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How to wash and dry polyester items properly

Polyester is a popular fabric that can be found in almost any home. It is commonly used in everyday work attire, school or sport uniforms, or even blankets and bedding. One of the greatest benefits of polyester is that it can easily be washed at home in just a few simple steps. Read on for more tips on caring for your polyester items.

Two shirts hanging on a rack in front of a dryer Two shirts hanging on a rack in front of a dryer

What is polyester?

Polyester is a man-made, synthetic fiber that is lightweight, durable, and soft to the touch. Oftentimes it is blended with additional fabrics to create a specific texture but this sometimes makes it easier for the garment to shrink. Items that are labeled as 100% polyester have not been woven with any additional materials, while 50/50 and tri-blends are spun with additional fabrics such as cotton or wool. Learn more about how to care for other delicate fabrics like rayon.

Does polyester shrink in the washer or dryer?

While certain blends of polyester can shrink as a result of the properties of the additional fabrics it is woven with, pure 100% polyester rarely shrinks in the washer or dryer. Under certain circumstances, like when washed in hot water or dried in high heat, you may see some shrinkage, in comparison to other materials.

A top view of clothes in a washing machine during a wash cycle A top view of clothes in a washing machine during a wash cycle

Polyester washing and care instructions

Whether you’re looking to wash a shirt, jacket or comforter, polyester is a durable material that can easily be washed at home. The following steps outline the best tips for washing polyester to get an optimal clean. For instructions specific to your garment, see the clothing’s tag for reference.

What you’ll need to clean and help remove stains from polyester

Before proceeding with the wash process, there are a few simple materials that you will need to get started.

Estimated time needed

A normal wash cycle typically takes between 50 to 60 minutes to complete while a standard dry cycle will add an additional 45 minutes. In total you should expect to complete the washing process of polyester in approximately two hours when adhering to the following steps.


  • Stain pretreat solution

  • Oxygen bleach

  • Laundry detergent

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Step 1: Read the care label

One of the benefits of polyester is that it can be washed in a washing machine, saving you time and effort on laundry day. Before tossing any piece into the machine, always check the label to make sure the polyester you’re washing is not woven with other materials that require special care or treatment in order to avoid damage. This is common with polyester blend ties or socks.

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Step 2: Pretreat the garment or blanket

Pretreating your items before putting them into the wash can help to remove stubborn stains and improve the appearance of your clothes. Apply a stain treatment to any areas that require extra care, focusing on more susceptible areas including the underarms, cuffs, and neckline.

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Step 3: Sort items by color and fabric type

Before placing your items into the washing machine, separate loads out by color in order to prevent the colors from bleeding or transferring to other garments. Because garments that are placed into the same load continuously come into contact with one another throughout the cycle, it is essential to sort the items by fabric type in order to reduce things like piling and fading. Heavier materials such as denim should be washed in a separate cycle from delicates, for instance. For best results, polyester could be separated from other fabrics and laundered on its own.

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Step 4: Set your washer cycle

Once you have pretreated and sorted out your polyester items, place the load into your washing machine. Set the wash cycle to normal and use a gentle laundry detergent. Because polyester is a synthetic material, high heat can break down the fibers and cause damage to your clothes. As a result, polyester should be washed using warm or cold water. Make sure to check your care label. If you are washing white or bright colors, you may also want to consider adding in all-purpose bleach alternative to provide an extra boost.

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Step 5: Set your dryer cycle

Just as with washing, it is important to avoid using high heat when drying polyester items. To dry your polyester clothing, place the load into your dryer and select the tumble dry setting. Adjusting the temperature to medium or per your item’s care label can help keep the polyester’s fibers intact.

A woman pulling clothes from the dryer A woman pulling clothes from the dryer

More tips for washing and drying polyester

Following these steps when washing your polyester clothing will help keep them in good condition. Some additional tips to further prevent pilling when washing and ultimately help items to last longer include:

  • Pretreat any stains that may need it.

  • Check clothing labels for washing instructions like heat levels, cleaning solvents and approved washing methods. Never wash a garment without checking the label.

  • Fasten any zippers, buttons, or hooks.
  • Turn garments inside out. 

  • Don’t overload the washing machine.

  • Use the correct type and amount of detergent. Swash® Laundry Detergent by Whirlpool Corperation is a good option.

Shop Whirlpool® washers and dryers

If you are interested in upgrading your washer or dryer to help care for your favorite fabrics, Whirlpool brand offers a variety of washers, dryers, and smart appliances to best suit your needs.

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