Polyester has graduated from its status as a tacky fabric that doesn't "breathe" to an up-to-date option that mimics textured knits, silky chiffon and enviable prints. Polyester is often less expensive than all-natural fabrics and resists wrinkling, making it a plus for travel. It's still considered a delicate fabric, however, and can age prematurely if not washed properly.
Polyester clothing most often can be washed at home, even if labeled as "dry clean." If you do wash your polyester garments, use care to ensure that nothing gets ruined in the process.
Hand washing is a safe bet for any garment labeled "machine" or "hand washable." If the clothing has embellishments, such as lace, sequins or decals, hand washing is also better than using the machine. Use a mild detergent and warm water, and agitate with your hands. Rinse thoroughly, blot out the excess moisture and then lay flat to dry.
Keep polyester out of the sun when you let it dry. The sun's heat can shrink the fabric and fade the color and patterns.
When you're sure that machine washing is OK for the garment -- such as when it's specified on the label -- still take care. Turn the garment inside out before placing it in the washer; this preserves the color on outside. Wash it on warm in the permanent press cycle. Dry it in the dryer on a warm setting, but remove the clothing when it is slightly damp. This will help it resist wrinkling and discourage shrinkage.
"Dry Clean Only" and "Dry Clean"
Garments labeled "dry clean only" are best off going to your local professional establishment, but if the label says "dry clean," it's only the preferred method of cleaning, notes Real Simple. The dry clean recommendation saves manufacturers from liability if something goes wrong when you wash the clothing at home. Before committing to an at-home washing, test an inside edge with water and soap to make sure the color doesn't bleed or stain.
If you're willing to experiment with at-home washing of polyester, hand washing is safest because it minimizes agitation and abuse. The clothing will also spend less time submerged in water. If you do machine wash your garment, go for a warm delicate cycle, turn the item inside out and place it in a mesh bag.
Always lay the garment flat to dry. The dryer will likely shrink it, and will definitely degrade the fabric more quickly.
Warm water should not exceed 120 degrees F. When drying polyester, the dryer should also not exceed this temperature.
Bed Linens and Upholstery
Polyester is commonly used for sheets and other linens. Wash these items separately from other fabrics, and always load the machine to a manageable capacity -- overloading may cause tearing or incomplete washing. Use warm water and a detergent that is mild, because the washed product will likely come in contact with the skin.
Place these in the dryer after washing, but set it to the lowest heat setting.
Avoid using fabric softener, either liquid or sheets, on polyester.