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How to Wash Cotton: The Ultimate Care & Maintenance Guide

Cotton, a natural fiber derived from plants, is known for its sustainability and biodegradability. It is widely used in everyday items from towels to comforters, providing a soft and warm touch. However, proper care and maintenance are important to prolong the lifespan of cotton items. Here at Sinosilk, we are dedicated to providing all the information you need to know to keep your cotton fabrics in great condition.

How to Wash Cotton?

While hand washing is usually recommended, you can also safely toss it in the washing machine due to cotton’s durability. Although our advice applies to most cotton fabrics, it’s always smart to check the care label for specific instructions before cleaning your cotton fabric.

Machine Wash

  • Pre-treat the stains

Pre-treating the stains beforehand is important, as some stubborn stains can not be removed during normal laundry.

  • Choose the right wash cycle

Opt for the delicate or gentle cycle setting on your washing machine, or use the cotton cycle if it’s available.

  • Choose the right detergent

It’s also important to use a high-quality neutral detergent, as cotton fabrics are resistant to alkalis but not acids.

  • Choose the right water temperature

Use cold or lukewarm water below 35℃ for the best cleaning effect while protecting your cotton fabric.

Hand Wash

  1. Pre-treat the stains according to the type of stain.
  2. Mix the detergent with a bowl of cold or lukewarm water. 
  3. Soak your cotton fabric and agitate gently with your hands. Avoid rubbing vigorously.
  4. Rinse off the dirty water and soap.

How to Dry Cotton?

For drying cotton fabric, it is recommended to let them air dry in a shady and well-ventilated area. Whether laying or hanging the cotton fabric to dry, be sure to straighten it out beforehand to minimize shrinkage and wrinkles after washing.

If you’re in a rush, you can use a dryer. But be sure to check the care label beforehand and select the low-temperature setting and delicate cycle to prevent any potential damage to the fabric from high heat and tumbling.

How to Soften Cotton?

If you’ve recently purchased new cotton fabric, try soaking it in water with baking soda or vinegar for around 20 minutes before the first wash. This simple step can help eliminate any lingering sizing on the fabric, making it softer to the touch. 

For ongoing care, using fabric softener in your regular laundry routine can help maintain the softness of your cotton fabrics. Be sure to check the product instructions for the recommended amount and avoid applying it directly to the fabric.

How to Keep Cotton From Fading?

#Soak in Salt Water

Before the first wash, soak them in strong salt water for 30 minutes. Then, wash them as you normally would. If you notice any color loss, give them a 10-minute soak in light salt water before each wash. 

#Put White Vinegar into the Wash Water

Adding a bit of vinegar to the wash water and soaking the clothes for 20-30 minutes before washing if you hand wash your cotton fabric, or simply including a small cup of vinegar in the washing machine.

#Avoid Exposure to UV Light

Exposure to UV light can lead to fading over time. To protect your cotton textiles from excessive sunlight, make sure to avoid direct sun exposure when drying, and always remember to turn them inside out.

#Avoid Direct Contact With Detergent

Pouring detergent directly onto cotton fabric is dangerous. Many detergents contain fluorescents which can lead to fading or uneven color on the fabric. Thus, always dilute the detergent in water before washing.

How to Wash Cotton Without Shrinking?

  • Avoid using high-temperature water.
  • Avoid prolonged soaking in detergent.
  • Avoid iron at high temperatures (<120℃).
  • Avoid high-temperature tumble drying after washing.
  • Avoid sun exposure.

Tips for Washing Different Cotton Textiles

For Cotton Shirts:

It’s best to hand wash cotton shirts whenever possible. If your shirt has any printed designs, remember to turn it inside out before washing. Pay special attention to the collar area, as it tends to be stretched out. Avoid vigorously rubbing the collar and gently arrange it before you hang the shirt to dry.

For Cotton Sweaters:

It is okay to put your cotton sweater into the washing machine. However, there are still some important steps to follow. To prevent any potential damage to your cotton sweater, it’s recommended to use a mesh laundry bag and select the delicate cycle on the washing machine.

