Fabric care

How to wash cotton

how to wash cotton

Learn how to clean cotton at home

Used for everything from shirts, to sheets and towels, cotton is an incredibly versatile, breathable material and can be found in a whole host of garments and household textiles. Cotton is a soft staple fiber that grows around the seeds of cotton plants, which is collected and spun into yarn. However, if cotton is not cared for properly, it can lead to the shrinking or fading of your most loved garments.

Follow our guide for more information on how to wash cotton clothes at home, so you can love them for longer.

Tips to wash and care for cotton

Before you tackle all your cotton items, we’ve got some helpful facts that will make the task of washing your cotton items much easier and increase your chance of laundry success:

Read the care claims – always read the label before you attempt to wash your cotton garments.  

Avoid hot water – high temperatures will cause cotton to shrink, so opt for a delicate cycle or a cold wash to avoid your favorite cotton items from shrinking.  

Flip them inside out – to protect the outside of the garment from the abrasive agitation of the washing process, turn them inside out.  

Hang them out to dry – for minimal risk of shrinking, you should air dry your cotton fabrics. If you can machine dry them, use a low-to-moderate heat.  

Banish the wrinkles – one issue with cotton is that it can crease and wrinkle easily. If you choose to iron it, you should iron it while the fabric is somewhat damp.

How to wash 100% cotton

The reason so many shirts, socks, underwear and upholstery are made out of cotton is because it comes with a lot of benefits. Clothing that is made from 100% cotton is soft, durable and breathable due to the fact that it hasn’t been blended with any other fabric. Cotton has the added benefit of being absorbent, meaning it holds dye well, so your favorite items are less likely to fade!

Cleaning your cotton clothes can be stress-free with the right know-how and products. Just follow the steps below using Woolite® Damage Defense laundry detergent (or Woolite® Darks Defense laundry detergent for your darker colored clothes!) for a thorough clean every time.

Usage instructions – Top loaders

  1. Select the appropriate washing cycle, most machines will have a ‘cotton’ wash cycle option

  2. Follow the garment label instructions for water temperature
  3. Fill the machine with water
  4. Pour a dose of Woolite® Damage Defense or Darks Defense into water. For medium load washes, fill the measuring cap to line 1
  5. Add your cotton garments

Usage instructions – Front loaders

  1. Select the appropriate washing cycle

  2. Follow the garment label instructions for water temperature

  3. Pour a dose of Woolite® Damage Defense or Darks Defense into dispenser/drawer. For medium load washes, fill the measuring cap to line 1

  4. Add your cotton garments

Always check the label before washing.

How to wash cotton sweaters

While wool sweaters are perfect for winter, cotton is perfect to keep out the chill in the warmer seasons due to its lightweight and breathable nature. Thanks to its durability, you can wear and wash cotton items again and again, so it’s easy to throw them in the washing machine at the end of the day. Simply follow the machine wash instructions above.

How to prevent cotton from shrinking

It can be heart-breaking to pull your garment out of the machine to find it is smaller than when it went in. Unfortunately, it’s well known that cotton can shrink in the wash if the proper precautions aren’t taken and it’s exposed to heat.

Not to worry though, for items that need extra care the best option is to use Woolite® Delicates with a handwashing method to ensure they look like new for longer.

Usage instructions - Handwash

  1. Fill a sink or wash tub with cold water unless label instructs otherwise

  2. Using the measuring cap, fill the liquid up to line 1, pour into water and stir with your hands

  3. Wash your cotton items gently by hand

Always check the label before washing.

How to wash cotton sheets

The lightweight and breathable nature of cotton is able to create the perfect sleeping environment, so you can drift off easily. But sleeping for 8 hours each night can expose the sheets to sweat and dirt transferred from our bodies, so you’ll want to clean them regularly. For the optimum results, just use Woolite® Damage Defense and follow the machine wash instructions above. Just remember to avoid the tumble dryer, unless stated on the label, and air dry them instead so they can keep their shape.

Woolite® Damage Defense

If you want a laundry detergent that will look after your favorite clothes in one wash, Woolite® Damage Defense will do the trick. It is specially formulated to keep them looking like new for longer.


Woolite® Delicates

In need of a laundry detergent that cleans and protects? Woolite® Delicates is the perfect product for the job, as it helps prevent fading for up to 30 washes.

woolite delicates

Top tips on caring for your clothes

Browse our articles to discover the most effective way to clean and care for a range of different fabrics.