Fleece can take you on an emotional roller coaster like no other fabric. When you buy a new fleece blanket or cozy fleece jacket, it immediately becomes your favorite thing to reach for on cold days. Then, you wash and dry it for the first time, and that soft, fuzzy fleece turns into something rough and scratchy. It'll still keep you warm, but it'll never be the same. Keeping the love alive for as long as possible is all about knowing how to wash fleece the right way – or more specifically, knowing how to wash polyester fleece the right way.
What Is Fleece?
To understand how to wash fleece, it's useful to understand what the fabric is made of. The kind of fleece that's used to make fluffy blankets and jackets is polyester fleece. (Despite the name, fleece fabrics aren't made with real sheep's wool.) Polyester fleece, like other polyester fabrics, is derived from synthetic plastic fibers.
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There's also a fabric called cotton fleece, which is made from (you guessed it) cotton fibers. It's also warm and durable like polyester fleece but tends to have a rougher, nubbier texture. Most of the time, when people are wondering how to wash fleece, they're thinking about polyester fleece.
How Should You Wash Fleece?
As you think about how to wash polyester fleece, always err on the side of caution since one wrong step can ruin the fabric's texture. If you notice any stains on the fabric, spot treat them before washing. Rub a little dish soap into the stains and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, rub the spots again with your fingers or with paper towels to lift as much of the stain as possible before washing. Dish soap shouldn't damage the synthetic fibers in polyester fleece and can be effective at treating even grease- or oil-based stains.
Polyester fleece can be washed by hand or in a washing machine. If you opt for the machine, do a fleece-only load so the soft fleece isn't battered by denim or other rougher fabrics. Turn any fleece clothing inside out before washing. Always wash fleece using cold water, your machine's gentlest cycle and just a small amount of detergent since adding too much soap can coat the fibers of your fleece and change its texture. Never use bleach or fabric softener on fleece.
Like polyester fleece, cotton fleece can also be machine washed in cold water with detergent. That said, check the care label on any cotton fleece garments for specific instructions from the manufacturer.
Can You Put Fleece in the Dryer?
One of the questions that people most frequently have about how to wash polyester fleece is whether you can put fleece in the dryer. They're right to think twice before tossing a clean fleece blanket or jacket into the dryer. The plastic fibers in polyester fleece will start to melt and fuse together if they're exposed to high heat. This is why a polyester blanket might feel scratchy after it runs through the dryer, as the material essentially becomes covered in tiny plastic spikes.
Cotton fleece doesn't have the same problem, but like other cotton fabrics, cotton fleece may shrink in the dryer. That might not be a big problem when washing a cotton fleece blanket, but it could be a problem when washing clothes made of cotton fleece.
So, can you put fleece in the dryer? Technically, sure – but don't risk it if you're not in a hurry. Air drying fleece is the best strategy. If you really can't wait, put either polyester or cotton fleece in the dryer with no other fabrics on a low- or no-heat setting. Keeping the heat low minimizes the chance of damaging the fabric. Never iron polyester fleece.