How to Care for Cotton Clothing

how to care for cotton clothing

This article is a collaborative post.

Cotton fabric is a highly durable material made from natural plant fibers. It is virtually found everywhere, from clothes to bed sheets and to curtains to kitchen towels. As durable as it is, however, they also wear over time. So, to keep their crisp appearance and make them last longer in general, it’s crucial to take care of them properly.

But how do you take care of cotton clothing? Most people would just dump them in the washer and add some detergent in. But in reality, it’s not that simple. There are a few considerations you have to keep in mind to ensure proper treatment. To learn more about keeping your cotton apparel in tip-top shape, continue reading below.

How Often Should You Wash Them?

how to clean cotton clothes
credit: Planet Care

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for people to wear clothes once then pop them in the laundry basket at the end of the day. However, this method does not apply to all clothes. Depending on how soiled they are, clothes that are 100% cotton could be worn repeatedly up to three times. For example, if you like wearing cotton leggings everyday, you could wear a pair a couple of times as long as you didn’t sweat in it too much and there are no concerning stains.

On the other hand, if you happen to sweat a lot or get dirty in the course of a day, the cotton clothes need to go to the hamper. If they smell, soak them first in a tub of water with a teaspoon of vinegar before popping them into the washer. To note, synthetic blends trap odor more than other materials, so if this is an issue for you, opt for 100% cotton apparel.

How Do You Clean Them Properly?

how to care for cotton clothing
credit: Karolina Grabowska

Cotton clothes come in a rich variety of styles. Depending on the weave and finish of the fabric, some cotton pieces will be more delicate than others and thus, will require you to be more careful in washing and handling them. Cotton apparel with lace or other intricate embellishments fall under this category, and more often than not, need to be hand-washed. Others, meanwhile, may need to be dry-cleaned.

The best way to determine the proper method of washing cotton clothes is to check the care labels. These are the (commonly) white slips on fabric sewn on the hem of the garments, which show a series of signs. Each sign corresponds to a certain cleaning method and will indicate whether the garment is fit for a particular kind of washing method. If you’re not familiar with them, a quick search online will help you learn more.

Tips on How to Wash Cotton Clothes

how to wash cotton clothes
credit: Sarah Chai

A washing machine is a helpful tool to many, but it could be unkind to certain types of fabrics. While cotton is one of the more hardy varieties, taking extra care of how you wash them can slow down the wear and keep them looking like new. Here are some tips on how to wash your cotton clothes.

Treat the Stains First

Doing laundry by machine can remove a lot of the bodily fluids and small stains in your clothes. However, you need to pre-treat the bigger stains first before you can pop them in the washer. Some examples of bigger stains include ink, tomato sauce, and grease. The reason for this is that these stains often hold fast to the fabric, so they need to be agitated first.

Using a safe stain remover, follow the instructions on how to pre-treat the stain before washing. Leave the treated garment for at least 10 minutes, so the cleaning agent has time to work. Aside from stains, you can also rub the stain remover on areas where people sweat a lot, such as the armpits and neckline. These areas are more prone to yellowing and discoloration, so attending to these areas properly will prevent the stains from setting in.

Another way to treat stains — and to brighten white fabrics — is to use diluted bleach. A word of warning though: concentrated chlorine can weaken the garment’s fibers and create holes if you’re not careful, so it’s important to dilute it first. Follow the instructions on the product labels to mix the right amount for your needs. If chlorine is too strong for you, consider oxygen-based bleach. It is not as strong as chlorine-based bleaches, so you can let your clothes soak in them for longer.

Be Careful with Water Temperature

Washing cotton clothes in water that’s too hot can cause discoloration. It may also lead to shrinkage if you’re not careful. Thus, to err on the side of caution, opt for cold water when doing the laundry.

That said, there are exemptions to this guideline. Cotton garments that are worn close to the body like underwear, socks, and bath towels need to be washed in hot water for sanitary reasons. The hot water will help kill bacteria and remove stains from bodily fluids. It is especially important to follow this step if any of your household members are sick, very young, or very old.

Don’t Leave the Clothes in the Dryer

Similar to washing in hot water, leaving cotton clothes in the dryer for too long can cause them to shrink. To avoid this, take out the clothes from the dryer just before they are fully dry. Hang the slightly damp garments on a washing line or indoor rack, and let all the remaining water evaporate naturally.

Ironing and Removing Creases

how to wash cotton clothing
credit: Karolina Grabowska

Cotton clothes easily crease, but there are a number of things that you can do to smoothen them out.

First, you can iron them. As mentioned earlier, cotton is a durable material, so ironing it under high heat wouldn’t necessarily burn it or make it shiny. Of course, you need to practice caution and avoid leaving the iron on one area for too long. Here are some tips to keep in mind while ironing cotton clothes:

• Flip the garment inside-out and iron the underside first to remove creases and achieve a crisper look.
• If you failed to remove an old stain, do not iron over it. It will only set the stain further into the fabric.
• If your clothes have prints on them, do not iron over them. The prints may get stuck to the iron, effectively ruining both your iron and clothes. Instead, flip the garment inside-out and iron from the other side.

Secondly, you can steam the clothes. It won’t achieve that really clean look, but it will remove the big creases and look presentable enough. You can purchase a steamer at the store or go for the hot shower method. In this method, you hang the shirt or any other piece of cotton clothing in the bathroom while the shower is on (preferably with you in it to avoid wasting water). The key is to place it in an area where the steam will reach the clothes but won’t get them wet.

How to Store Them Properly

how to store cotton clothing
credit: Tu Tu

Since cotton clothes wrinkle easily, there are some pointers to keep in mind for storage. Place cotton tops and shirts on thick hangers instead of the wire ones to help keep them in shape and crease-free. As for pants, fold them neatly and align them properly in the drawer to keep them from wrinkling.

However, there’s a bigger danger to cotton clothes than creases. As cotton fabrics are made from natural fiber, they do attract house pests. The first one that comes to mind is moths, but since they like animal fiber, they’re not your problem for cotton apparel. The ones you should keep an eye out for are carpet beetles and their eggs. To ward them off, place natural repellents like cedar oil and balls in the closet near your clothes.

Overall, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to handling cotton clothes. While they are generally hard-wearing and flexible material, they need to be taken care of as well. Hopefully, this list has given you a better idea of how to manage your cotton apparel more properly, ensuring that your favorite clothes will last you a long time.