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How to Wash 100% Cotton Clothes

The Ultimate Guide To Washing 100% Cotton Clothes


Take good care of your 100% cotton clothes to make sure that they last longer. It saves you money in the long run and protects the environment.

Correctly doing laundry is one of the best things you can do to be more sustainable with your garments so you can enjoy wearing them for a long time.

100% cotton isn't the most delicate fabric but it still requires some special attention. You should use the proper techniques to wash 100% cotton textile products.

You might have a few questions such as what temperature or detergent to use, can you use the washer or dryer, will your clothes shrink, and more.

To avoid making mistakes when doing your laundry, here is the ultimate guide to washing 100% cotton clothes.




How do you wash 100% cotton?

how to wash 100 cotton guide

The best way to wash 100% cotton is at moderate temperatures in a gentle washing cycle. You can safely put most 100% cotton garments in the washing machine on the cold water setting using lower spin speeds.

You can also handwash your 100% cotton clothes in a basin. Simply fill the basin with moderately warm water, add laundry detergent, and rub the fabric gently by hand. Then, clean and rinse with cold water.

To save money on electrical bills, reduce carbon emissions, and ensure your clothes last longer, air-dry your 100% clothes whenever you can.

You can lay your garments down on a towel for a while, then flip them over. Or you can hang them up on a hanger to help them dry naturally.

Washing 100% cotton is a simple process but there are crucial steps to take to avoid common mistakes when doing your laundry and keep your favorite pieces in great shape. These are some of them.


Read the care instructions

Before washing any 100% cotton garment, read the care instructions that can be found on the care tag. You need to find out if your item is washable. Most clothes are safe to wash but some need to be dry cleaned.

Find instructions on a preferred temperature for both the washing and rinse cycle. The washing instructions may vary depending on the item type. Some need more care than others and sometimes need to be hand washed.



Remove objects from pockets

It's very easy to forget small objects in your clothes' pockets. Make sure to check every pocket to see if you have left something there. You don't want to soak anything fragile, especially a watch, phone, or wallet.

Small objects can even damage your washing machine and dryer if you let them. Take the extra time to ensure that you aren't missing anything.


Separate light from dark colors

To avoid dye bleeding, make sure to separate light from dark colors before washing your 100% cotton clothes. Light and dark colors should be washed separately.

Dark colors often bleed on other clothing pieces or fade due to the combination of tumbling and temperature. Before washing, you can test if they would bleed by dampening a hidden spot and blotting it with a white cloth.



Turn your clothes inside out

Washing your clothes inside out has many benefits. Turn your garments inside out before doing your laundry to avoid color fading and odor retention.

Jeans, workout clothes, and dark colors, in general, should all be washed inside out. Your clothes' inner layers are usually more resistant.

Turn them inside out to protect the visible sides from harsh detergent, and at the same time, expose the dirtiest parts of your garments.

Make sure to fasten zippers that could snag delicate clothing. Open buttoned shirts, cuff, and collars as well. Fastened buttons can cause damage and rip the buttonholes.


Wash the proper amount

When it comes to filling the washer, only place the proper amount of clothes in there. Fill the washing machine between two-thirds and three-quarters.

If you only wash a few clothes at a time and the washer is almost empty, it can be damaged. On the other hand, a full washer won't give you the best results.

To ensure a better wash, fill the washing machine the right amount. Not too little, not too much. Make sure your clothes aren't tangled together either. It's best to place each item one at a time in the washer.


Add detergent with caution

You can add detergent to wash your 100% cotton clothes but not too much. Simply, open the washer lid, measure the right amount of detergent, liquid, or solid, and pour the detergent into the washer.

The amount of detergent you need depends on how many clothes you plan to wash. You will need more detergent for heavier loads. Avoid any chlorine-based detergent as it can melt fibers, dyes, and also damage fabrics.

You can also add a fabric softener except for towels. They will soften the 100% cotton fabrics quite a lot and reduce static cling. Some even add a scent to your laundry. It's optional though.


Use cold water

Washing 100% cotton clothes in cold water has plenty of benefits. Cold-water washing is now a viable option since technology in home appliances and detergents improved drastically over the last few years.

It does the job for most fashion items, beddings, and linens. You can place them in the washing machine with a temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to effectively refresh textiles that are too dirty.

Prefer cold water for 100% cotton textile products. Doing laundry at high temperatures not only consumes an unnecessarily high amount of energy but also can melt and damage many fabrics.

Hot or warm water is still useful for sanitizing, eliminating bacteria, cleaning heavily soiled clothes, towels, underwear, and white garments that show dirt. But most of the time, cold water is preferable.



Select a gentle cycle

Select a gentle washing and tumbling cycle and avoid high spin speeds as much as possible when doing your laundry. Another setting could exist to adjust the washing cycle to light fabrics, such as 100% cotton.

