Polyester is a synthetic fiber that is most commonly used for clothing. Often favored for its resistance to stretching, shrinking, wrinkles, and abrasions, it is often used to make outdoor or activewear.
Despite its many strengths, polyester is actually highly sensitive to heat, which can make it difficult to know how to wash this fabric.
When placed under high heat, polyester can melt, so using hot water is completely out of the question.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t able to machine wash any polyester fabrics.
You can both machine or hand wash polyester, as long as you’re using a cold or low heat setting or tepid water.
Luckily, when it comes to washing polyester garments and fabrics, it can be a relatively easy task once you know-how, and we’re here to help you out.
Read on to find out some more helpful tips for washing 100% polyester fabrics.
What Is Polyester?
As mentioned, polyester is a synthetic woven fabric that is known for being durable, and relatively inexpensive to make.
It was first invented in 1941 by a group of British chemists and rose to prominence during the 1970s.
Since then, polyester and polyester blends have become the most popular synthetic materials in the world.
Polyester is derived from petroleum and is chemically composed of compounds within the ester functional group.
Purified terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol are melted down together to produce polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Manufacturers will then take the molon PET and put it through a spinneret, where it will form into semi-crystalline fibers.
The fibers will then be chemically treated before being weaved together to create polyester fabric.
Characteristics Of Polyester
Each fabric has its own set of characteristics that help determine its best use. Some of the most prominent characteristics of polyester include:
Polyester can resist liquid droplets, which means that any moisture that falls onto the fabric will slide away, rather than soak in.
This makes polyester an extremely popular material to use for outdoor clothing and gear – like tents – to keep the rain away.
However, because of its moisture resistance, polyester is a less breathable fabric.
This means that if you sweat whilst wearing polyesters, the moisture will be trapped, which can make you feel quite hot and sticky.
Polyester fibers are incredibly strong, which means that they don’t stretch or tear as easily as cotton or other natural fibers.
Because of its strength, polyester materials can handle any abrasions from machine-washing and do not need any specialist care.
Also, its durability is another reason why polyester is a popular material choice for outdoor clothing and gear.
Keeps Its Shape
Whilst cotton and linen fabrics can wrinkle quickly (which usually requires iron to sort out), polyester is wrinkle-resistant, which means that it holds its shape better, and keeps a rigid form.
It’s this factor that made polyester especially popular in the 1970s as it required less washing and didn’t need ironing.
One of the drawbacks of polyester is that it is non-biodegradable. Unlike its natural counterparts, polyester will not break down over time and tends to clog up landfills.
Because of this, polyester can have a pretty negative environmental impact.
It’s Rough / Coarse
Unlike natural fabrics like cotton or silk, polyester doesn’t have a particularly luxurious feel to it. This is because it is cheaply made, and polyester can feel coarse against sensitive skin.
However, polyester can be created and weaved in different ways which can affect its texture, and how it feels against your skin.
Most Common Uses Of Polyester
As mentioned, polyester is one of the most popular textiles in the world and has several uses in both fashion and interior decor. Some of these uses include:
As polyester is both moisture-resistant, and durable, it’s a pretty common choice of fabric to use for outdoor apparel which needs to keep dry during wet, or damp weather.
Windbreakers and parkas are often made from polyesters.
Bags / Backpacks
Backpacks, workout bags, and tote bags are often made from either polyester or polyester blends as it’s cheap, moisture-resistant, and durable.
Polyester is also used for home furnishings and other interior decors. From bed sheets and tablecloths to curtains and drapes, polyester is used in a variety of ways.
Polyester and polyester nylon blends are the basic materials needed to make microfiber fabrics. Microfiber cloths are most commonly used for polishing, or gently cleaning glass surfaces.
Washing 100% Polyester
Polyester is considered to be quite a difficult fabric to wash, dry, and care for.
Despite its durability, it can be quite a sensitive fabric to wash, mainly due to its inability to withstand hot temperatures.
With that being said, polyester laundry doesn’t necessarily have to be a painful experience, and as long as you read the instructions on the care label attached to polyester garments and materials, then everything should be okay.
Let’s take a look at the best and most popular ways to wash polyester fabrics.
Can You Wash Polyester Fabrics Using Hot Water?
As polyester is a synthetic fabric that is obtained from petroleum, you should never wash polyester using hot water.
Any type of heat, whether that’s from water or a dryer, can cause polyester to melt.
To protect polyester’s delicate fibers, make sure you wash any polyester fabrics either with warm water by hand or on a low machine setting.
Can You Wash Polyester Using Cold Water?
