Caring for Fabrics

Fabric is an attractive, versatile, and inexpensive element of design commonly used in modern homes; but the variability of design fabrics makes it difficult to generalize advice for fabric care. Some fabrics act differently in different climates, and most fabrics have different cleaning requirements. Nevertheless, caring for your design fabrics ensures they maintain their attractiveness and durability in the long term. While this information is offered only as a brief guide, you should find some useful tips for caring for fabrics.

Regular Care

Typically, the main causes of soiling on fabric are dust, smoke from cigarettes or open fires, and accidental spills. While most of these causes can be prevented (or at least minimized), most fabrics become soiled over time. As such, you should be careful to regularly vacuum fabrics, including upholstery, drapes, curtains, and carpets. Most vacuum cleaners come with upholstery attachments, making regular cleaning a breeze. Ideally, you want to vacuum curtains and upholstery at least once a week to ensure their maximum lifespan. In addition, professional fabric cleaners recommend that you apply scotch guard or another stain resistance product to prevent premature spoiling; just be sure to choose a product that is safe for the particular type of fabric.


In addition to vacuuming, most fabrics should be washed on a regular schedule, whenever possible. Many fabrics are machine washable, and smaller items can often be cleaned at home. It's best to wash fabrics on a regular schedule rather than waiting for more serious stains or soiling to occur. Usually, you do not want to wash full-length curtains or other large items in a domestic washing machine as they tend not to clean very thoroughly and colour loss may be an issue. Also, always make sure to follow manufacturer's instructions closely as not all fabrics are safe for machine washing.

Another consideration when it comes to washing fabrics is that woven fabrics, particularly those made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen will shrink. Indeed, it is common for upholstery fabrics to shrink by as much as 6-8%, and even dry cleaning can cause shrinkage. You can prevent some shrinkage by ironing fabric in the direction of shrinkage when the fabric is still slightly damp. Otherwise, you should take care to allow for shrinkage when choosing fabrics for curtains and furniture covers.

Light Fastness

All fabrics will eventually fade from exposure to lights. While many printed or dyed design fabrics are made to resist fading, it is advisable to line curtains and blinds to prevent fading. Even on the cloudiest days, UV rays in sunlight will cause fading, so you should take extra steps to protect window coverings or furniture in rooms with a lot of natural sunlight. You may want to consider shutters or awnings to prevent sun exposure, and remember that some fabrics, such as sheer fabrics and voiles are especially likely to fade in sunlight.