How to Clean and Care for Polyester Clothes

Polyester fabric

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Polyester is a human-made, synthetic fabric that's insect resistant, flexible, and can be woven or knit into many weights and textures. Polyester clothes sometimes get a bad rap, but polyester fibers are used frequently in the fashion world. Microfiber and high-performance athletic wear often contain polyester. And, the addition of polyester to cotton fabrics revolutionized easy-care clothes—no more ironing! Polyester fibers are resilient, and they can withstand many launderings. Some garments like tops and dresses need frequent washings after every wear. Other loose-fitting items can go longer between cleanings.

How to Wash Polyester
Detergent Heavy-duty
Water Temperature Warm
Cycle Type Regular
Drying Cycle Type Permanent Press
Special Treatments None
Iron Settings Low to medium

Project Metrics

Polyester is heat-sensitive—high temperatures can cause it to melt, shrink, or deform. Never select hot water or high heat settings when using the washer, dryer, or iron.

Working Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Skill Level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach (optional)

Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Dryer
  • Drying rack (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pretreat Stains

    When oil comes in contact with polyester fabric, the attraction is solid and challenging to break. However, oily stains can be removed if treated with a stain remover or a dab of heavy-duty detergent as soon as possible. Work the stain remover into the fibers with your fingers and allow it to work for at least 15 mintues before washing. Always check that stains are gone before placing polyester clothes in the dryer—the heat will cause the spots to set and make them almost impossible to remove. 

  2. Wash

    Set your washing machine to permanent press and select cold or warm water.

  3. Add Detergent

    Select a heavy-duty detergent like Tide or Persil that contains enzymes to break apart stains and heavy soil. Add the recommended amount per load size to the washing machine. Load in the clothing and begin the cycle.

  4. Dry

    Remove clothing from washer and place in dryer. Select the permanent press setting and start the dryer. You can also opt to air-dry on a clothing rack.

  5. Fold or Hang

Fold loosely-knitted polyester pieces and place them in drawers. Woven items and tightly-knit items, such as shirt, dresses or pants, can be hung.

Chlorine Bleach and Polyester Clothes

As with most fabrics, white polyester clothes can become dingy and even yellowed. Even bright polyester colors can become dull due to dye transfer from other materials or detergent or fabric softener residue left in the fibers.

The key to brightening and whitening polyester is avoiding chlorine beach as it strips away the fiber's outer coating to reveal the yellow inner core. Instead, opt for oxygen bleach and warm water. Mix enough water and oxygen bleach solution following package directions to submerge the fabrics completely. Allow the dingy clothes to soak in the solution for several hours and then wash as usual.

Ironing

One of the most significant selling points of polyester is its non-wrinkling qualities. However, if polyester does become heavily wrinkled or creased, it can be tough to smooth the fabric. The best way to release creases is by ironing with steam on a medium heat setting. If that doesn't work, you can try using a clothing steamer.

Tips for Washing Polyester

  • Do not overload washer—clothes should move freely.
  • Remove clothing immediately at the end of the cycle and do not overdry.
  • Hang garments on hangers after drying to allow wrinkles to relax and fall out over a few hours.

Repairs

Rips in the seams of polyester clothing are simple to repair by hand or machine-sewing with matching thread. However, holes in the body of the fabric cannot be repaired without leaving an obvious repair. Polyester will not unravel and holes will usually not grow larger if left alone. For expensive items, consult a professional seamstress or tailor.

Storing Polyester

Polyester clothes can be hug or stacked flat. If you fold polyester clothes, they tend to wrinkle. Polyester garments can be safely stored in a plastic tub or hung in a garment bag to protect them from dust. Always store freshly-laundered items that are thoroughly dry.

What Is Polyester? 

You can thank British scientists John Whinfield and James Dickson for the development of the first polyester fiber, Terylene, in 1941. Their work was inspired by the discovery of DuPont scientist, W.H. Carothers, who is the inventor of nylon. Carothers found that alcohols and carboxyl acids could be successfully mixed to create fibers. 

The name comes from poly (meaning many) and ester (a basic organic chemical compound). Ethylene, a derivative of petroleum, is the main ingredient in the manufacturing of polyester. It can be distilled from oil or recycled from previously manufactured plastics.

Following the end of World War II, DuPont bought the rights to manufacture polyester, and the rest is history. Today, more than 50 percent of the world's clothing is made from polyester. You'll find polyester fibers in nearly every category of fabric from sheer tulle to heavy upholstery and carpets.

Polyester can be manufactured into four different finished forms:

  • Filament is a continuous strand that can be woven or knit into a smooth-surfaced fabric of varying weights.
  • Staple fibers are created by cutting the filament into predetermined short lengths. These fibers can then be combined with other fibers to create blends like poly-cotton.
  • Tow polyester is made from continuous filaments that are drawn loosely together. Tow produces a dense, rope-like fiber that can be left long or cut into shorter lengths for carpet.
  • Fiberfill is very thin, short lengths of fibers that create the fluffy, voluminous material used to fill pillows or provide insulation layers in bed linens and outerwear.