It is perfectly safe to wash polyester in cold water. Using a cold or cool temperature setting will prevent any possible shrinkage or damage that may come from using warmer temperatures.
Make sure that you choose the lowest setting possible on your machine to get a cold wash. To prevent any damage, it’s best to wash polyester fabrics in cold water by hand.
Keeping your polyester clothes in top condition means that they will last longer.
What Temperature Should 100% Polyester Be Washed At?
This often depends on the instructions provided on the care label of a garment and may differ accordingly.
However, it is most ideal to wash polyester fabrics in cold water. As a general rule of thumb, polyester should not be washed in temperatures that exceed 40°C (104°F).
If there is no care label, or you are unsure about what temperature to wash your polyester fabrics at, hand washes polyester in lukewarm water.
Can You Wash Polyester Fabrics At The Same Time As Cotton Fabrics?
It is possible to wash polyester and cotton fabrics at the same time, but you need to make sure that the wash setting is set to a temperature of 40°C.
Although cotton can handle higher temperatures, this may cause polyester garments to shrink, lose their shape, or even melt.
When washing poly-cotton blends, always check the care label or wash them on low heat.
As polyester fabrics can be quite delicate, don’t add any heavy cotton garments (like denim) to a polyester clothes wash.
Can Polyester Be Bleached?
When bleaching polyester, make sure that you avoid any chlorine-based bleaches. As a synthetic material, bleach can be too harsh for polyester and can end up damaging the fabric.
Most polyester garment care labels will warn you against using bleach.
Although chlorine-based bleach can’t be used on polyester fibers, there is a fabric cleaner that you may be able to use to bleach polyester.
It’s called Oxygen Bleach, and can even be used to return brightness to white garments.
Make sure you always put the label on both the garment and the product before using any bleach.
How To Wash 100% Polyester
When it comes to keeping your polyester garments looking new, there are some general care instructions that you should follow.
Most garments have a care label, and this label will tell you what fabric the garment is made from, and what percentage of that material it is.
The care label will also include instructions on how you should wash and dry the garment.
For instance, there will be several diagrams that will indicate the maximum temperature at which the garment can be washed, as well as if the garment should be machine washed or dry cleaned.
Care labels will also note whether or not a garment can be ironed.
Care labels are easily found and are usually attached to the side seam, or under the collar or waistband of garments.
How To Hand Wash 100% Polyester Clothing
When it comes to polyester clothing, hand washing is usually the safest option.
This is because machines are often quite rough on polyester, especially if the polyester is blended with another delicate fabric like spandex or silk.
The rotating action of a machine can cause polyester fabrics to snag, which may lead to tears.
When handwashing, you have better control of the pressure and how gentle you can be with your garments.
Also, as there is nothing that your garment may catch on or pull against, the risk of snagging the fabric will be reduced.
Although hand-washing may seem time-consuming, it is the most delicate way to wash sensitive polyester fibers.
Step 1: Use Lukewarm Water
Start by filling a sink or bowl with warm water. You’ll want to make sure that the water is warm enough to lift any dirt, but you also don’t want to make it too hot, just in case it ruins the polyester fibers.
To be on the safe side, make sure that the water is cool enough for you to comfortably sit your hands in.
Once your sink or bowl is filled with water, you should add washing detergent, but make sure that it doesn’t contain any fabric conditioner or bleach.
Once the detergent is added, mix the detergent with the water until it becomes a soapy consistency.
Step 2: Place Your Garment In The Soap And Water
Next, you can place your polyester garment into the water and detergent mix until it is completely submerged.
Try not to add too many garments at once as this can affect the washing process. The key is to make sure that the garment is completely wet.
Step 3: Leave To Soak
Once submerged, leave the garment to soak for around 10 to 15 minutes. This should allow for enough time for the detergent to lift away any dirt particles without any scrubbing.
Step 4: Gently Swirl The Garment
Carefully swirl the item around in the water, but avoid twisting or scrubbing as this can damage the polyester fibers.
Step 5: Drain And Rinse
After all of the dirt has been lifted from the garment, you can remove it from the sink or bowl and drain the water away.
Next, rinse the garment with water until all of the soap has disappeared. Do this until the water coming off the garment runs clear.
Step 6: Remove The Excess Water
Drain the excess water from the garments without scrunching or wringing as this can damage the fabric.
Instead, fold the garment and gently press it against a hard surface until the water stops dripping out.
Alternatively, you can roll the fabric up into a towel, as this will absorb any excess moisture. Again, try not to squeeze the fabric as this creates wrinkles and leads to damage.
