If you have problems with laundry, you probably don't understand the properties of different types of fabrics. The fiber content and how the fabric is manufactured makes a huge difference in how the garment should be cleaned.
For the best laundry results, it is good to have a working knowledge of fabrics and how to care for them. This glossary of fabric types will help you interpret clothing care labels.
You can then read further to find more information on how to remove stains and care for specific fabrics.
A manufactured fiber refined from cotton filaments and/or wood pulp, and acetic acid that has been extruded through a spinneret and then hardened.
A type of nylon made by DuPont®.
Bamboo fabric is made from the pulp of the bamboo grass. It is light and strong, has excellent wicking properties, and has some antibacterial properties. This antibacterial quality helps to reduce bacteria that thrives on clothing and causes unpleasant odors. In addition, bamboo fabric has insulating properties and will keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
A crisp, fine linen which is sometimes called altar cloth and used for that purpose.
A term applied to a yarn or a fabric that is made up of more than one fiber. In blended yarns, two or more different types of staple fibers are twisted or spun together to form the yarn.
Polyester/cotton is an example of a typical blended yarn or fabric.
Wool fabric that is processed in hot water and felted to create a very dense final product used for coats, jackets, and slippers.
This fabric can be a knit or a woven but is made with a novelty yarn. The finished fabric has protruding loops or curls on the surface.
Care must be used when cleaning to prevent snagging.
Carbon-infused fibers created by burning of bamboo are blended with synthetic fiber to create a durable, high tech fabric that is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, breathable, and moisture wicking.
A lightweight silk or silk-like fabric.
A soft fuzzy fabric developed in France where chenille translates to caterpillar. It can be made from cotton or a blended fiber.
An extremely sheer, lightweight, soft fabric made of silk, polyester, rayon, or other fibers. It is made of highly twisted filament yarns.
This is a study plain or twill weave cotton fabric. Most of these fabrics are dyed a khaki color but can be navy, black, or olive drab.
A glazed cotton in a plain weave. Chintz has bright colors and prints, often florals.
Fabric made with cotton fibers that are combed to remove short fibers and any debris. Combing results in a cleaner, more uniform, and lustrous yarn.
A polyester fiber designed to move moisture away from the body and out onto the surface of the garment for quick evaporation.
Usually made from cotton, corduroy is a durable pile fabric with lengthwise ridges cut into the pile called wales.
Corduroy is also available as a cotton/polyester blend to help prevent wrinkles.
A natural fiber that grows in the seedpod of the cotton plant. Fibers are typically 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. The longest staple fibers-longer than 1 1/2 inch, including the Pima and Egyptian varieties-produce the highest quality cotton fabrics.
A hard-spun two-ply cotton yarn made from long staple fibers and treated to remove all short fuzzy ends for a smooth finish. Lisle is a popular choice for fine men's knitwear, including tops and socks.
Damask refers to the type of weave used to create jacquard-woven florals or geometric designs. The fabric can be made from cotton, linen, polyester, or from blended fibers.
A knit fabric in which two layers of loops are formed that cannot be separated.
A double knit machine, which has two complete sets of needles, is required for this construction.
Ecosil means the polyester fibers are spun very compactly to give the fabric a clean appearance and a resistance to pilling and abrasion.
All cotton grown in Egypt is "Egyptian" but it is not all extra-long staple cotton which is the most desirable and softest.
Elastane is just another name for an old fiber, Spandex. The word "elastane" is used in Europe while "spandex" is used in the United States. Elastane/spandex trade names are Lycra and Dorlastan.
A type of fabric with patterned cut-out designs, around which stitching or embroidery is applied in order to prevent the fabric from raveling. It can be made from cotton or man-made fibers.
A glossy, soft, finely-ribbed silk-like woven fabric made from cotton, silk, or manufactured fibers.
Lightweight, synthetic fiber that can be used to line coats, vests, and padded garments
A circular knit fabric with a looped pile back and smooth face. The fabric can be a natural fiber like cotton or bamboo or a synthetic fiber.
A sturdy fabric with a twill weave that can be made of cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers.
Fabric that attracts water and is absorbent.
Fabric that tends to repel water.
A rib stitch variation, interlock stitch fabrics are thicker, heavier, and more stable than single knit constructions.
A very high quality knit fabric with 4-way stretch that comes from Italy. Italian nylon includes some Lycra to give great stretch and recovery, abrasion resistance, and anti-bacterial qualities.
Any fabric that has a pattern woven into the fabric rather than printed on it is a jacquard. Brocade and damask are types of jacquard woven fabrics. The fabric can be made with natural or synthetic fibers.
A double knit fabric in which a Jacquard type of mechanism is used. This device individually controls needles or small groups of needles, and allows very complex and highly patterned knits to be created.
A generic term for a plain knit fabric without a distinct rib. Originally made of wool, jersey fabric was first manufactured on the island of Jersey. Today jersey can be knit from many different types of fibers.
Knit fabrics are made the same way a knitted scarf is made by someone at home with two needles and a ball of yarn. Knitting is a process that loops a piece of yarn in a row a few times, then links those loops with another row of loops and so on. Knit fabrics are naturally stretchy because of the loops whether made from natural or man-made fibers.
A netlike ornamental fabric made by looping, twisting, or knitting thread in patterns by hand or machine. The fabric can be made from natural or synthetic fibers.
A woven fabric using flat silver or gold metal threads to create either the design or the background in the fabric.
Latex is made with rubber and thus has rubber-like qualities. It is used in some elastics to provide greater elasticity.
A fabric made from fibers obtained from inside the woody stem of the flax plant. The fibers are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton. Linen fabrics are very cool and absorbent, but wrinkle very easily, unless blended with manufactured fibers. Linen is one of the world's oldest textile fibers.
The name given to material sewn into the inside of a garment to make it more opaque or more comfortable against the skin. Lining fabrics can be made of natural or man-made fibers.
Lycra is the trademarked spandex fiber produced by DuPont. It is lightweight and soft, but stronger and more durable than rubber and is used in compression garments, swimwear and bras.
Lyocell is a cellulose fabric obtained by an organic solvent spinning process. This fabric is a sub-category of rayon. Tencel is the trademark name for lyocell.
Memory foam is often used to give shape to a garment. It is made of extruded polyurethane as well as additional chemicals.
Cotton that has been through a wet finishing process, which swells the yarns of the fabric to give it a round smooth surface and stops the cotton from further shrinkage. This process results in a stronger and more lustrous yarn that is more easily dyed, producing brighter, deeper colors.
Merino wool comes from certain sheep that produce a wool fiber that is long and fine. The result is a fabric that is thin, soft, and luxurious.
An open-weave knitted or woven fabric that produces a net or sheer-like effect. Mesh can be made from many different types of fibers
Micro Modal® is a trademarked microfiber from an Austrian textile company, Lenzing, made from spun beechwood cellulose. The fabric is delicate and light.
Fabric made with microfiber means that the fabric’s filaments are extremely fine and usually a blend of polyester or polyamide (nylon) fibers. Microfiber fabrics are lightweight, and look and feel luxurious.
Microfleece is an ultra-soft synthetic wool-like fabric.
Modal is made with cellulose from beech trees and is essentially a variety of rayon. Garments made from modal have anti-crease properties and are relatively easy care.
A synthetic rubber fabric used for swimwear, outerwear, and high fashion clothing.
A completely synthetic fiber, nylon is known for its superior flexibility and excellent resilience.