How to Clean and Care for Modal Clothes

Modal Fabric label

Mary Marlowe Leverette

While the word "Modal" might sound exotic, it is actually just a type of rayon fabric that is made specifically from the fibers of the beech tree. It started to appear as the fiber content listed on clothing and linens labels as the new material gained popularity. The term rayon applies to fabric or fibers made of the wood pulp from any type of tree, but it's not usually considered a totally natural fiber because the wood pulp from the tree is heavily processed using a number of chemicals.

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

Project Metrics

Modal fabric can be washed in the same manner as you would watch 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 to the washing machine

  2. Choose Water Temperature and Cycle

    Set the machine to wash modal fabrics on the gentle cycle using water and a cool rinse.

  3. Tumble Dry

    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, or Iron

Knitted modal fabrics are resistant to wrinkling if removed from the dryer immediately and folded or hung. Woven modal fabrics, like cotton, most often need a bit of ironing to look crisp.

Treating Stains on Modal Clothes

To treat stubborn stains on modal clothes, spray a stain remover on the stain and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Then, wash as directed. If there's a set-in odor, soak the item for 30 minutes in a blend of cool water and 1/4 cup vinegar, and then wash normally.

Tips for Washing Modal Clothes

  • To whiten or brighten, 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 its 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.

Modal is 50 percent more resistant to shrinkage than cotton and tends to pill less as a result of the strength of the longer fibers and lower friction on the surface. Unlike some rayon fabrics, modal will not become misshapen when washed due to the strength of the fibers.

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.