Care of Natural Fabrics
Nowadays, more and more people are turning their backs on man-made textiles and returning to natural fabrics as they rediscover their benefits. With a little extra care and knowledge, they can be just as easy to wash and wear as many synthetics.
The most widely used natural fibre is cotton. Cotton comes from the seed pod of the cotton plant and has many useful properties. It absorbs and releases perspiration and can take dyes easily. It can be washed at high temperatures and is hard wearing. As 100% cotton creases easily, it has been blended with synthetic fibres such as polyester to help retain an unwrinkled appearance but this has reduced its ability to keep the wearer cool in hot weather.
So the demand for pure cotton garments has continued and, with an understanding of the proper care, cotton is still a most useful fabric to wear. Always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and select the most appropriate wash cycle. With energy saving now a priority, some high street stores are encouraging washing at 30 degrees. As long as stains are treated swiftly, this should be adequate for most garments. For cotton towels, don’t use fabric softener as this prevents them from being absorbent. Cotton needs quite a hot iron; make sure that your iron is set correctly and steaming or pressing will remove creases easily. It is better to iron cotton before it is completely dry.
Linen is also manufactured from a plant, the flax, but this time the stem of the plant is used. The ancient Egyptians produced linen of a very high quality and, as well as wearing linen garments, they used the fabric to wrap mummies. Linen is noted for its lustre and its strength, and its softness increases with washing. As before, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and deal with stains immediately. Use a mild detergent and don’t wring linen. Again, iron linen while still damp and use the appropriate heat setting. Light coloured linen can be ironed on either side, but only iron dark linen on the wrong side.
Wool is usually thought of as being from the fleece of the sheep but it also comes from a variety of other animals such as the alpaca, goat (mohair and cashmere), rabbit (angora) and camel. Wool fibres have a natural crimp and this forms pockets of air which give insulation to the wearer. It also gives the fibre elasticity—hanging up your woollen garments for 24 hours will remove creases. Damp bathrooms are excellent for wrinkle removal. Wool is susceptible to moth larvae damage if garments are stored unwashed. By only storing cleaned garments, this problem should be avoided.
Wool requires a much cooler wash than cotton or linen as otherwise it will felt or shrink. Follow the care label’s instructions and dry flat. Wool is naturally dirt resistant but if stained, it should be treated at once. Press on the wrong side, using a damp cloth, rather than iron wool. Silk is made from the cocoons spun by silkworms. The lustre of silk is due to the fact that the filaments are smooth and regular. Silk is stronger than cotton but is damaged by sunlight, which turns it yellow, and water, which leaves water marks. Perfumes, hair spray and nail polish all damage silk so don’t put on silk garments until your preparations are complete. Perspiration and deodorants also discolour silk so it is best to wear a garment shield to protect it.
If you spill something on silk, do not use water to remove it as this may set the stain and mark the fabric. Handwash silk items in lukewarm water with a mild detergent (shampoo works well) and don’t wring. Roll in a towel to absorb moisture and dry on a hanger away from sunlight. Use a cool iron while still damp.
If you’re not entirely sure about what each care symbol means,
www.care-labelling.co.uk gives you all the information you need.
And if you wish to use eco-friendly laundry products, the following websites will give you information.
For hints on stain removal, try