Fabrics may become very creased or shrink under high spin speeds. Gentle cleaning means that clothing is less likely to form lines and ridges and shrink. Textile fibers will keep their strength, length, and shape.

Clothes that get washed gently are less prone to wrinkling and shrinking. Adjust the cycles of your washing machine and tumble dryer, according to whites and colors, and light or heavy fabrics.


Air-dry your clothes

The dryer isn't the most environmentally friendly device in your home. It consumes an absurd amount of energy and can damage your 100% cotton clothes. So air-dry your clothes whenever you can.

Many fabrics don't support a tumble drier very well. They have very low thermal resistance and will melt under high temperatures. And clothes that go into the dryer are more prone to shrinking and wrinkling.

If you decide to use the dryer, don't leave your clothes unattended. It's a dangerous device that can cause fires if not correctly maintained or used inappropriately.



Only iron if necessary

Many fabrics don't like being ironed altogether. Don't iron clothes that don't need ironing. It's optional, and too much ironing can shrink and eventually damage fabrics.

Many kinds of clothing items may not need to be ironed after drying. Ironing too often or for too long may cause irreversible damage to your clothes.

If you decide to iron your clothes, use the lowest temperature setting. 100% cotton fibers can shrink or dissolve under high temperatures.

Don't forget to use a spray bottle with water. Put the piece of clothing flat on the ironing board and spray the garment with water slightly before applying pressure on the fabric with the iron face.




Can you machine wash 100% cotton?

how to wash 100 cotton machine

You can machine wash 100% cotton clothes, towels, bedding, and linens use you use cold water, a gentle cycle, and a mild detergent. 100% cotton fabric is washable in the washer with these precautions.

You can also handwash your 100% cotton clothes in a basin. Simply fill the basin with moderately warm water, add laundry detergent, and rub the fabric gently by hand. Then, clean and rinse with cold water.

Before washing, drying, or ironing any 100% cotton garment, test if it would bleed by dampening a hidden spot and blotting it with a white cloth.

Fabrics with light colors generally support heat better. However, choose lower temperatures for dark colors. Many textile products are washable but don't resist heat very well.

That's why it usually better to clean 100% cotton fabrics by hand, with cold water, and air-dry to avoid color fading and shrinking.

Make sure to read the care instructions you can find on the care label. It's the best way to determine if each clothing piece is washable how to take care of it properly.

If you don't care to read the proper instructions, you risk damaging the fabrics, and your garments may shrink. Many clothes are delicate and require special attention.




What temperature to wash 100% cotton?

Wash 100% cotton fabric items in cold water. Use a temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to effectively refresh textiles that are too dirty.

Cold-water washing does the job for most fashion items, towels, beddings, and linens. You can safely put most garments, shoes, and accessories in the washing machine on the cold-water setting.

This will prevent the loss of dye in 100% cotton cloths as well as a small amount of shrinkage. The warmer the water gets, the more fabrics may dye-bleed and shrink.

You may notice stains on your clothes at the end of the washing cycle if you choose to do your laundry with hot or warm water. Some colors are fragile and don't resist high temperatures.

Colors that fade will taint your clothes if you aren't careful enough. Hot water and vigorous washing or tumbling can spread stains and even damage fabrics permanently.

Hot or warm water is still useful for sanitizing, eliminating bacteria, cleaning heavily soiled clothes, towels, underwear, and white garments that show dirt. But most of the time, cold water is preferable.




Does 100% cotton shrink in the wash?

100% cotton can shrink in the washer and dryer at high temperatures and spin speeds Rapid and intense washing or drying causes natural cotton fibers to shrink, crease, and wrinkle.

To prevent shrinking and wrinkling, wash 100% cotton in cold water using a gentle cycle. And let the clothes dry naturally by hanging them on a clothing line outside or laying them down on a towel in the laundry room.

Warm or hot water can melt fibers and dyes and also damage fabrics. It's best to use lower temperatures if you want to preserve your clothes and wear them for longer.

In general, you should use cold water when cleaning your 100% cotton clothes in a washing machine. Many fabrics are washable but don't resist heat very well. They have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures.

Use a gentle washing and tumbling cycle as well. Avoid high spin speeds, and use cold water as much as possible to reduce wrinkles and prevent your 100% cotton clothes from becoming creased and shrinking.




Can you put 100% cotton in the dryer?

You can put 100% cotton fabrics in the dryer but they may shrink and become very creased. 100% cotton can easily be permanently damaged or melt under high temperatures in the dryer.

It's best to use lower temperatures and a gentle tumbling cycle if you want to preserve your clothes and wear them for longer. Fabrics with light colors generally support heat better. Choose lower temperatures for dark colors.

Clothes that go into the dryer are more prone to shrinking, wrinkling, creasing, and pilling. Drying your garments rapidly often results in some textile fibers breaking away.

The dryer isn't the most environmentally friendly device in your home. It consumes an absurd amount of energy and can shrink or damage your clothes.

