Different types of clothing materials – What can you wash in your machine?

In the current day of age there are many different types of materials used to make your clothes and each type of material may have different ways to care for them. To help you get a better idea of what can and can’t be washed in your washing machine i have put together a list of clothing materials and a brief overview of caring for them.

Natural clothing materials


Cotton is a soft fiber that is comprised almost completely from cellulose and is grown on small shrubs. The top three countries producing cotton (as of data from 2014 UN Food & Agriculture Organization) are China, India and then America. Cotton fibers are spun into a thread or yarn that can then be used to make soft breathable material.

When it comes to washing cotton, it is best to turn the clothing inside out to protect the appearance on the front of material, a cold wash is recommended on a delicate cycle. For clothes that are exceptionally dirty a warm wash can be used but a hot wash should be avoided as this will cause the clothing to shrink slightly. Washing in hot water can also cause dyes to leak or transfer from cotton clothing.


Flax also known as linseed, is a plant or crop grown in the cooler regions of the world. Flax fibers are often used to make linen such as bedding, underwear or table clothes. Flax fibers are up to 3 times the strength of cotton fibers but less elastic. A bundle of flax fiber has a similar look to blonde hair.

Linen made from flax tends to get softer each time that it is washed. Linen should be washed in cold or warm water to avoid shrinkage. Do not bleach linens as it will weaken the fibers. Linen is susceptible to creasing in the wash. To lessen this do not overload your machine, it is preferable to have a smaller loads at a time when it comes to washing linen. Large bulky items should be washed individually.


Wool is considered a textile fiber and is obtained from animals such as goats, sheep, rabbits, camels and the musk-ox. Wool is mainly composed of protein but does also have some level of lipids in its constitution. Whilst wool grows on animals in quite a similar way that hair does, it is considered to be very unique. Wool absorbs water well.

When it comes to washing woolen items only cold water should be used as wool may shrink in slightly warmer water. Wool is quite a delicate material and should be washed accordingly by using a delicate cycle. Being a natural fiber, woolen items do not need to be washed as often as other types of materials. Some woolen items should be turned inside out to maintain their appearance.


Ramie is claimed to be amongst the oldest of fiber crops dating back some 6000 years and considered a bast fiber. Ramie is amongst the strongest of natural fibers and gets even stronger when it is wet. Unfortunately ramie is not a durable as other types of fiber materials and is expensive to extract. Ramie is often combined with other fibers to increase the strength of the material.

When it comes to washing your Ramie clothes, it is best to use a delicate cycle with cold or warm water. The use of hot water could lead to stretching or shrinkage. It is not recommended to use bleach with this material as it can weaken the fibers, however if bleach is diluted it may be acceptable.


Silk is another natural fiber made up of proteins and is produced by various insects. The silk moth caterpillar is the main source of silk used for making clothing. Silk is another fiber that is amongst the strongest of natural fibers, however when silk is wet it can lose nearly 20% of its strength. Silk is not very elastic and if stretched will often fail to revert to its original state. Sunlight may damage silk if exposed for to long.

Great care should be taken when washing silk due to its loss of strength when wet. Silk should strictly be washed in cold water on a delicate cycle. It is also recommended that silk items be washed inside a mesh bag. Silk is often prone to color bleeding or transfer so be sure to test a small patch of your material with the washing detergent you have chosen prior to committing to a wash.


Denim is made from cotton fiber and is quite a strong material due to the way in which the threads are woven together. Denim is commonly an indigo blue color but is not limited to just this one color, the use of sulfur dyes allows for a wider range of colors. Some denim materials fade over time whilst others are pre-faded to give a rustic look.

When it comes to washing your denim clothing there are a few things to take into consideration. Firstly denim may fade or bleed color during the washing process (not all types will fade) so it is not recommended to use hot water, hot water may also cause shrinkage. Some types of denim are required to be washed separately for the first wash and other types are not recommended to be washed to often. Always read the care label on you denim clothing prior to washing.

If possible wash denim garments together provided they are of similar color, use a cold water wash and turn your items inside out where possible. When choosing a detergent to wash your denim items, ensure that the detergent does not contain any bleaches.


Leather is a very durable material and is also quite flexible as well. Leather is made from the skin of various animals but the majority is made from cattle. Leather is the choice material for a good deal of protective clothing such as gloves, boots and motorcycle wear. It is chosen as protective clothing for its high durability to abrasions. Leather garments are often cared for with special conditioners to help slow the material from drying out completely and becoming brittle.

When it comes to washing your leather garments it is best to have other dark colored items in the same wash to lower the amount of friction on your leather item. Leather items should be turned inside out and any buttons or zips should be closed. Wash only in cold water and on the delicate cycle. It is also recommended that you use what is called castile soaps as it is gentler on the leather material. Some leather items may not be suitable for machine washing.


Down is a type of feather found below the outer feather of a bird that you can see and the purpose of these feather is to insulate the bird from the harsh elements, down is also very soft. Down is often used for these insulating qualities to make blankets, pillows and jackets.

When it comes to washing garments that contain down it is not recommended to use a machine with an agitator as this may damage you items. Use only a cold wash and the delicate cycle. Down has natural oils in it that may be removed by harsh detergents so ensure that you pick a detergent that is suited to washing down garments. Bleach and fabric softeners must not be used as they will also damage the down feathers. When you wash your down items an extra rinse cycle is a good option to ensure that all the remnants of the detergents are removed.


To be continued…