How To Wash 100% Polyester: The Complete Guide

Polyester is a popular fabric for clothing, particularly outdoor and activewear. Both conjure images of mud or sweat needing regular cleaning. Polyester can melt, so a hot wash is out. Leaving the question, how to wash 100% polyester clothes?

Garments made from polyester can be hand or machine washed. Turn the clothes inside out to avoid pilling and choose a cold or low heat setting on your machine. Or hand wash in tepid water. You can use your usual detergent. Air dry or make sure your dryer is on a low heat as polyester can melt.

Washing polyester clothing doesn’t need to be difficult or a challenge. Read on for some useful hints and tips on how to wash 100% polyester clothes.

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Can You Wash 100% Polyester?

Yes, you can wash 100% polyester. You should avoid heat and need to pay attention to the garment’s care label before washing. If you don’t have a care label, 100% polyester clothing can be washed in cool or warm water with a synthetic friendly detergent.

The care label is put into the garment by the manufacturer. They test the fabric and watch how it behaves. Instructions on the label should be followed so you get the most out of your clothing.

Can You Machine Wash 100% Polyester?

Polyester can be washed using a cool or warm setting on your machine. The care label attached to the garment will let you know the settings you should use. Follow the care instructions to ensure your 100% polyester is washed safely.

Checking the garment’s care label will let you know if it’s safe to machine wash your garment. It’s a balance of the right amount of heat and the right detergent for the fabric.

Does Polyester Shrink When Washed?

100% polyester is synthetic and unlikely to shrink. Using too much heat causes damage, including shrinkage and melting. Polyester can also be blended with other fabrics that can shrink, like cotton. If your polyester is a 50/50 mix, there is a chance the garment can shrink.

To avoid the possibility of shrinkage, air dry your polyester clothing out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Always follow the care instructions on the label.

How Do You Wash 100% Polyester?

Polyester is thought to be a tricky fabric to care for. Although it’s a durable material, it does have some sensitivity issues with some forms of washing. Laundry day doesn’t have to be a headache, though. All you need to do is keep the fabric’s properties in mind and pay attention to the care label for the garment.

This useful, misunderstood fabric is easier to care for than you might think. Let’s look at some of the more popular laundry options and see which ones are best for polyester.

Can You Wash Polyester in Hot Water?

You should not wash polyester in hot water. Polyester is a synthetic or man-made fiber derived from petroleum. Any form of heat, either water or from a dryer, will make polyester melt.

Polyester should be washed in warm water either by hand or on a gentle machine setting. Any heat should be avoided to protect the garment’s delicate polyester fibers.

Can You Wash Polyester in Cold Water?

Polyester can be safely washed in cold water. A cold temperature helps prevent potential shrinkage and heat damage to the fibers of the fabric. Allowing your polyester garment to stay in tiptop condition and last longer.

Choose the lowest possible setting on your machine to ensure you get a cold wash. For best results, wash in cold water by hand.

Can You Bleach Polyester?

For all forms of polyester, you should avoid chlorine-based bleach. As polyester is a synthetic material, the bleach is too harsh for the fibers and can damage the fabric. Bleach can also strip the color out of the polyester, causing discoloration. Most care labels for polyester garments will stipulate “No Bleach”.

Although chlorine-based bleach is a definite no when it comes to polyester, there is a fabric cleaner that may be safe to use. Particularly when trying to return the brightness to white polyester. It’s called Oxygen Bleach.

As with all cleaners, when dealing with polyester fabrics, check the care label before using Oxygen Bleach. Test a small inconspicuous area before treating the whole garment.

What Temperature Do You Wash 100% Polyester?

The actual temperature you wash 100% polyester at depends on the instructions on the care label for each garment. An ideal temperature would be a cold wash. Polyester should not be washed at temperatures higher than 40ºC or 104ºF.

If you have doubts about the temperature, hand wash the garment in lukewarm or hand-hot water. This will ensure it isn’t too hot for the fabric.

Can You Wash Polyester With Cotton?

Washing Polyester with cotton is possible as long as the wash setting is set for cold or warm. Cotton can withstand higher temperatures, so the heat of the wash is the deciding factor. For Polycotton blends, the garment care label will usually advise a low heat setting.

