Loved clothes last, but some of the best fabrics get a bad rap for being difficult to care for (dry clean only, or hours of ironing, no thank you very much). Fortunately, this is rarely the case, just keep the process cool and gentle - your clothes and the planet will thank you for it. I've rounded up my tops picks for summer fabrics to keep you cool and how to keep them in great shape (literally)
I'm slightly obsessed with linen for both its looks and its eco-friendly qualities, so I shall start here. Linen is a loosely woven, natural fibre which allows heat to escape from the body, it absorbs moisture and dries quickly. It’s also pretty malleable so doesn’t tend to stick to the body, so basically you're talking cool as a cucumber during a July heatwave attire. However, it can wrinkle quite easily - you can opt for linen blends that will be less crinkle-prone
Linen is a sturdy material that can absolutely be machine washed, but stick to gentle cycles as over-handling can cause damage to the fibre structures, also wash alongside other lightweight garments and avoid heavier items (like jeans and towels). Its best to use a mild detergent (ones that specify hand-washing/delicates are perfect — I use Ecover Delicate). Avoid the use of fabric softener and bleach on linen clothing. Much like cotton, linen does have a tendency to shrink so opt for either warm or cold water; if your linen is a vibrant or dark colour, stick with cold to avoid fading. And if you hand-wash, don't wring the fabric, press the water out and transfer to a towel
One of linen's finest qualities, after it's good looks, is that it's fast drying — it makes linen a great choice for travel, and for wearing when it's very hot. Given how quickly it will dry, and its tendency to shrink when exposed to heat, air drying is your best bet when it comes to your linen clothes. When air drying, either lay the garment flat on a towel or use a drying rack
The big thing that puts a lot of people off of this great fabric is the wrinkle situation. But this depends on the garment, there is little need to iron a slouchy linen top, but tailored shirts and some dresses require a crisper finish
For the best results, iron the garment straight out of the wash or dampen it using a spray bottle filled with water. Use a medium/high heat and a spray starch on the whisker points (knees, elbow, crotch) - or all over for a crisper look
In the event you want to maintain the natural rumpled look of linen, but want to remove the heavier creases - use a spray bottle of water and lightly spritz the creased areas, gently stretching and smoothing the garment, lay it flat and allow to air dry
Cotton is a natural fibre which allows air to circulate and move freely through the fabric, ensuring airflow that dries out damp areas of the body. A good quality lightweight cotton also absorbs moisture and keeps . Similar to linen in many ways, including the wrinkle foe.
It is difficult to give guidance on washing cotton as there are so many types of cotton fabric available and so many uses for it. To be safe you should always refer to the care label for your cotton item before washing, but the following advice will be safe on the majority of items - you'll find it quite similar to the linen guidance, so I shall keep it brief!
Cotton can be prone to shrinking when washed and dried, so avoid washing at high temperatures (30°C or below) and give garments a gentle stretch when they come out of the wash to get them back into shape
To avoid shrinking, always air dry - dry clothes flat if possible, or on a rack and away from direct sunlight. Items like t-shirts and jeans often don’t need ironing if you gently stretch them when they come out of the washing machine and air dry them flat
Like linen, it is best to iron cotton while it is damp and making sure the items are dry/aired before folding and putting away. Steaming works really well on lighter pieces, just pop them to hang in bathroom when you take a shower!
Silk is a lightweight fabric that’s a popular choice for hot weather thanks to its construction by sericulture (the term used to describe the process of gathering the silkworms use to collect the materials) which gives it it's weightlessness nature and ability to adjust to your body's temperature. That said, it’s worth noting that silk isn't as absorbent as its cotton or linen contemporaries and is a fabric best kept for relaxing rather than dancing
--- It's a common misconception that delicates like silk and cashmere need to be shipped off to the dry cleaners, but you can care for your silk items at home, just as you can with your delicate wool items.
I recommend hand-washing each silk piece separately for a couple of reasons; silk can lose colour which can transfer to other items, it also releases dirt very quickly and keeping the washing process short will lengthen the life of your garment. Fill a sink/basin with cool or cold water and add a gentle detergent; place the garment in and gently stir it around before letting it sit for a few minutes; drain and rinse with clean, cool water
To remove excess water, place the wet garment onto a towel, fold it over and gently blot. Then, using a padded hanger, hang the blouse or dress over the bathtub to drip dry. The drying process shouldn't take more than an hour. Never wring silk or dry in direct sunlight
Steaming is best, but you can iron silk on a low heat. To iron, turn your garment inside out and ensure it is slightly damp. Use your steamer on a dry garment, being careful to not let the temperature get too hot. If the steamer drips and leaves a water stain, dunk the item in cool water and air dry to remove
Chambray is a plain weave fabric, made with a coloured yarn in the warp and a white yarn in the weft, similar to denim but much more lightweight and a perfect summer substitute for your Levis. Chambray also comes in a higher thread count, meaning it’s a finer weave and therefore more breathable
Washing & Drying
Because chambray is typically 100% cotton, it will soften well with every wash. To avoid shrinkage, wash with cold water and air dry
Chambray fabric does wrinkle easily, follow the steps of gently stretching and air drying on a rack to help minimise the creases and it should be ironed damp or steamed dry
A pretty incredible fabric, it's not a surprise that it has been a mainstay in civilisation for thousands of years - from wrapping dead Egyptian royalty to making ropes for ancient ships - it is a durable, made from a carbon negative raw material (it's literally a self-offsetting crop!) that is lightweight, non-shrinking, naturally antimicrobial (it won't get smelly easily), partially water resistant and also protects against the sun's rays ... yep, pretty amazing stuff!
Keep to gentle wash cycles and cool/warm settings or hand-wash, again using a mild detergent
Hemp is a fast drying fabric and air drying flat or on a rack out of direct sunlight is best
If an iron is required, it works best when the hemp fabric is still damp. Use medium to high heat, and start on the inside of the garment and then air dry if still damp
Each material has its own preferences, but as a rule of thumb keep your washes gentle and cool, air dry as much as possible and iron pieces damp and inside out (if at all) before hanging them to dry completely. Not only will this work wonders on keeping your clothes in their best condition for longer, avoiding hot washes and heated drying will dramatically reduce the amount of micro-plastics your wash releases and your overall personal carbon footprint. And my main piece of take away advice - embrace rumpled linens, they look great!