How to Wash Cotton Fabric

Written by mimi abney
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How to Wash Cotton Fabric
Wash your cotton fabrics to remove stains. (cotton texture image by Wolfgang Zintl from

Cotton is a natural vegetable fibre knitted and woven into fabrics of many textures and weights. While cotton shirts, trousers and suits are wardrobe staples for both men and women, keeping cotton fabrics from shrinking when washing is an old laundry problem. Whether your cotton fabrics are voile, organdie, batiste or linen, you can wash them at home and keep these breathable materials clean and pristine.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Liquid detergent
  • Cold water
  • Small basin
  • Washing machine
  • Padded hangers
  • Large towels
  • Iron

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  1. 1

    Pretreat any stains with detergent and cold water. Place one to two teaspoons of liquid detergent on the stains before you load the clothes in the washing machine. Put your cotton fabrics in a small basin filled with cold water. After soaking the fabric for 15 to 30 minutes, gently rub the stain with a short-bristled brush. Roll your shirts, trousers or blouses in a large towel to remove the water.

  2. 2

    Machine-wash white and light-coloured cotton fabrics in warm or hot water. If you are concerned with shrinking or bleeding, fill the machine with cold water and use a gentle washing cycle.

  3. 3

    Rinse your cotton fabrics on a cool cycle. Use minimal agitation to avoid shrinkage.

  4. 4

    Shake garments after removal from the machine to remove wrinkles.

  5. 5

    Dry cotton fabrics at a low or regular dryer setting. Dry towels and underwear on a hot setting. To prevent shrinking, remove cotton fabrics from the dryer while still damp. Hang in a cool and well-ventilated area to dry.

  6. 6

    Hand-wash lightweight fabrics, such as batiste, organdie and voile in a small basin filled with lukewarm water and one tablespoon of liquid detergent. Hang to dry or press damp with a hot iron to remove wrinkles.

Tips and warnings

  • For white cotton items use regular bleach in the wash. Colourful cotton garments require colour-safe bleach., instead of regular bleach.
  • Use padded hangers to air-dry shirts and blouses. These help maintain their shape.

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