How to Clean and Care for Olefin Clothes

olefin fabric
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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.

Avoid the Dry Cleaner

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.

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 Wash Olefin Clothes
Detergent Regular laundry detergent
Water Temperature Cool to Warm
Washer Cycle Permanent Press
Drying Cycle Low or Air-dry
Special Treatments Pretreat stains (especially oily stains), never dry clean
Ironing Setting Never iron, use clothes steamer to remove severe wrinkles

Project Metrics

There are a few factors to keep in mind before washing olefin.

Working time: 15 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how soiled the item is)

Total time: 1.25 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Laundry detergent
  • Stain remover
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)
  • Fabric softener or dryer sheets (optional)

Tools

  • Washer or large sink for hand washing
  • Automatic dryer, outdoor clothesline or indoor drying rack
  • Clothes steamer (optional)

Instructions

  1. Check for Stains and Pretreat

    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 or dab of a heavy-duty detergent.Work the stain remover into the area with your fingers and allow it work for at least 15 minutes before washing the garment.

    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.

  2. Treat Dingy White Olefin Clothes

    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 stains like dye transfer but they should improve.

  3. Select a Detergent

    While you can use any laundry detergent to wash olefin, using a heavy duty detergent (Tide or Persil are brand names) that contains enough stain-busting enzymes to break apart and lift stains and body soil from the fabric fibers will give you the best results.

  4. Choose a Water Temperature

    Olefin can be washed in cold or warm water. As with most synthetic fibers, high temperatures in the washer 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.

  5. Select Washing Machine Cycle Setting

    Olefin should be washed using the Permanent Press cycle. This setting includes a cooling down period and a reduced speed spin cycle that will help reduce wrinkling. Try not to overload the washer because that can cause excessive wrinkling.

  6. Drying Options

    Olefin fabrics are lightweight and dry quickly. An outdoor clothesline or indoor drying rack are the best options. Excessively high heat in the dryer can permanently damage olefin fabrics. If you must use an automatic dryer, select the low temperature, air only setting and remove the garments while still slightly damp.

  7. Skip the Iron

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

If you use a clothes steamer, keep the nozzle at least six inches from the surface of the garment and keep it moving to avoid overheating in one spot.