Many fabrics don't go through a tumble dryer very well. They have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures.

To save money on electrical bills, reduce carbon emissions, ensure your clothes last longer, and prevent them from shrinking, air-dry your clothes whenever you can.

You can lay your garments down on a towel for a while, then flip them over. Or you can hang them up on a hanger to help them dry naturally.




Does 100% cotton shrink in the dryer?

100% cotton shrink is very likely to shrink in the dryer under high temperatures and tumbling speeds. Use lower temperatures and a gentle cycle if you want to prevent 100% cotton from shrinking.

100% cotton can usually withstand high temperatures but is still prone to wrinkling and shrinking. Delicate fabrics and light colors require the lowest temperature setting and gentle cleaning.

A lot of garments have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures. The dryer can dissolve fibers and dyes and also damage textile fibers permanently.

It's best to let your 100% cotton clothes dry naturally. Simply hang them up on a clothing line outside in the summer or place them on a towel in the laundry room in the winter.




Does cotton shrink every time you wash it?

Cotton is more likely to shrink the first time you wash it, under high temperatures and spin speeds. If you use lower temperatures and a gentle cycle, cotton clothes don't shrink every time you wash them.

You can put cotton fabrics in the washer or dryer but they may shrink and become very creased if you don't use lower temperatures and a gentle cycle.

If you want to preserve your cotton clothes and wear them for longer, make sure to sure cold water and low spin speeds whenever you wash them.

And air-dry your clothes instead of placing them in the dryer. The dryer not only consumes an unnecessarily high amount of energy but can also shrink or melt cotton permanently.

Avoid high spin speeds, and use lower temperatures as much as possible to reduce wrinkles and prevent your cotton clothes from becoming creased and shrinking.




Should I buy a size up for 100% cotton?

how to wash 100 cotton shrink size

100% cotton doesn't shrink every time you wash it, so it isn't necessary to buy a size up. Simply wash your clothes in cold water with a gentle cycle to prevent them from shrinking.

100% cotton will maintain its size and shape if you take good care of it. Make sure to select the delicate cycle on your washing machine and use lower temperatures.

Place 100% cotton fabrics in the washer with a temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Otherwise, the fabrics may become creased and shrink.

Washing clothes in cold water has plenty of benefits. It does the job for most clothes, towels, beddings, and linens.

Hot or warm water is still useful for sanitizing, eliminating bacteria, cleaning heavily soiled clothes, towels, underwear, and white garments that show dirt. But most of the time, lower temperatures are preferable.





How often should you wash 100% cotton?

To save time, money, water, and energy, wash 100% cotton only when you have to. Most casual clothes can last up to five times before they need cleaning.

Washing your clothes too often can damage the fabrics and make them unwearable a lot sooner. You can wear 100% cotton clothes for a long time if they don't get that dirty.

Wash your towels, pillows, sheets, and beddings at least once every week. It's crucial to wash them enough to preserve your health and hygiene.

You don't need to wash your 100% cotton tees, shirts, pants, shorts, chinos, blouses, skirts, dresses, tanks, tops, and accessories every time you wear them if they don't get that dirty.

Hoodies, sweatshirts, sweat pants, joggers, jumpers, sweaters, cardigans, turtlenecks, and pajamas can also last up to five days before you need to wash them.

Most heavy clothes and winter clothes such as coats, jackets, and parkas can be washed once every season.

On the other hand, workout clothes, activewear, dancewear, athletic gear, swimwear, and underwear are worn close to the skin and can get very sweaty.

It's best to wash any tight-fitting clothing and undergarments that are worn close to the skin quite often, after every time you wear them.


Best laundry detergents for 100% cotton

Use eco-friendly laundry detergents to protect your clothes, your skin, and the environment. To keep your clothes soft and bright without degrading them, avoid any chlorine-based detergent. Don't use acetone or organic solvents either. They can dissolve fibers and dyes and cause irreversible damage to garments.

A lot of laundry detergents, liquid or solid, also contain toxic ingredients that hurt your skin and the environment, such as plastics, bleaches, phosphates, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances, benzene, and more.

The best affordable and eco-friendly laundry detergents replace the synthetic chemicals found in traditional soaps with natural and plant-based ingredients.



Best fabric softeners for 100% cotton

If you like your 100% cotton clothes to be static-free, comfy, and fresh-smelling, use eco-friendly fabric softeners when doing your laundry.

Conditioners soften textiles and reduce static cling. Some even add a beautiful scent to your garments. In many ways, they keep your clothes soft and fresh.

You can use liquid fabric softeners, natural dryer balls, or dryer sheets for 100% cotton clothes. However, dryer balls and sheets tend to leave laundry scratchier than liquids.

Note that fabric softeners are optional. In general, you should avoid them when washing bath towels. They can leave a waxy residue that makes fabrics less absorbent.

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About the Author: Alex Assoune

Alex Assoune Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.

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