Each textile comes with washing or cleaning instructions. If you will need to wash a fabric frequently, choose something tried and tested and pre-shrunk like linen, gingham, hemp…and follow the given directions!
As a matter of fact, very few fabrics can’t be hand washed if done with with due care, so it is an option usually worth while exploring–even if just for spot cleaning. Always test a small piece first, and know that the manufacturer will only take responsibility if the care advice given is followed. If the fabric has an applied finish, washing might remove it and dry cleaning weaken it.
One of the problems that manufacturers have in signing the cloth off for hand washing is the damage that residual detergent can do to the cloth, especially in reaction to sunlight.
It goes without saying that many of the furnishings for garden, children’s room, kitchen chair seats, bathrooms, nurseries and dens should be washable. Whilst there are some very good washable fabrics from the furnishing fabric houses, to my mind, not nearly enough! It’s very irritating to come across what you think is the perfect, tough looking cotton check, or stripe, only to find it’s washable at a paltry 30 degrees, or at best 40. For this reason we very often recommend the tried and tested denims, striped tickings, ginghams, brushed cotton twills, borderie anglais, Tana lawns, corduroy and gaberdine. Not all of these are hard wearing and the price will, to a certain extent reflect that, but for cushions, curtains and even floor cushions this is fine, the high rub test that we expect from long term high wear isn’t vital.
We have sourced some excellent washable fabrics ourselves, however, many of these mentioned come from the dressmaking world, where washability is of prime importance, and the metreage costs often less. Duvets and other bedding materials are another good source of washable fabric, especially for children’s rooms and anything from the catering and hotel world – for many years we used a good cafe tablecloth fabric that came only in blue and white or red and white, until the manufacturer stopped making.
* For sofas and upholstery there are plenty of linen / cotton unions that are very washable, as well as the generally bombproof fabrics noted above. For loose covers we always (over) cut and wash before we make up.
* Linens and cottons can always be washed – they just need to be pre-washed and any surface treatment taken into account.
* Washing a fabric a number of a times is the fastest way to a ‘vintage’ look.
* Wool is often more washable than we expect it to be- after all it has been washed and pre-shrunk during the making process, long before it sees the roll.
* Silk can generally be washed – washing the whole piece prevents the tell tale water marks. Silk lampshades- the hand made ones, not the bought ones made with glue – can always be hand washed, dunked into baths of water. Sheer silk curtains too can be washed, pressed damp and hung up to finish.
As always, test every fabric first, before it’s cut.
For further information see our basic techniques – Care and Maintenance.