Due to the delicate nature of polyester fibers, don’t add heavy cotton items like jeans to a wash with polyester clothes. The zippers and buttons can cause damage.

How to Wash 100% Polyester

There are some general care instructions to follow so your polyester stays looking fresh and new. One of the most important, check your garment’s care label.

The label lets you know the percentage of polyester in the clothing and the best way to wash and dry it.

Diagrams on the label will indicate maximum heat settings for general laundering. They will also show if the garment can be dry cleaned or machine dried. The care label is usually found attached to a side seam or just under the collar.

Hand Washing 100% Polyester

Hand washing is the safest way to care for polyester clothing. Machines can be a little rough on polyester, especially if blended with a delicate fabric like silk. The agitating action of a machine can cause the fibers in polyester to snag or catch. This can create an unattractive pilling effect.

Hand washing has the advantage of better control. You can gauge how much pressure or how gentle to be with each garment. With nothing to get caught on, the risk of pilling is reduced. It may be time-consuming, but hand washing gives your polyester garments the delicate touch they need.

Step 1: Use Hand Hot Water

Fill a sink with warm water. Go for a temperature your hands feel comfortable in. Not too hot, but not too cold either. Add your usual hand washing or light detergent. Make sure it doesn’t have a built-in fabric conditioner and doesn’t contain bleach. Mix the water and detergent until you get a soapy solution.

How To Wash 100% Polyester: The Complete Guide

Step 2: Submerge Your Garment

Place the polyester item in the mixture until it is fully submerged. Try not to put all your garments in at the same time, as this will hinder the washing process. You need room in the sink to get the clothing thoroughly wet.

Step 3: Allow to Soak

Allow soaking for at least 10 – 15 minutes. This will help lift dirt particles away from the fabric fibers without the need for harsh scrubbing.

Step 4: Swirl and Twirl Gently

Gently swirl the garment around carefully. Don’t twist, wring or scrub, as this could damage the fibers. Move the item back, forth with a light touch, mildly twirling the fabric under the water.

Step 5: Drain and Rinse

Once the dirt is removed, lift the garment out of the water and drain the sink. Rinse the item with clean water until all the soapsuds have disappeared. The water should run clear.

Step 6: Remove Excess Water

Drain the water from the fabric. Don’t wring as this will cause damage. Fold and gently press the garment against the edge of the sink. Do this until the water stops running out. Another option is to roll the garment up in a towel. Gently pressing with your hands as you roll.

The towel will absorb the excess moisture. Don’t squeeze, as this could create wrinkles and lead to damage.

Step 7: Allow to Dry

Allow to air dry either on a clothesline or clothes hanger. Keep the clothing out of direct sunlight as the heat from the sun can damage the garment. Polyester dries quickly, so you will be able to wear your garment in no time.

Machine Washing 100% Polyester

Polyester can be machine washed with care. Sometimes manufacturers advise handwashing due to the delicate nature of polyester fibers. Machines can be a little intense and over-vigorous leading to pilling. Washing by hand is a softer option and will help prolong the life of the clothing. Hand washing can be time-consuming, though, which leads to many of us put it off.

Being able to wash polyester by machine can make the difference between regular washing and being left at the bottom of the washing basket. The longer polyester stays unwashed, the more it will wrinkle or crease. Worse still, the more it will retain smells and the harder it will be to clean.

Step 1: Take Preventative Steps

One of the biggest issues when machine washing polyester is pilling. The fibers in polyester can catch and pull, leading to unsightly pilling. To avoid this, turn your clothing inside out before putting it in the washer.

Also, do up any zippers, so they don’t get tangled or flap about inside the machine. Zippers, in particular can catch on the polyester and tear the fibers.

If you are washing a bag or anything with pockets, shake it out to make sure any used tissues or general debris is removed.

Step 2: Select Your Machine Setting

A cold or warm wash is the best setting for polyester. The last thing you need for polyester is too hot a wash. If your machine has a permanent press option or a synthetics setting, make sure to select it. Both will give a slower spin option and prevent wrinkling.

If you don’t have a permanent press, check your machine for a no spin option and remove the excess water by hand. Wrapping in a towel and rolling carefully is a safe way to remove excess water.

Step 3: Use The Right Detergent

When it comes to polyester, stick with a standard detergent. One that doesn’t have a built-in fabric softener or tough stain removing, and anti-wrinkle formulas.

