Understand Your Fibers

Here you’ll find information on fibers and their care, sorted alphabetically by name.

NameTypeAdvantagesLimitationsHelpful FactsClues to Care
Has good drapeability
Solution-dyed fibers resist fading
Resists pilling
Resists mildew and moths
Dries quickly
Poor abrasion resistance
Builds up static electricity
Requires care in pressing due to heat sensitivity
Loses strength when wet
Damaged by silverfish
Destroyed by acetone, acetic acid, and alcohol
Subject to fume-fading unless solution-dyed
Melts at low heat
Do not use fingernail polish remover around acetate; the acetone content will destroy the acetate fiber upon contact. If your home has gas heat, beware of color damage in acetate that is not solution-dyed. Due to its heat-sensitive property pleats and creases are difficult to set. The amount of heat necessary to set in creases will damage the fabric.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Dry cleaning is preferred. If washed, garments should be squeezed gently by hand in lukewarm water with mild suds. Do NOT WRING, but blot out excess moisture. Wringing may set permanent wrinkles. Press while damp, on the wrong side, with the iron at the lowest setting. Any pressing on the right side should be done with the use of a press cloth to avoid “shine”.
Can be heat-set for pleats, unset and re-set
Absorbs little moistureResists sunlight damage, moths and mildewLaunders easilyDoes not irritate skinResists wrinkling
Builds up static electricity
PillsHolds oil and grease stainsMelts, if too hot
Due to the static electric build up of the fiber, balls of fuzz form on the fabric surface. Fabric softeners may be used to help reduce this problem. Picking balls of fuzz off the fabric surface only exposes additional fiber ends which can multiply the problem.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Use lukewarm water for washing. Hot water may cause yellowing. For knits blot and drip-dry; wovens may be machine dried on low heat setting. May be dry cleaned; however, repeated dry cleanings may weaken fibers. Water-borne stains wash out easily. Oil or grease stains must be pre-treated before laundering. Use a low iron temperature and press on the wrong side of the fabric.
COTTONNATURAL CELLULOSICAbsorbentCoolComfortable to wearDurableEconomicalWrinkles unless treatedSusceptible to mildew and strong acidsDoes not melt, but may scorchTo reduce wrinkling, cotton may be treated with a permanent press finish. These finishes, obtained through a chemical process, must have a cellulosic fiber (cotton or rayon) present in the fabric. Decreased strength and color loss (frosting) at points of abrasion are two disadvantages of a permanent press finish. Other disadvantages may be stiffness of fabric hand, a “fishy” odor when fabrics are exposed to moisture and increased sensitivity to chlorine bleach which creates yellowing.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Pre-treat all oil and grease stains with a non-flammable drycleaning solvent, laundry prewash soil-and-stain remover, or liquid detergent before washing. Stains may be set permanently if washed and not pre-treated. BEWARE of using chlorine bleach on chemical- or resin-treated fabric. The bleach may yellow and/or weaken these fabrics. Use a dry oxygen bleach for safety.
GLASSMAN-MADE MINERALStrongWill not burnAbsorbs no moistureResists sunlight, mildew, bacteria and insectsBrittle (tends to break along crease lines and abraded areas)Subject to abrasion damageDo not place draperies of glass fiber where they will receive abrasion; for example, where they will be frequently brushed against or where they will be continually pulled back and forth over a window sill.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Handle all fabrics of glass fiber with care. Because the fiber is brittle, it will break and cut your hands when you handle it; therefore, wear rubber gloves when washing these fabrics by hand. Do not scrub or wring. Drip dry. Glass fabrics dry very rapidly and require no ironing. Do not dryclean. NOTE: Beta Fiberglas* claims to be machine washable. It is not advisable to wash fabrics of Beta Fiberglas* with clothing, nor is it advisable to use the machine afterward for washing clothing without running it through the rinse cycle to remove as much lint as possible.
LINEN (FLAX)NATURAL CELLULOSICBest wicking of natural fibers; therefore cool to wearDries quicklyNatural soft sheenStrong and durableWrinkles badly unless treatedSusceptible to mildew and strong acidsColor frosts on creasesMay be weakened with repeated creasing in the same placeDoes not melt, but may scorchTreatment of linen does not totally overcome its property of wrinkling. The use of a crisp underlining helps keep wrinkling to a minimum.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Pre-treat all oil and grease stains with a non-flammable drycleaning solvent, laundry prewash soil-and-stain remover, or liquid detergent before washing. Stains may be set permanently if washed and not pre-treated. To obtain a dull finish on linen, dampen well and press on the wrong side of the fabric with a hot iron (linen setting) until completely dry. To develop a sheen on the fabric, press on the right side. AVOIV pressing creases in linen as they are difficult to remove. Repeated creasing in the same spot weakens the fabric and results in abrasion damage. All linen table linens should be rolled on cylinders rather than folded.