Step 7: Leave To Dry
Once the excess water has been removed, leave your polyester garment to air dry, using a clothesline or a hanger.
It’s important to keep the garment away from direct sunlight as this can cause damage.
Polyester also tends to dry quickly, which means you should be able to wear your garment again as soon as possible.
How To Machine Wash 100% Polyester
Although some manufacturers advise only hand washing polyester because the fibers can be quite delicate, it is possible to machine wash polyester fabrics.
However, this needs to be done with care, as machines can be a little extreme and vigorous movements can lead to pulls and tears.
Although hand washing is the better option for polyester, it can be a time-consuming task, which puts most people off.
The fact that you can machine wash polyester means that items get more frequently washed, rather than leaving your polyester garments to fester at the bottom of your washing basket.
When polyester is left unwashed, it often retains smells that attract bacteria, which makes it harder to clean.
Step 1: Take Precautions
The biggest problem related to machine washing polyester is pilling. This is where the fabric forms little balls of fluff on the surface, which can look unattractive.
When placed in a washing machine, polyester fabrics can catch on the machine or other items in the load, which can cause pilling to happen.
To prevent this, make sure you turn your clothing inside out before you place it in the machine.
Also, make sure that any zippers are done up so that they don’t get caught on any other garments.
Step 2: Choose A Washing Machine Setting
As polyester is sensitive to heat, you must avoid hot washes altogether. It’s best to use either a warm wash or cold wash setting.
It’s even better if your machine has a synthetics setting.
If your machine doesn’t have a synthetics or delicate setting, check to see if there is a no-spin option and remove the water by hand (as you would if you were hand washing the garments).
Step 3: Add The Detergent
For polyester, it’s best to use an ordinary detergent that doesn’t contain any tough stain remover or fabric softener.
Although they can be extra useful, these detergents can be too harsh for polyester fibers and may cause pilling or color damage.
Instead, opt for a regular detergent that can wash synthetics.
Step 4: Check The Temperature Settings
Before you start the wash cycle, make sure that you check the temperature at which your machine is set. The temperature mustn’t exceed the recommended temperature stated on the care label.
Step 5: Adding Other Garments That Need To Be Washed
Most people rarely use their machines unless they have a lot of garments that need to be washed.
However, this may be an issue if you don’t have a lot of dirty polyester items.
Luckily, you can wash polyester with other different types of fabrics, and as it’s colorfast, it won’t bleed onto any other fabrics in your load – just make sure that the temperature isn’t too hot.
It’s also best to avoid any heavy items (particularly jeans), or anything with any rough edges or velcro, which may damage your polyester garments.
Step 6: Dry
It’s best to allow polyester to air dry, but if you need to use a dryer, it’s important to leave it on the lowest heat setting for the shortest amount of time.
If you over dry polyester, you can cause the fabric to shrink, or even lose its color. Also, using high heat can melt the fabric.
These steps work for most garments such as sweaters, pants, shirts, and dresses, however, some polyester items need some special care.
Polyester jackets can be washed in the same way as most other polyester garments, however, jackets are designed to be waterproof, they often require extra care.
Make sure that you read the care label to check whether your jacket has a special finish.
It’s important to keep it simple and use a washing detergent that has been made for sensitive fabrics. Do not use bleach or fabric softener, and leave the jacket to air dry.
Make sure you wash polyester blankets on their own and use cold water.
As blankets are bulky items, it’s best to wash them in a machine, but try and use a mesh washing bag, as this will prevent the blanket from catching or snagging on anything.
Again, avoid bleach or fabric conditioner, and choose a low or no spin cycle. Leave to air dry.
Due to the enormity of comforters, you probably won’t be able to wash it by hand, and when it’s wet, it’s often too heavy to manipulate.
It also may be too heavy for your machine too, so you may have to take it to a laundromat where they have industrial-sized machines.
In general, you should wash polyester comforters in cool or warm water, and make sure you’re avoiding fabric softeners or bleach.
For polyester pillows, it’s best to hand wash in the same way you would hand wash polyester garments.
However, make sure you shake out any excess water properly before you leave the pillows to air dry, as this will help speed up the drying process.
If time is not on your side you can also machine wash polyester pillows, but only do so if you have a mesh laundry bag.
It’s also important that you put them on the gentlest of spin cycles to avoid any damage.
Curtains gather dust quite easily, so before you wash them, make sure you give them a quick vacuum which will remove any large dust clumps.
To machine wash, use a cold or cool setting that has a delicate spin. Permanent press is the most ideal setting for polyester as it is the least harsh.
Again, make sure that your detergent doesn’t contain any fabric softener or bleach.
