Polyester is one of the most ubiquitous clothing materials thanks to qualities like durability, affordability and ease of care. But what is the best way to wash polyester? While polyester itself is quite hardy, aspects like dyes, construction and fabric blends impact how it should be cleaned. Read on for specialized polyester washing methods.

What is Polyester?

First, let’s review what defines this prevalent synthetic fabric:

A Manufactured Polymer

Polyester is a plastic-based polymer made from combining PET monomers in a chemical reaction. The long chain molecules form strong, stable fibers.

Mass Produced Cheaply

Unlike natural fabrics, polyester can be cheaply mass produced in factories with precise specifications, keeping costs low.

Wrinkle and Shrink Resistant

The molecular structure resists wrinkling and heat shrinkage, maintaining shape through repeated use and washing.

Durable and Quick Drying

Polyester is also abrasion resistant and quick drying, making it ideal for performance athleticwear.

Versatile Fiber Blends

Polyester can be blended with cotton, modal, spandex and more to create fabrics with combined benefits.

Used for Many Fabrics

From fleece to satin, polyester’s versatility allows it to be woven into many textiles with customized properties.

Thanks to its practical qualities, polyester works across many clothing types.

Is Polyester Machine Washable?

Polyester can generally handle home laundering well. However, take these precautions:

  • Wash in cold water – Hot water risks shrinkage of blended fabrics
  • Use gentle cycle – Harsh agitation can cause pilling and abrasion
  • Reduce drying heat – High temps increase chances of shrinking, and melted synthetics
  • Skip the dryer sheets – Polyester doesn’t absorb fabric softeners well anyway
  • Remove promptly – Prevent wrinkles from setting by promptly folding or hanging
  • Watch fugitive dyes – Some polyester prints and bright colors bleed more than others

With proper temperature and handling, polyester can be conveniently machine washed.

Washing Polyester Blend Fabrics

For polyester blended with natural fibers, make these adjustments:

Poly-Cotton Blends

Wash in warm or cool water. Hot water causes cotton to shrink but polyester to remain unchanged, skewing fabric shape.

Poly-Wool Blends

Use cool water and gentle cycle. Agitation can felt wool fibers while polyester withstands rougher handling.

Poly-Silk Blends

Choose a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Silk fibers require delicacy while polyester is more rugged.

Poly-Spandex Blends

Skip the dryer, air dry instead. Heat deteriorates spandex elasticity over time while polyester retains shape.

Poly-Linen Blends

Line dry or dry on low. High heat shrinks linen but poly maintains fit. Shake out wrinkles promptly.

When blended, Polyester’s washing needs change based on the companion fiber properties.

Special Cases for Polyester Care

Certain polyester items require extra modifications:

Outdoor Performance Wear

Use specialty sport detergents. General cleaners strip water resistance treatments. Air dry instead of machine drying.

Fleece and Pile Fabrics

Skip fabric softener. It reduces the fluffiness of polyester fleece over time. Use tennis balls in the dryer to prevent pilling.

Spandex Workout Wear

Wash after every wear. Sweat and oils degrade spandex quickly. Use cold water. Line dry or dry on very low heat.

Waterproof and Coated Fabrics

Spot clean only to avoid stripping waterproof coatings. Re-apply DWR spray after washing if needed.

Down and Feather Filled Items

Dry clean professionally. Home washing can strip oils from feathers causing them to clump. Detergents remove loft.

Double check care requirements for polyester used in specialty textiles.

Removing Stains on Polyester

Polyester resists staining, but oil-based stains require some extra steps:

  • Dish soap helps cut oily food stains – massage into stain before washing
  • Hairspray dissolves ink and permanent marker – let sit before rinsing
  • Baking soda paste lifts perspiration stains and yellowing – rub gently and rinse
  • White vinegar or ammonia removes coffee and tea stains
  • Rubbing alcohol dissolves cosmetics and lipstick stains
  • Oxyclean spray helps lift many set-in oil-based stains on polyester

Tackle stains promptly before washing using targeted stain removal methods.

Drying Polyester Clothing

Polyester itself dries quickly and resists wrinkles. But take these extra steps:

Shake Well

Thoroughly shake items before drying to prevent knotting and tangling which leads to pilling.

Low Heat

Reduce dryer heat settings since polyester doesn’t require high heat to dry. Prevent over-drying.

Remove Promptly

Take clothes out immediately when cycle finishes so wrinkles don’t set if left sitting.

Hang Heavy Items

The weight of heavy garments like coats can cause weird creases if machine dried – hang these instead.

Check Fibers

Blends with silk, wool, spandex still require air drying or low heat to avoid damage to companion fibers.

Steam as Needed

For serious wrinkling, a short blast of the steamer helps relax fibers.

Proper drying keeps polyester clothing looking crisper longer.

Washing Polyester FAQs

Here are some common polyester laundry questions:

Can polyester go in the dryer?

Yes, polyester holds up fine to heat drying unlike other synthetics. Just use a lower heat setting to prevent shrinkage.

Does polyester shrink when washed?

Pure polyester does not shrink when washed in cool or warm water. Blended items might shrink at higher temperatures depending on the other fibers.

Why does polyester get little balls of fabric on it?

Excess heat drying and chafing against other fabrics causes polyester to pill. Use a de-piller tool to remove pills.

How hot can you wash polyester?

To be safe, wash polyester blends in warm or cool water. Water hotter than 140°F risks shrinking cotton, wool, spandex, etc.

Can you iron polyester?

Yes, polyester can be ironed at medium-high heat. But it may not take to pressing as crisply as natural fabrics due to its inherent wrinkle resistance.

Does polyester stretch when washed?

Polyester is not prone to stretching out when machine washed. But spandex and cotton blended versions will stretch more over time.

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