How to Clean and Care for Modal Clothes

Modal Fabric label

Mary Marlowe Leverette

The word "modal" might sound exotic, but it's simply a type of rayon fabric that is made specifically from the fibers of the beech tree. While some rayons shrink or stretch when wet, modal retains its shape and can be washed and dried by machine. Modal shirts, underwear, and activewear usually need to be laundered after each use, but pants and jackets may be worn several times before cleaning. 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.

How to Wash Modal Fabric
Detergent Regular 
Water Temperature Warm
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Low to medium-high
Special Treatments Wash delicate items in a mesh bag
Iron Settings Medium-hot iron on the wrong side 
how to wash modal clothes
The Spruce / Alison Czinkota 

Project Metrics

Modal fabric can be washed in the same manner as you would wash cotton or linen clothing.

Working time: 5 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

Instructions

  1. Place Modal Items in a Mesh Bag if Necessary

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

  2. Choose Water Temperature and Cycle

    Set the machine to wash modal fabrics on the gentle cycle using a cold water setting.

  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 low to medium-high temperature and taken from the clothes dryer while slightly damp to reduce wrinkling.

  4. Hang, Fold, Iron, or Steam

Knitted modal fabrics are resistant to wrinkling if removed from the dryer immediately and 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.

Treating Stains on Modal Clothes

To treat stubborn stains on modal clothes, follow the stain 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 one cup of baking soda, and then wash normally.

Tips for Washing Modal Clothes

  • To whiten or brighten modal fabric, mix a solution of the powdered oxygen bleach and water following the package directions and allow the stained modal garment to soak for at least two hours or overnight.
  • Avoid using full-strength chlorine bleach because it may not only bleach out 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 it is 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.

Ironing

Some modal garments, depending on how they are woven and constructed, may wrinkle excessively when washed and will require ironing. Use a medium-hot iron and always iron on the wrong side of the fabric to prevent creating a shine on the fabric.

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.

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 of modal fibers was developed in Japan in 1951. Lenzing started selling its version of modal fibers commercially in 1964. Brand names include Lenzing Modal, China Modal, and Formatex. Lenzing has also developed MicroModal and MicroModal Air creating a lighter weight microfiber fabric from the beechwood fibers.

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

In the U.S., modal can be found in activewear, underwear, shirts, towels, bed linens, and bathrobes. The items may be made from 100 percent pure modal or from fabrics made by blending modal fibers and other fibers like cotton or spandex.