To machine dry, make sure you’re using a low heat setting until the curtains are mostly dry.
You’ll then want to rehang them whilst they’re damp as they’ll complete the drying process at the window.
This will help prevent the fabric from wrinkling.
How To Remove Grease Stains From Polyester
As soon as you notice a grease stain on any of your polyester garments or fabrics, you need to remove it as soon as possible.
By reacting quickly, you reduce the risk of the stain remaining permanently.
Step 1: Apply Some Salt To The Stain
Although this sounds a little weird, salt can absorb grease from polyester fabrics. So, start by gently rubbing some salt on the stained area of the fabric and leaving it for an hour.
Step 2: Shake The Salt Off Of The Garment
After the salt has been left to work its magic, you can shake the salt off of the garment.
Once the salt has all gone, grab some paper towels and place them under the stained area, making sure that the stain is facing downwards.
Step 3: Use Stain Remover
Soak the stained area with some stain remover which is suitable for use with polyester fabrics.
Use a clean paper towel to gently dab the area of the stain. Regularly replace the paper towels which you placed under the stain as they absorb the grease and stain remover.
Step 4: Leave To Dry
Once all of the greases have come out of the garment, leave it to air dry. Once dry you can rinse out the stain remover using cold water.
Step 5: Wash The Polyester Fabric
Rub some synthetic-friendly detergent onto the stained area of your garment, and wash it at the hottest temperature that it can withstand (check the care instructions).
Once washed, leave the garment to air dry once more.
Washing Polyester Blends
As polyester is a relatively cheap material to produce, it is often blended with other materials to help lower manufacturing costs.
However, it can be tricky to know how to wash these polyester blends.
Read on to find out how.
How To Wash Polyester-Cotton Blends
Fabrics made of 50% polyester and 50% cotton tend to have the best quality of both materials. The polyester will allow for the fabric to dry faster, and the cotton will make the fabric tougher.
However, poly-cotton blends are still sensitive to heat, but they’re not as sensitive as 100% polyester fabrics.
50/50 fabrics can be washed on medium heat and can be ironed as long as the temperature is turned down.
Just be sure to read the care instructions for more details.
How To Wash Polyester-Spandex Blends
Although polyester isn’t a very breathable fabric, it is moisture-resistant which makes it a great choice for workout wear, especially when paired with spandex.
Spandex can help take the sweat away from your skin, which leaves you feeling dry during your workouts.
However, it’s polyester’s water-resistance which means that you cannot use fabric softener whilst washing.
This is because fabric softener can often form a waxy coating on the surface of the fabric which will stop the moisture from drying.
In addition, using fabric softener on poly-spandex blends will make the fabric more prone to holding smells that will attract bacteria.
Wash on a cold heat setting and gentle spin, and try to air dry the garment as this is best for both spandex and polyester.
Again, make sure that you read the care label carefully for full washing instructions.
Once you know how to care for polyester it’s an easy fabric to wash, dry, and maintain.
Just remember, as it’s highly sensitive to certain things you need to steer clear of heat and chemicals (like fabric softener and bleach) that can damage your polyester garments.
When it comes to washing and drying your polyester fabrics, it’s always worth checking the instructions on the care label attached to your garments.
This will provide you with specific details regarding what temperature to wash the garment at, whether it’s machine washable, if it can be machine dried, and if it can be ironed.
We hope you have found this article helpful, and that you use our tips and tricks to help you wash your polyester fabrics!
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you leave us today, get your last-minute questions answered!
Can You Machine Wash 100% Polyester?
It is possible to machine wash 100% polyester, however, this fabric is highly sensitive to heat.
Make sure you pay attention to the instructions on the care label or only wash polyester fabrics on a cold or cool heat with a synthetic-friendly detergent.
Can Polyester Shrink When Washed?
Polyester is a synthetic material and is most known for its durability. Because of this, it’s unlikely to shrink, however, it is highly sensitive to heat.
Heat damage may cause 100% polyester fabrics to shrink, or even melt.
In addition, if polyester is blended with another fabric, such as cotton, there is a chance that the polyester blend fabric may shrink after washing.
To avoid any shrinkage try to air dry your polyester fabrics out of direct sunlight.
Can Polyester Be Machine Dried?
It is possible to machine dry polyester, however, polyester fibers are highly sensitive to heat.
When using a dryer you may find that your polyester fabrics shrink, or even melt, because of the heat.
It is always best to air dry polyester, however, if you want to use a dryer make sure that you’re using the lowest heat setting for the shortest amount of time.
This will help to prevent any damage like shrinkage.