concept of processing these wood pulp fibers was first developed in Japan in 1951. Lenzing started selling its version of modal fibers commercially in 1964. Lenzing Modal is a lighter-weight microfiber fabric. Modal also goes by the brand name Tencel. Lenzing also makes the closely-related viscose fabric, lyocell.

Treating Stains on Modal Clothes

To treat stubborn stains on modal clothes, follow removal guidelines for the specific stain. Then, wash as directed. For perspiration odors, soak the item for at least 30 minutes in a solution of cool water and 1 cup of baking soda, and then wash normally.

Modal Clothes Care and Repairs

Modal is durable and quite resistant to pilling. The only real repair you'll need to make is if it tears or snags. However, the fabric is surprisingly stable and doesn't easily rip.

If you need to fix a tear, use a needle and thread of matching color. If the tear is jagged, turn the garment inside out, and press lightweight fusible interfacing over the hole to invisibly fuse it. If the fabric develops a snag, fix it by threading a needle with a matching thread, coming up from the opposite side of the material through the snag, and then pulling down the snag so you can tie it on the inside of the garment to stop further damage.

Ironing

Depending on how they're woven and constructed, some modal garments may wrinkle excessively when washed and require ironing. Use a medium-hot iron, and always iron on the opposite side of the fabric to prevent creating a shiny spot on the surface of the clothing.

Use a pressing cloth between the iron and the modal fabric for extra protection—extremely high temperatures can scorch cellulosic or plant fibers when ironing. The scorching or yellowing occurs as the fibers begin to burn. You may be able to remove light scorching, but you cannot revive burned modal fibers.

Storing Modal Clothes

Some modal garments can wrinkle. Properly hang and store them in your closet after washing to avoid wrinkling. Give items breathing room in your closet.

How Often to Wash Modal Clothes

Modal shirts, underwear, and activewear must be laundered after each use. Pants and jackets made from modal fabric may be worn several times before cleaning.

Tips for Washing Modal Clothes

  • To whiten or brighten modal fabric, mix a solution of powdered oxygen bleach and water following the package directions, and allow the stained garment to soak for at least two hours or overnight.
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach. It can ruin the color and weaken modal fibers. If necessary, you can use a dilute solution for stain removal and whitening of white modal clothes, but it can weaken fibers, causing them to rip or wear out prematurely.
  • When washing modal fabric blends, such as silk-modal or wool-modal, follow the care instructions for the most delicate fibers in the blend.
FAQ
  • Is modal safe to wash in a washing machine?

    Modal fabrics are machine washable and dryable. Use the gentle cycle, regular detergent, cold water, and tumble dry on low or medium heat.

  • Can modal shrink during the washing process?

    Modal does not shrink like other fabrics; it retains its shape, unlike rayon, a closely-related material that can shrink or stretch when washed.

  • Does modal fabric have any disadvantages?

    White modal fabric tends to turn yellow when exposed to high heat. Also, it is not hypoallergenic; some people have strong allergic reactions to the material.