The reason for this, all the extra useful features of modern-day detergents can be harsh on polyester fibers causing the fabric to pill or even lose color. Go for a simple, tried, and tested detergent that promises to wash delicate synthetics.

Step 4: Check The Temperature

Before you drop your polyester shirt or dress into the washer:

Step 5: Choose What to Wash With Polyester

Most of us will only run a washer when there is at least half a load waiting in the basket. This may be a bit of a problem if you’re short on polyester items. You can wash polyester with other fabrics. It’s colorfast, so it won’t bleed out on anything as long as it’s not washed too hot.

Items to avoid would be heavy items like jeans or cargo pants as these have rough edges and fasteners that can rub against polyester causing damage. Stay clear of any item containing Velcro.

Step 6: Drying Time

Polyester dries best if it’s allowed to air dry. If you want to machine dry, make sure it is on the lowest setting possible for the shortest amount of time. Over drying, polyester can cause shrinkage, pilling, and color loss. Drying at too hot a temperature can cause the fabric to melt.

The steps above are suitable for most clothing items such as shirts, sweaters, dresses, and pants. Avoiding too much heat is key to washing most polyester items. You need to ensure heat is kept to an absolute minimum.

Some polyester items need extra special care and attention. Let’s take a look at them and the best way to wash them.

How to Wash a Polyester Jacket

Washing a polyester jacket is mostly the same as with other garments made from synthetic materials. As jackets are outerwear, they could be designed to be waterproof, so may need extra care.

Pay particular attention to the instruction label on jackets to see if the garment has any special finish. Don’t use fabric conditioner, bleach, or any washing detergent promising stain-removing properties.

Simple is best when it comes to jackets. Go for a detergent suitable for delicate fabrics or labeled as best for synthetics. Allow the jacket to air dry to reduce the risk of wrinkles.

How to Wash a Polyester Pillow

Hand washing is the best option for polyester pillows. If time is not on your side, machine wash on the coldest setting with the gentlest of spin cycles. Place your pillow in a mesh laundry bag to stop it from catching on anything.

Wash the pillow by itself to prevent other items from damaging it. Use a light detergent suitable for use with polyester.

As the polyester filling is likely to clump when wet, you will need to shake it out before allowing it to dry properly. For best results, allow it to air dry but make sure it dries completely to prevent the build-up of mold.

You can machine dry the pillow on its own using the lowest heat setting possible. Don’t over-dry in the dryer as this can cause damage.

How to Wash a Polyester Blanket

For years of use out of your polyester blanket, wash it separately in cold water. It’s easier to wash in a machine due to the size and bulky nature of blankets. If possible, put your blanket into a mesh washing bag before dropping it into the machine. This should reduce the chances of the blanket catching on anything.

Make sure you use a detergent suitable for polyester without fabric conditioners or bleach. Choose a low spin cycle or no spin. Too much spinning can damage polyester fibers. Allow to air dry or use a dryer set on the lowest heat setting possible.

How to Wash Polyester Curtains

Curtains can get dusty so before washing, give them a quick vacuum to remove any larger dust bunnies that could scratch the polyester. Machine wash on a cold setting with a delicate spin.

A permanent press setting is ideal for the polyester content as it is less harsh than other settings. Ensure your detergent is free from bleach or fabric softener.

Dry on a low heat setting in your dryer until most of the moisture is gone, then put them back on the curtain pole while still damp. They will continue to dry at the window, which helps reduce wrinkling.

How to Wash a Polyester Comforter

Before you try washing your polyester comforter, make sure it will fit in your machine. Due to the size, you probably won’t be able to wash a comforter by hand. It may be nice and light while it’s dry, when wet it will be too heavy to manipulate. If it’s too heavy for you, your machine may struggle too! You may need to pay a visit to your local laundromat and use an industrial-sized machine.

Check the care label on the comforter for washing instructions. Generally, polyester bedding should be washed in cool or warm water to avoid shrinking and fiber damage. Many comforters are fire retardant, so avoid the fabric conditioner and bleach.

Line drying a polyester comforter can be a little difficult due to the bulkiness of the item. As with all polyester items, dry on the coolest setting of your dryer. Check the comforter every 15 minutes to see how well it is drying and shake it out to prevent clumping. Don’t over-dry it, as this can damage the polyester.