For Cotton Sheets:

Pay special attention to cotton sheets that are decorated with embroidered lace or other embellishments. To prevent discoloration and protect the decorations, turn the sheets inside out before putting them in the washing machine. If you have sensitive skin and need to disinfect the sheets, opt for a higher water temperature instead of using disinfectant to maintain the quality of the fabric.

For Cotton Hat: 

If you’ve got a slight stain on your cotton hat, a wet towel should do the trick for small spots. For bigger stains, you can use a soft brush with a bit of laundry detergent to gently clean the fabric. Do not wring out the hat when you’re done – use a hat support to air dry it and keep its shape intact.

How to Remove Yellow Stains From White Cotton?

Discovering yellow stains on your favorite white cotton fabric can be frustrating, but it’s important to understand why they occur. The natural oils and sweat from our bodies, the loss of whitening agents used in manufacturing during washing, can lead to yellowing. Even leftover detergent exposed to sunlight can contribute to this issue. So, what’s the solution?

One effective solution is to soak your cotton fabric in lukewarm water with baking soda or white vinegar. If needed, you can also use oxygen bleach, but be sure to check the care label on your fabric first and strictly follow the instructions on the bleach bottle.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to salvage your cotton fabric from turning yellow. It’s important to pre-treat any stains before each laundry to effectively prevent stubborn yellowing. These simple yet powerful tips will help you maintain the fresh and clean look of your cotton fabric.

How to Get Grease Stains out of Cotton?

Grease stains on cotton fabric can be a headache to deal with, as they can’t be easily removed with just a regular wash. So how to deal with these annoying grease stains? Here are the cleaning steps to follow.

  • Getting rid of excess grease

To start with, gently press a napkin or dry cloth onto the greasy stain, soaking up any excess grease. Avoid rubbing the stain as it might spread and worsen the situation.

  • Magic of baking soda

Sprinkle this versatile powder evenly over the greasy area, ensuring complete coverage. Take a soft brush and use circular motions to gently work the baking soda into the stain, thus absorbing the grease. If you don’t have baking soda, use baby powder or flour as alternatives.

  • Dish soap to the rescue

To further tackle the grease, remove the baking soda and apply a small amount of dish soap to the stain. Use the soft brush again, and gently work the soap into the fabric using circular motions.

  • Say goodbye to the stain

Now it’s time to rinse away the soap residue. Use hot water to thoroughly rinse the soap, and gently rub the stain until the stain completely disappears.


Can 100% cotton be machine washed?

While hand washing is recommended, 100% cotton can be machine washed if you want. Remember to opt for the delicate or gentle cycle with cold water on the washing machine.

Can you put 100% cotton in the dryer?

Check the care label before you put 100% cotton in the dryer. Normally, 100% cotton can be tumble-dried in a gentle or delicate cycle with low heat.

Will 100% cotton shrink in hot water?

Yes, 100% cotton will shrink in hot water. Moisture and heat all lead to the shrinkage of 100% cotton. To avoid shrinkage, please wash it in the water under 35℃. To shrink the cotton fabric, you can put it into the boiling water for a smaller size.

Does cotton shrink every time you wash it?

Typically, if you follow the care label instructions, cotton fabrics shrink on the first wash with little to no shrinkage in subsequent washes. Notably, if your cotton fabric has been pre-shrunk during processing, the shrinkage on the first wash can be very slight.

How many times can cotton be washed?

It depends on the quality of your cotton fabric and the way you wash it. Generally, cotton sheets can be washed 130-150 times and cotton towels can be washed 100-110 times.


Taking care of your cotton fabric is a smart investment that pays off in the long run. Whether you prefer the traditional approach of hand washing or opt for the convenience of a washing machine, this article provides you with essential guidelines. If you crave more knowledge or have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Sinosilk. We’re eager to lend a helping hand.

More Resources:

What is Organic Cotton? – Source: Sinosilk

Organic Cotton vs Cotton – Source: Sinosilk

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