How to Wash and Care For Polyester ClothingBy Shirtspace | Jul 08, 2015 | Updated Oct 23, 2020
Polyester is a highly breathable, moisture-wicking fabric commonly used in apparel, linens, and upholstery. It resists wrinkles, fading, and shrinking when taken care of properly, proving to be an old favorite when it comes to t-shirt materials.
There's a reason why fabric lovers recommend 100% polyester (or a 50/50 blend) when it comes to comfortable shirts. Its shrink resistance and ability to maintain shape even through everyday wear and tear make it the perfect addition to any wardrobe.
But if you’re unsure how to wash polyester, then we want to help put you at ease. Read on to learn about caring for this fantastically durable material.
The Origin of Polyester
Polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. Developed in a 20th-century lab from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol, this reaction formed fibers with long molecules that were stable and strong—bringing upon the famous polyester fabric.
Image Source - The manufacturing process of polyester fiber.
However polyester wasn’t utilized in shirts and clothing overnight. It took a full decade from its discovery for this fabric to even hit the shelves!
In 1941, two British chemists named John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson patented “polyethylene terephthalate”—also known as PET or PETE—essentially creating Terylene, the first polyester fabric.
Five years later (in 1946), the chemical company DuPont bought out all polyester rights and developed the chemists’ version into something called Dacron. Finally, in 1951, the American public was introduced to polyester fabric.
But even then, the world wasn’t interested in polyester. People wanted to stick with natural materials like cotton or linen, so it took another 30 years for polyester to really take off. Eventually, after a lot of marketing (and the 1970’s), Americans finally accepted polyester as an everyday fabric in the 1980s—and the rest is history!
How to Wash 100% Polyester
While you should always adhere to the care tag’s instructions, most 100% polyester fabrics will require the same type of care when it comes to washing and drying. Follow these steps as a general guideline to washing your favorite polyester t-shirts.
Step #1: Turn the fabric inside out.
Although polyester is most famous for its anti-wrinkle capabilities, it does have some downfalls, such as the tendency to pill. Turning the shirt inside out will help prevent the outside of the shirt from facing any of the harsh movements inside the machine. In doing so, you can avoid unwanted pilling and potential shrinking.
Step #2: Use cold or warm water for your wash cycle.
Washing with cold water is always a safe bet when it comes to cleaning your clothing, especially if it’s with a material you’re unfamiliar with.
But 100% polyester will also do very well with warm water, which can help remove stains, prevent shrinkage, and avoid color bleeding into other clothing in the cycle.
Step #3: Use standard detergent.
Simple detergent (without the extra bells and whistles like “tough on stains” or “wrinkle release”) is the best route to go when dealing with most materials. While these formulas are helpful for several reasons, they can sometimes be too harsh on polyester t-shirts, which pill and bleed easily during vigorous cycles.
Step #4: Dry on low heat or air dry.
A low-temperature dry cycle is the best way to avoid shrinkage—even for 100% polyester. Although an otherwise durable material, polyester tends to shrink or even melt on extremely high temperatures. It’s best to play it safe and dry on low heat or just air dry your fabrics altogether, which will avoid any potential damage.
Does Polyester Shrink?
Polyester is one of the most popular fabrics when it comes to apparel because of its durability. Thanks to its synthetic chemical makeup, polyester is known to fight off unwanted wrinkles, which means that it’s improbable that a 100% polyester t-shirt will shrink in the wash or dryer.
However, it’s not uncommon to find t-shirts that have a combination of polyester materials. You might find a fabric that says 50% polyester and 50% cotton. In instances where the content isn’t 100% polyester, there is a probable chance of shrinkage, especially if it’s a t-shirt combined with shrink-prone fabrics like cotton.
How to Care for Polyester
Whether you choose to machine-wash or air-dry your polyester fabrics, most of us want to get the most out of our clothing. The most important thing is to consider the care label, which is usually found near the collar or along the lining of the torso.
The care label will tell you exactly what’s required to take proper care including information on the ideal:
Type of washes
Dry cleaning options
Unless otherwise specified, most polyester tags will tell you to machine wash in cold or warm water and tumble dry low.
Can You Iron Polyester?
The first thing you should do is check your care label. Some labels may say not to iron or dry clean, which is an essential bit of information you should adhere to. But if the label gives you the green light to iron your favorite t-shirt, then you can prepare your board.
Of course, you’ll want to be sure that you use the right heat settings. If your care label doesn’t specify the type of heat you can use, then it’s best to stick to a low setting on your iron, like 3. Iron setting 3 is relatively low compared to what heavyweight cotton requires, which is setting 7. Setting 3 should roughly translate to 300° Fahrenheit (or 148° Celcius). You don’t have to take any precautionary steps when ironing a polyester t-shirt—but you can flip it inside out to avoid any accidental tugging or pilling as you go over the fabric.
Finding the Best Polyester Clothing
Polyester is an excellent and versatile fabric that can be found in athletic wear, sleepwear, and even undergarments like socks and underwear. While you should always abide by the polyester’s care label, this hardy fabric is anything but finicky and can handle plenty of wear and tear.
If you’re searching for high-quality polyester clothing in a variety of styles, then you don’t have to look any further: ShirtSpace has thousands of 100% and blended polyester clothing, ranging from t-shirts to sweatshirts to athletic apparel. Browse through some of the nation’s most quality polyester clothing today!