How to Clean and Care for Rayon Clothes

A white blouse on a brown hanger

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Rayon fabrics are made from cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp. While the fibers are natural, the material is manufactured by treating them with chemicals. Rayon fabrics can be labeled as viscose, lyocell, modal, or even simply rayon. Regardless of the name, they're some of the most popular fabrics used for clothing and home accessories today due to their low-cost base materials and versatility.

Caring for rayon can be tricky, as it can shrink and become misshapen if the water or dryer is too hot. All washable rayon clothing should be treated as delicate. If the garment's label states "dry clean only," follow that advice. Or risk destroying the garment because it may not have a protective finish and could shrink, fade, or bleed. Viscose rayon is especially fragile, so always follow the label's instructions.

How Often to Clean Rayon Clothes

Even if you wash a rayon garment after every wearing, it'll hold up well over time if you hand-wash the item. Hand-washing is gentle enough to prevent damage, but never wring or twist the wet fabric. Unstructured rayon garments like unlined dresses, tops, and scarves can be hand-washed using cool water and a gentle detergent.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sink or large bucket
  • Thick cotton towel

Materials

  • Gentle laundry detergent

Instructions

A white towel, a bottle of detergent, and a bowl

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

How to Wash Rayon Fabric
Detergent Mild 
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine-dry
Special Treatments Hand-washing recommended
Iron Settings Medium heat
  1. Pretreat Stains

    Remove stains by following stain removal tips for the specific type of stain. Rayon fibers can be weakened by chlorine bleach, even if it's diluted. A better option for stain removal, whitening, and brightening is to use an oxygen bleach (e.g., OxiClean, Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, OXO Brite).

    Someone pretreating a stain on a rayon garment

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  2. Double-Check the Care Label

    Rayon is a complex fabric and needs gentle care. Always read and heed the care tag labels for your specific garment or accessory.

    The care tag on a white rayon top

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  3. Mix a Washing Solution

    Fill a sink or large bucket with cold water, and add gentle detergent, mixing well. Submerge the rayon item.

    A rayon garment submerged in water with detergent

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  4. Gently Agitate

    Gently agitate the item in the sudsy water to completely saturate and loosen the soil. Allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes.

    Someone agitating a rayon garment

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  5. Rinse in Cool Water

    Rinse in cool water until the soap is gone and the water runs clear.

    Someone rinsing a garment in cool water

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  6. Gently Remove Excess Water

    Place the wet garment on a thick cotton towel, and roll it up to absorb most of the water. When rayon fibers are wet, they lose nearly half of their strength and can easily tear or become misshapen—which is why you should skip the washer and tumble dryer.

    Gently pull and shape the garment back to its original shape and size as it begins drying. Don't leave it in a crumpled mess. Set-in wrinkles can be difficult to remove later.

    Someone rolling a damp garment in a thick towel

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  7. Allow to Air-Dry

    Allow the garment to air-dry flat, or hang to drip-dry, ideally using a padded hanger so the shoulders won't stretch or crease. 

    A white rayon top hanging from a hanger

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

What is Rayon?

Rayon is a manufactured fabric made from purified cellulose, usually derived from wood pulp. Although rayon contains naturally occurring products, it's heavily processed with chemicals, so it's considered a semi-synthetic fiber.

Rayon fabrics are soft, have an excellent drape, and can be easily dyed for brilliant color. A lightweight fabric, rayon is prized for its breathability and moisture absorbency. However, some rayon fabrics lose stability when wet and can shrink and distort.

Ironing

Many rayon fabrics wrinkle excessively when washed and will require ironing. Rayon irons best when the fabric is slightly damp. Use a medium-hot iron, and always iron on the wrong (opposite) side of the fabric. For extra protection, use a pressing cloth between the iron and the rayon fabric. Ironing could cause shiny spots on the rayon if the iron directly touches it. If possible, steam out wrinkles rather than pressing the fabric directly with an iron. Ironing at a high temperature can scorch cellulosic fibers. The scorching or yellowing occurs as the fibers begin to burn. Light scorching can often be removed, but burned rayon fibers cannot be revived.

Storing Rayon Clothes

Store rayon items by hanging or folding them and placing them flat on a shelf. However, don't use metal hangers for your rayon clothes because the garments can quickly develop rust spots.

Repairs

Rayon may easily rip when wet. Use polyester thread and a sharp needle when mending tears. Some rayon blends may snag. Fix a snag by coaxing it from the front of the fabric to the wrong side with a needle. A stubborn snag requires a needle and thread. Take the needle up from the back of the fabric through the snag. Stab the snag with the needle; thread and pull it back to the wrong side of the fabric.

Though rayon tends to stretch out, it also can shrink if not carefully dried. Repairing shrunken rayon clothing is almost the same process as unshrinking wool. Fill a large sink or tub with lukewarm water, add a capful of hair conditioner, mix, submerge the garment, and massage it to saturate the fibers. Rinse in cold water, press out the excess water, and then put the rayon on a clean dry towel. Gently stretch the fabric, continuing to do so as it dries.

Treating Stains on Rayon Clothes

Stains can be quite visible on rayon but often come out when washed. Remove a stubborn stain on rayon by applying a solution containing equal parts white vinegar and water to the area. Let sit for 10 minutes. Gently blot the stain with a clean wet towel, and then finish blotting with a dry towel. Repeat if necessary.

Tips for Washing Rayon Clothes

  • Some manufacturing processes produce colorfast, sturdy rayon fabrics that can be machine-washed. But other types must be handled with care to prevent damage to the garment.
  • If you must machine-wash a rayon item, turn it inside out and put it in a mesh washing bag. Wash it in cold water on the delicate cycle with a low spin cycle.
  • It's best not to machine-dry a rayon item, as it can destroy the fabric. If you can't avoid the dryer, keep the item in the mesh bag, and dry it on the lowest heat possible.
  • Treat rayon gently when handling because aggressive agitation breaks fibers and causes the fabric to pill or take on a fuzzy appearance.