How to Wash and Remove Stains from Olefin Fabric

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What is Olefin Fabric?

Olefin is a trademarked name for fabrics made with synthetic polypropylene and polyethylene fibers. DuPont produces Tyvek fabric that is used for disposable outerwear, wristbands, and shipping supplies from olefin that is made up of 25 percent recycled materials.

Olefin is highly resistant to damage from moisture and chemicals. That's why it is often used for indoor/outdoor carpets and in automobile interiors. The fabric is colorfast because dyes are added to the polymer solution before the fabric is manufactured. Olefin is low static, abrasion resistant, stain resistant, and quick drying. Seams and hems can be thermally bonded to create a strong fabric and it does not rot.

The fibers can be woven into a heavy textile such as carpeting or into a soft, supple lightweight fabric that can be used for socks or athletic wear. It is valued in workout and activewear because it wicks away moisture from the body.

The product was first produced in 1958 as olefin monofilament and then in 1961 as multifilament polypropylene for use in fabrics. The olefin chemicals are melted and run through a spinneret to form a long fiber that solidifies during a cooling process. Additives are added during the manufacturing to change the characteristics of the fibers depending on how they will be used.

Olefin is less expensive to produce than other man-made fabrics. It is also more environmentally friendly than many other synthetic fabrics because there are little to no waste byproducts. Olefin can also be recycled to create new fabrics.

How to Care for and Remove Stains from Clothes Made of Olefin Fabric

Olefin fabrics are durable and tough but they do hold onto oily stains. Oil stains are easily removed if treated immediately. Use a pre-treater on stains and wash in warm water with a heavy-duty detergent (Tide or Persil are brand names) that contains enough stain-busting enzymes to break apart and lift the oil from the fabric fibers. It is very important to check olefin garments for stains and treat for the specific stain before washing because the heat from a clothes dryer or iron will set the stain and make the stain almost impossible to remove.

While chlorine bleach can be used, the safest way to brighten and whiten olefin clothes is to use an oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite). Follow the package directions as to how much product to add per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the color. If it is back to normal, wash as usual. If the item remains dull or stained, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the dullness or stain but it should come out.

As with most synthetic fibers, high temperatures in the washer or dryer can cause olelin fibers to melt and stick together, shrink or deform. Always use cool or warm water when washing and cold water in the rinse cycle. Excessively hot water can create permanent wrinkles during the spin cycle which are impossible to remove.

A clothes steamer can sometimes remove set-in wrinkles but the high heat required can also cause melting and create holes. And, heat from the steamer may cause the garment to shrink and that cannot be reversed. Do not press with a standard iron at any temperature setting.

Tips to Prevent Wrinkling of Olefin Clothes

  • Do not overload washer; clothes should have room to move freely through the wash water.
  • Use cold or warm water for washing and rinsing.
  • Air dry clothes by hanging or dry flat. Olefin dries very quickly.
  • If quicker drying is a must, use a low temperature, air only setting on your tumble dryer. No high heat.
  • Remove clothing immediately at the end of the dryer cycle while still damp and do not overdry.
  • Hang garments on hangers after washing or wearing to allow wrinkles to relax or fall out over a few hours.

Dry cleaning is not recommended. Olefin fabrics can be damaged by the perchloroethylene solvent used by some dry cleaners. Olefin is resistant to trichloroethylene and fluorocarbon solutions. If you do decide to dry clean an item, be certain to ask your dry cleaner about the type of solution used.