How to Clean and Care for Modal Clothes

A pair of gray modal pajamas

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner

While some fabrics like rayon shrink or stretch when wet, modal fabric retains its shape and can be washed and dried by machine. Modal is 50 percent more resistant to shrinkage than cotton and tends to pill less as a result of 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.

Similar to viscose—except that it's made from beech tree pulp—modal is a semi-synthetic form of rayon. It's used to make clothing items, like underwear and pajamas, as well as household products, like bed sheets and towels.

Infographic about how to wash modal clothes

The Spruce / Alison Czinkota

How Often to Clean Modal Clothes

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

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 Warm
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 
  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.

    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 on 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 classified as a bio-based textile and is a registered trademark of Lenzing AG, an Austrian company specializing in textiles and fibers. The concept was developed in Japan in 1951. Lenzing started selling its version of modal fibers commercially in 1964. Today, brand names include Lenzing Modal, China Modal, and Formatex. Lenzing has also developed MicroModal and MicroModal Air, creating a lighter-weight microfiber fabric.

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.

In the United States, modal can often be found in activewear, underwear, shirts, towels, bed linens, and bathrobes. Items comprise 100 percent pure modal or a blend.

Ironing

Some modal garments, depending on how they're woven and constructed, may wrinkle excessively when washed and will 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.

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

Storing Modal Clothes

Some modal garments can wrinkle. To avoid this, properly hang and store them in your closet after washing. Give items breathing room in your closet.

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, come up from the opposite side of the fabric through the snag, and then pull down the snag so you can tie it on the inside of the garment to stop further damage.

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 baking soda, and then wash normally.

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 full-strength chlorine bleach because it may not only ruin the color but will also weaken modal fibers. Dilute solutions can be used for stain removal and whitening of white modal clothes. However, even dilute solutions of chlorine bleach will weaken fibers, causing them to rip and wear out if used too often.
  • When washing modal fabric blends, such as silk-modal or wool-modal, follow the care instructions for the most delicate fibers in the blend.