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How to Take Care of African Wax Print Fabric

Updated March 23, 2017

For many travellers, armchair or otherwise, the bright colours and bold patterns of wax print fabric are a big part of Africa's visual identity. A crowded market, full of women wrapped in dresses made from these fabrics is a very compelling sight. Wax print fabrics are especially common in West Africa. They were brought there by the Dutch, and the finest quality examples are still actually made in Holland. They are made by covering the fabric with patterns made out of wax and then dipping it into vats of dye, often indigo. Caring for wax print fabric is relatively simple.

Place the fabric into a washing machine when in need of cleaning.

Add mild detergent according to the directions on the detergent package and the machine.

Set the washing machine to wash with warm water and run it. If possible, turn the spin cycle off. If not, remove the cloth before the spin cycle begins.

Set up a drying line outdoors. Sunnier spots will fade the fabric more quickly, but allow it to dry faster. Shadier spots are good for preserving the vibrant colours.

Hang the cloth on the drying line and fix it in place with plastic clips that won't leave marks on it.

Remove the cloth from the line when it is fully dry.

Lay the cloth down on an ironing board with the patterned side down, and iron any wrinkles out of it.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild soap
  • Washing machine
  • Drying line
  • Iron
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About the Author

Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.