What are washable and non-washable fibres and fabrics

By | June 26, 2016

Different types of fabrics

Clothes and fabrics are often marked as washable or non-washable. For those who do not understand the terminology might be confused as to what does that exactly mean.

Washable fabrics can be washed in the usual every day style using a detergent inside a machine. They are structure strong enough to withstand the washing process and last for quite a long time.

Non washable fabrics on the other hand are delicate and sensitive to different kind of cleaning agents and need special care. Most are marked dry clean only.

Washable fabrics or fibers

The fabrics can be washed as usual with detergent inside a washing machine. Some very common types of washable fabrics include the following.

  • Acrylic Fabric
  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Modacrylic
  • Nylon
  • Olefin
  • Polyester
  • Spandex
  • Washable Wool

Cotton, Polyester are very common terms that we come across when buying garments. And we do wash most of such garments right inside the washing machine with detergent and continue to do so for quite a long time as long as the garments are in use.

Non Washable fabrics

These are a class of fabrics that cannot we washed with usual cleaners like detergents inside machines. Garments made out of these fibres are often marked “Dry clean only”.

  • Acetate
  • Burlap
  • Fiberglass
  • Rayon
  • Rope
  • Silk
  • Triacetate
  • Nonwashable Wool

Silk and special varieties of wool are often marked non washable. Such garments are delicate and cannot withstand the force of detergents and machine cleaning.

Classification of fibers/fabrics

Fabrics are classified based on the source of the building fiber. The major categories include plant based fibers, animal based, mineral based and synthetic.

For example, cotton and jute are plant based fibres. Whereas wool and silk come from animal or non plant origins. Apart from these another category is of synthetic fibres like nylon, polyester and acrylic.

Garments may not be made of just one kind of fibre. Cotton garments are often a mix of cotton and polyester. Pure cotton is often more expensive and less durable and needs more care. Whereas a mix of natural and synthetic fibers is more durable and resistant to various washing methods and also lasts long.

Here is an interesting slideshow that explains the classification of different types of fibers –

Washing and cleaning rules

Even though most are not aware, the rules for washing are quite different for different kind of fabrics. For example you should never try vinegar or lemon juice to remove any kind of stain on a Linen fabric. It can damage the fabric.

Silk should never be washed with bleach. Bleach is too strong and will ruin the whole silk garment. Same caution needs to be applied for other delicate fabrics like wool.

Ammonia should be avoided on both linen and cotton fabrics.

Most cleaning detergents have instructions on them as to what fabrics they are compatible with and which ones to avoid or keep away. Read the instructions on the detergent as well as the fabric label carefully.


To learn more about different kind of fabrics, check the following links –


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