Here you'll find information on fibers and their care, sorted alphabetically by name. To quickly find a fiber, hit Ctrl+F and type the name of the fiber. To sort, click a column heading.

Name Type Advantages Limitations Helpful Facts Clues to Care
ACETATE MAN·MADE CELLULOSIC

Feels and appears silky

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, bew.are 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 Insructions. 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".
ACRYLIC MAN-MADE CHEMICAL

Lightweight

Strong

Can be heat-set for pleats, unset and re-set

Absorbs little moisture

Resists sunlight damage, moths and mildew

Launders easily

Does not irritate skin

Resists wrinkling

Builds up static electricity

Pills

Holds oil and grease stains

Melts, 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 Insructions. 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 drycleanings may weaken fibers. Water-borne stains wash out easily. Oil or grease stains must be pretreated before laundering. Use a low iron temperature and press on the wrong side of the fabric.
COTTON NATURAL CELLULOSIC

Absorbent

Cool

Comfortable to wear

Durable

Economical

Wrinkles unless treated

Susceptible to mildew and strong acids

Does not melt, but may scorch

To 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.
GLASS MAN-MADE MINERAL

Strong

Will not burn

Absorbs no moisture

Resists sunlight, mildew, bacteria and insects

Brittle (tends to break along crease lines and abraded areas)

Subject to abrasion damage

Do 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 CELLULOSIC

Best wicking of natural fibers; therefore cool to wear

Dries quickly

Natural soft sheen

Strong and durable

Wrinkles badly unless treated

Susceptible to mildew and strong acids

Color frosts on creases

May be weakened with repeated creasing in the same place

Does not melt, but may scorch

Treatment 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.
METALLIC MAN-MADE MINERAL

Adds a rich quality to fabric

Laminated yarns are lightweight, non-tarnishable and relatively inexpensive

Sensitive to abrasion

Laminated yarns are sensitive to heat

Plastic coating on many yarns may melt

Gold, 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.
MODACRYLIC MAN-MADE CHEMICAL

Warm

Pleasing to the touch Resilient

Strong

Resists wrinkling

Flame resistant

Extremely heat sensitive

Builds up static electricity

Melts at low heat

Modacrylics 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.
NYLON MAN-MADE CHEMICAL

Extremely strong

Extremely durable

Can be heat-set to retain pleats

Resilient

Resists mildew and insect damage

Does not burn easily

High elasticity

Very resistant to abrasion

Builds up static electricity

Low moisture absorption

Grays and yellows with age and poor care

Absorbs and holds body oils and perspiration stains

Picks up dye and soil in laundering

Spun nylon pills

Melts and fuses in presence of heat

Sensitive to strong sunlight

Melts, if too hot

Nylon 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.
OLEFIN MAN-MADE CHEMICAL

Good resistance to crushing

Lightweight

Dries quickly

Resists abrasion, stains and weathering

Resists damage from chemicals, sunlight, moths and mildew

Sensitive to strong sunlight

Very heat sensitive

Melts at relatively low temperatures

Major 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.
POLYESTER MAN·MADE CHEMICAL

Wrinkle-resistant

Retains heat-set pleats and creases

Superior wash-wear performance

Strong

Resists damage from abrasion, strong sunlight, weather conditions, moths, mildew and most strong chemicals

Absorbs body oils

Accumulates static electricity

May pill and attract lint

Absorbs perspiration odor

Melts, if too hot

The 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.
RAMIE NATURAL CELLULOSIC

Strong

Soft

Lustrous

Strong when wet

Resistant to mildew, mold, and insect attack

Brittle, weakens with repeated creasing in same place

Easily abraded

Wrinkles easily

Not colorfast

A 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.
RAYON MAN·MADE CEllULOSIC

Dyes easily

Versatile

Relatively inexpensive

Absorbent

Wrinkles easily

Weaker when wet

Damaged by strong acids and mildew

May shrink or stretch, unless treated

Does not melt, but may scorch

Dress 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 RAYON MAN·MADE CELLULOSIC

Up to 50% stronger than conventional rayon

More resistant to sunlight than conventional rayon

Subdued luster

Resists heat and bacteria

Resists creases Behaves like cotton

Good drapeability

Lower moisture absorption than conventional rayon

Susceptible to mildew

Does not melt, but may scorch

A 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.
RUBBER MAN·MADE CHEMICAL OR NATURAL

Elasticity

Adapted for many uses

Sensitive to heat

Damaged by perspiration, body oils, lotions, creams, and light

Bondings may become soft from perspiration/cleaning

Melts at relatively low heat

The 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.
SILK NATURAL PROTEIN

Luxurious

Lightweight

Dyes in beautiful, rich colors

Absorbent

Strong

Moderately wrinkle resistant

Resists mildew and moths

Weakened by sunlight, perspiration, & chlorine bleach

Absorbs body oils & grease stains

Water spots

Yellows/fades with age

Subject to attack by carpet beetles

Affected by high temperatures

Loses strength when wet

Does not melt, but should be pressed with a press cloth

Dress 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.
SPANDEX MAN·MADE CHEMICAL

Provide strength without weight

Resists perspiration, cosmetic oils, and lotions

Damaged by chlorine bleach and heat

Absorbs little moisture

May yellow when exposed to light

Melts at relatively low heat

The 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.
TRIACETATE MAN-MADE CELLULOSIC

Good wrinkle resistance

Less sensitive to heat than acetate

Retains creases and pleats

Blends well with other fibers

More resistant to sunlight than rayon and acetate

Dissolves in acetone, nail polish remover, paint remover, and some perfumes

Melts at relatively low heat

The 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.
WOOL NATURAL PROTEIN

Warm and comfortable to wear

Absorbent

Wrinkle resistant

Molds and shapes easily when pressed

Water-repellent

Flame-resistant

Subject to attack by moths and carpet beetles, unless treated May shrink and felt when laundered unless blended or specially treated

Damaged by chlorine bleach

Damaged by dry heat

Loses strength when wet

Sensitive to alkaline agents

Does not melt, but should be pressed with a press cloth

Many 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.