How to Wash and Care for Olefin Clothes
Olefin is a trademarked name for fabrics made from synthetic-based polypropylene fibers. From it, DuPont produces Tyvek fabric that's used for disposable outerwear, wristbands, and shipping supplies, and it's made up of 25 percent recycled materials. The fibers can also be woven into a heavy textile, such as carpeting, or into a soft, lightweight fabric that can be used for socks or athletic wear. It's ideal for activewear because it wicks away moisture from the body. Learning how to clean polypropylene fabric is easy, but requires knowing a few tips to keep garments in good shape.
Read on to see the best way to wash olefin clothing.
The 9 Best Laundry Detergents for Workout ClothesRead Now
The 10 Best Laundry Detergents of 2023, Tested and ReviewedRead Now
The 8 Best Smelling Laundry Detergents of 2023Read Now
The 12 Best Laundry Stain Removers of 2023, Tested and ReviewedRead Now
The 8 Best Dryer Sheets of 2023Read Now
The 10 Best Fabric Softeners of 2023Read Now
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washer or large sink
- Automatic dryer, outdoor clothesline, or drying rack
- Clothes steamer (optional)
- Laundry detergent
- Stain remover
- Oxygen bleach (optional)
- Fabric softener or dryer sheets (optional)
|How to Clean and Care for Olefin Clothes|
|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|
|How Often to Wash||When necessary, or after each wearing depending on the item|
Check for Stains and Pretreat
Olefin garments are durable and tough, but they do hold onto oily stains. These are easily removed if treated immediately. Use a stain remover or a dab of heavy-duty detergent. Work the stain remover into the area with your fingers, and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the garment.
It's 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 it almost impossible to remove.
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 bleach like 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's 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.
Select a Detergent
While you can use any laundry detergent to wash olefin, you'll get the best results from a heavy-duty detergent like Tide or Persil that contains enough stain-busting enzymes to break apart and lift stains and body soil from the fabric fibers.
Select Water Temperature
Olefin can be washed in cold or warm water. Like most synthetic fibers, high temperatures in the washer can cause olefin fibers to melt and stick together, shrink, or deform. Excessively hot water can create permanent wrinkles during the spin cycle, which are impossible to remove.
Choose 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.
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.
Skip the Iron
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 can't be reversed. If you use a clothes steamer, keep the nozzle at least 6 inches from the surface of the garment, and keep it moving to avoid overheating in one spot.
What is Olefin?
Olefin fibers were first produced in Italy in 1957. 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 manufacturing to change the characteristics of the fibers, depending on how they will be used.
Olefin is less expensive to produce and more environmentally friendly than many other synthetic fabrics because there are little to no waste byproducts. According to a leading maker of chemical-free fabric, It's actually greener than wool, cotton, rayon, and silk. Plus, olefin can also be recycled to create new fabrics.
Olefin fabric can be found in activewear, thermal underwear, hoodies, socks, and lining fabrics for coats and boots. Olefin traps sweat and keeps it away from your skin, which means the fabric becomes damp from sweating, but it will dry very fast.
Treating Stains on Olefin
The biggest problem with olefin fabrics is that oil bonds with the fiber to create tough stains. Try removing oil-based stains by dabbing the item with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. As a last resort, use chlorine bleach or oxygenated bleach on stains to remove any type of problem.
Care and Repairs
Olefin is strong but lightweight and it may rip. Depending on the weave, you can use a needle and thread to repair a rip. Or use a self-adhesive patch or liquid fabric adhesive to repair the item, but do not choose any product that involves using an iron.
Don't press olefin fabrics with an iron at any temperature setting.
Olefin fabric is more often used for outdoor cushions, upholstery, or indoor rugs, but you may encounter activewear clothing made from this durable fiber. Keep the items dry and clean, and store them in a drawer or closet where the fibers have a chance to breathe.
How Often to Wash Olefin
Since olefin is now usually used for sports and activewear garments, the fabric should be washed after each wearing.
Tips for Washing Olefin
- Do not overload the washer because that can cause excessive wrinkling.
- Reapply a waterproofing spray every six months to a year to keep your olefin item water-resistant.
- Dry-cleaning olefin is not recommended because solvent can damage the fibers.
- Olefin is slow to fade because it is solution-dyed (fibers are dyed through) so it is okay to soak the fabric if necessary to clean it.
- Pilling is a common occurrence with olefin; synthetics pill more often than natural fibers. Remove pills with a lint roller, tape, or a fabric shaver, but do not attempt to brush off the pills.
What else is polypropylene used to make?
Olefin is highly resistant to damage from moisture and chemicals, which is why it's often used for indoor-outdoor carpets and 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 doesn't rot.
Can you put polypropylene in the washing machine?
Yes. However, always use cool or warm water when washing and cold water in the rinse cycle. Hot temperatures can damage the fiber.
What are the disadvantages of olefin?
Olefin is very heat-sensitive, and it can be damaged by friction. Exposure to oils can also become permanent stains on olefin garments, as well as carpets made with polypropylene fiber.
Pulipati D, Jack D. Characterization and Model Validation for Large Format Chopped Fiber, Foamed, Composite Structures Made from Recycled Olefin Based Polymers. Polymers (Basel). 2020;12(6):1371. doi:10.3390/polym12061371.