METALLICMAN-MADE MINERALAdds a rich quality to fabricLaminated yarns are lightweight, non-tarnishable and relatively inexpensiveSensitive to abrasionLaminated yarns are sensitive to heatPlastic coating on many yarns may meltGold, silver, and copper are expensive, heavy and tend to discolor and be harsh to the touch. Aluminum has now largely replaced these metals because it is much cheaper, softer, lighter in weight, does not discolor, and can be colored any hue. The metal is bonded and laminated between layers of a plastic material when being formed into yarn, thus making it smooth to the touch. Many metallic yarns are found in fabrics containing two or more types of fibers.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. All metallics are sensitive to abrasion and flexing. It is advisable to turn garments with metallic threads inside-out when cleaning or pressing. Some metallic yarns have low heat resistance and should be washed and ironed at low temperatures. When drycleaned, the solvent used should be limited to perchlorethylene. The method of cleaning will usually be determined by the fibers other than the metallic used in the fabric — if the other fiber(s) is (are) washable, then the fabric is washable.
Pleasing to the touch ResilientStrongResists wrinklingFlame resistant
Extremely heat sensitiveBuilds up static electricityMelts at low heatModacrylics are extremely heat-sensitive fibers. Wigs or fake fur rugs of modacrylic fiber “frizz” when they come in contact with heat, such as that from an oven, hair dryer, hot light bulb or electric heater.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. In some cases. because of decorative or garment design and fabric construction, drycleaning or fur cleaning is recommended. Water-borne stains wash out easily. Oil and grease stains need spot treatment before laundering. Generally, fabrics containing modacrylics cannot be pressed. Those containing Verel may be pressed with a very cool iron. Wigs of these fibers are generally washed in warm water, with a mild shampoo, and left to dry naturally before combing.
NYLONMAN-MADE CHEMICALExtremely strongExtremely durableCan be heat-set to retain pleatsResilientResists mildew and insect damageDoes not burn easilyHigh elasticityVery resistant to abrasionBuilds up static electricityLow moisture absorptionGrays and yellows with age and poor careAbsorbs and holds body oils and perspiration stainsPicks up dye and soil in launderingSpun nylon pillsMelts and fuses in presence of heatSensitive to strong sunlightMelts, if too hotNylon is a very versatile fiber. It is used for everything from ladies’ hosiery to tires. Nylon is often blended with wool to make wool machine washable. Nylon is not the best fiber choice for sheer curtain fabric because of its sensitivity to strong sunlight. Its static property causes nylon to pick up and hold dirt particles. It absorbs color in laundering.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Water-borne stains wash out easily, but oil and grease stains need pre-treatment with a detergent solution or laundry pre-wash. Use a dry oxygen bleach for best results. White or pastel nylon fabrics should not be washed with colored or badlysoiled garments because they absorb color easily. A commercial nylon whitener or bleach may be used to brighten grayed or yellowed nylon garmenta. To minimize graying, detergent and wster temperature may need to be increased, depending on water hardness.
OLEFINMAN-MADE CHEMICALGood resistance to crushingLightweightDries quicklyResists abrasion, stains and weatheringResists damage from chemicals, sunlight, moths and mildewSensitive to strong sunlightVery heat sensitiveMelts at relatively low temperaturesMajor uses for the olefin fiber are in floor coverings and upholstery·fabrics. This fiber is very tough and feels waxy to the touch.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Stains on olefin carpets, rugs, and upholstery usually blot away. Caution: Avoid commercial gas dryers. Never iron 100% olefin fabrics.
POLYESTERMAN·MADE CHEMICALWrinkle-resistantRetains heat-set pleats and creasesSuperior wash-wear performanceStrongResists damage from abrasion, strong sunlight, weather conditions, moths, mildew and most strong chemicalsAbsorbs body oilsAccumulates static electricityMay pill and attract lintAbsorbs perspiration odorMelts, if too hotThe polyester fiber is often blended with fibers such as cotton, wool, rayon, acetate and linen. Fabrics containing the polyester fiber are easy to care for and are wrinkle resistant in wear.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Water-borne stains wash out easily. Oil and grease stains need spot treatment before laundering. To bleach, use a dry oxygen bleach. White garments should be washed only with other white ones. If pressing is necessary, set iron on a low temperature and use steam.
RAMIENATURAL CELLULOSICStrongSoftLustrousStrong when wetResistant to mildew, mold, and insect attackBrittle, weakens with repeated creasing in same placeEasily abradedWrinkles easilyNot colorfastA good fiber for blending. Blends used for sweaters, shirting fabrics, suiting fabrics, tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs. Less expensive than linen.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Dry cleaning preserves color. Wet cleaning (washing) might cause pilling and fuzzing due to, low abrasion resistance. Sharp creases break fibers. Store flat or rolled without creases.