How to Wash 50% Cotton 50% Polyester

A blend of 50% cotton and 50% polyester has the best properties of both fabrics. Not only does the polyester content enable the garment to dry faster, but the cotton content also makes it a little more resilient. Although still sensitive to heat, it’s not as touchy as 100% polyester.

Check the care label on the clothing for washing instructions. In the main, a 50/50 mix can be washed and dried on low to medium heat. Although the fabric is less prone to wrinkling, it can be ironed on a low setting. The 50/50 combination is a winner as far as easy-care is concerned.

How to Wash Polyester and Spandex

Polyester is a fabric that doesn’t breathe well, but it does have moisture-wicking properties making it an ideal choice for activewear. Especially when teamed with Spandex. It can take sweat away from the skin, helping to keep you dry and comfortable.

The wicking capabilities are the reason you can’t use fabric softeners with polyester. Fabric softener will form a waxy coating on the fabric and stop the moisture from evaporating. With Spandex, the fabric conditioner will make it more susceptible to holding on to smells and attract bacteria.

As with all garments, check the care label for washing instructions. Wash on a cold machine setting with a gentle spin. When it comes to drying, air drying is best for both polyester and Spandex. Both should be kept out of direct sunlight and will dry in no time.

If you need to machine dry, do so on the lowest heat possible and only until the garment is damp. The item will retain its shape better if it continues to dry naturally.

How to Get Grease Stains Out of Polyester After Washing

As soon as you notice you have a grease stain on your polyester, take steps to remove it. The faster you start to treat the stain, the better the results will be.

Step 1: Apply Some Salt

Strange as it sounds, salt can absorb grease from polyester clothing. Gently rub some salt into the stained area and leave it for an hour or so.

Step 2: Shake the Garment

Shake the salt from the clothing into the trash. Make sure it has all gone. Next, grab some paper towels and put them under the stained area, with the stain facing downwards.

Step 3: Grab Some Stain Remover

Soak the area with a stain remover suitable for use with polyester fabrics. Using clean paper towels, gently blot the area. Keep changing the paper towels under the stain as they soak up the moisture and grease.

Step 4: Allow to Dry

Once all the grease has transferred to the paper towels, leave the garment to air dry. When it’s dry, rinse out any stain remover residue with cold water.

Step 5: Wash Carefully

Rub some liquid detergent suitable for use with polyester into the stained area. Wash the garment in the hottest setting it can take. Always make sure to check the care label for the exact temperature. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and go for a warm wash.

How to Dry 100% Polyester

The best way to dry 100% polyester is to allow it to air dry. Either line dry or use a drying rack. Polyester can be machine dried, but it needs to be on the lowest heat setting possible and the shortest time. Over drying, polyester can cause damage and possible shrinkage.

The fabric is naturally quick-drying so there is no need for a lengthy spin in a machine. Too much spinning can cause wrinkles. Set your washing machine on a gentle spin or better still, no spin at all.

How to Clean and Care for Polyester Clothes

How to Clean 100 Polyester

Cleaning polyester fabric is relatively straightforward as long as you remember the key qualities of the material.

Polyester can be washed by hand or machine as long as the heat setting is low. Stick with detergents suitable for use with synthetic fabrics and always read the care label.

Oxygen Bleach is a non-toxic cleaner that can be used with polyester. It isn’t bleach. Not in the same way as the chlorine bleach we all use for disinfecting and killing germs. Oxygen Bleach doesn’t kill germs. Nor does it remove color or damage polyester fibers. It acts as a stain remover and can brighten white polyester clothing.

How to Care for Polyester

Always pay close attention to the care labels on polyester items. The labels will help you care for your garments in the best way possible to ensure they stay fresh and new.

To help prevent the possibility of shrinkage, always make sure to wash polyester or polyester blends in a cold or warm wash. Drying should preferably be natural, either on a clothes rack or outdoors. Polyester should only be machine dried on a low heat setting for a short amount of time.


Polyester is an easy fabric to care for once you know how. Remember to steer clear of heat and chemicals and your garments will stay in top condition.

I hope you found the article helpful and it’s encouraged you to give polyester a try. Will you be trying the tips on caring for polyester? Let me know in the comments.

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