RAYONMAN·MADE CEllULOSICDyes easilyVersatileRelatively inexpensiveAbsorbentWrinkles easilyWeaker when wetDamaged by strong acids and mildewMay shrink or stretch, unless treatedDoes not melt, but may scorchDress shields should be worn with garments made of rayon because it is damaged by perspiration. Fabrics containing rayon should be hung to dry when damp before placing in closet in order to avoid mildew damage. Finishes have been developed to reduce wrinkling and also to reduce shrinking and stretching.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. In some cases, drycleaning is recommended. Remove oil and gresse stains before laundering with a non-flammable drycleaning solvent, laundry pre-wash sOil-snd-stain remover or a oetergent solution. Chlorine bleach tends to yellow snd/or weaken some resin-treated fabrics. A dry oxygen bleach is safe to use. Rayon fabrics lose strength when wet snd need careful handling during laundering. Machine launder on a short cycle. Press with a medium-hot iron.
HIGH WET MODULUS RAYONMAN·MADE CELLULOSICUp to 50% stronger than conventional rayonMore resistant to sunlight than conventional rayonSubdued lusterResists heat and bacteriaResists creases Behaves like cottonGood drapeabilityLower moisture absorption than conventional rayonSusceptible to mildewDoes not melt, but may scorchA good fiber for blending. Stronger and more resistant to sunlight than conventional rayon.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Avoid chlorine bleach unless declared safe on the label. Requires lower ironing temperature than conventional rayon.
RUBBERMAN·MADE CHEMICAL OR NATURALElasticityAdapted for many usesSensitive to heatDamaged by perspiration, body oils, lotions, creams, and lightBondings may become soft from perspiration/cleaningMelts at relatively low heatThe absorbency, comfort, strength, and hand of the yarn depend to a large extent on the fiber used in covering the rubber core. Overstretching and constant flexing cause breakage of yarns.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Rubber yarns are sensitive to heat and will deteriorate at high drying temperatures; therefore, they should not be dried in a dryer by direct heat. Perspiration, body oils, lotions, and creams will soften rubber and deteriorate its elastic properties. Therefore, garments containing rubber should be laundered frequently without chlorine bleach. Drycleaning damages rubber.
SILKNATURAL PROTEINLuxuriousLightweightDyes in beautiful, rich colorsAbsorbentStrongModerately wrinkle resistantResists mildew and mothsWeakened by sunlight, perspiration, & chlorine bleachAbsorbs body oils & grease stainsWater spotsYellows/fades with ageSubject to attack by carpet beetlesAffected by high temperaturesLoses strength when wetDoes not melt, but should be pressed with a press clothDress shields should be worn to protect the underarms of silk dresses. Because sunlight damages silk, especially that which has been heavily weighted, it is not a good fiber for drapery fabrics unless the draperies are lined.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Drycleaning is preferred, especially to remove spots and stains. An amateur frequently removes color. If the garment is washed, it is important to use a neutral soap with no free alkalies and it is important NOT TO USE chlorine bleach. Fabrics may turn yellow if the iron temperature is too high. Do not use dry heat.
SPANDEXMAN·MADE CHEMICALProvide strength without weightResists perspiration, cosmetic oils, and lotionsDamaged by chlorine bleach and heatAbsorbs little moistureMay yellow when exposed to lightMelts at relatively low heatThe spandex fiber gives a lot of control with a minimum of weight. It does tend to yellow with heat and light exposure.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. May be hand or machine washed, using warm, not hot, water. Do not use bleach or detergents containing chlorine. Drip-dry or dryer-dry at low temperature for ten minutes.
TRIACETATEMAN-MADE CELLULOSICGood wrinkle resistanceLess sensitive to heat than acetateRetains creases and pleatsBlends well with other fibersMore resistant to sunlight than rayon and acetateDissolves in acetone, nail polish remover, paint remover, and some perfumesMelts at relatively low heatThe ability to obtain heat-set pleats can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. Leaving clothes in a hot dryer when it stops can set permanent wrinkles.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Requires little special care. In most cases, can be machine washed and dried. Needs little ironing, if any. Pleated garments are best hand laundered.
WOOLNATURAL PROTEINWarm and comfortable to wearAbsorbentWrinkle resistantMolds and shapes easily when pressedWater-repellentFlame-resistantSubject to attack by moths and carpet beetles, unless treated May shrink and felt when laundered unless blended or specially treatedDamaged by chlorine bleachDamaged by dry heatLoses strength when wetSensitive to alkaline agentsDoes not melt, but should be pressed with a press clothMany wools are hand washable. Some may be made machine washable, by blending with a washable fiber, or the yarn may be treated with a chemical finish.Follow Permanent Care Label Instructions. Dry cleaning is recommended for most woolen garments. For washable wool garments use lukewarm water with a neutral soap with no free alkali and agitate very gently for a short time. Rinse well. For knitted goods, squeeze out excess water, shape (block), and dry flat. Pressing should be done with a steam, NOT DRY, iron. Use a press cloth on the wrong side of the fabric. Frequent thorough brushing will help keep garment clean and new-looking. Let a wool garment rest at least twenty-four hours between wearings. For seasonal storage, store clean and seal in an airtight container to prevent moth damage and use a moth-proofing agent.