pre-washing fabric
Bedroom, Dining Room, Kids Room, Lounge, Patio

Should you pre-wash fabric?

Theres nothing more annoying than washing a cushion cover, and discovering that it has shrunk and no longer fits its inner! There are many reasons why pre-washing fabric before cutting to upholster is a good idea. But sometimes, this is not always necessary. We’ve listed 5 factors that may influence your decision to pre-wash fabric before upholstering and how to pre-wash fabric. Keep reading to find out if pre-washing fabric is necessary for you!

1. Composition of the fabric

It’s normal for fabric to shrink, and most fabric does shrink when it is washed for the first time. If you’re buying a synthetic-based fabric (like Polyester), you can expect minimal shrinkage (of about 2%) and, depending on its use, you can get away without pre-washing it.

Natural fibres, however, shrink a lot! These are fabrics such as cotton, wool, linen and rayon, and can drastically change the finished size of a product if they are not pre-washed. Some fabrics can be purchased pre-shrunk, for example, Bull Denim, which is 100% Cotton. This can save you time and the hassle of pre-washing, but you can still expect an additional shrinkage of about 2%.

2. Colour of the fabric

If you purchase a bright, or very saturated colour fabric, then pre-washing is an absolute must. Natural fibres tend to bleed their colours. If the fabric is not pre-washed, then the colour may rub off onto white clothing. Similarly, when pre-washing this fabric, the colour dye will most definitely run, so its best to wash with similar colours, or on its own.

3. Uncertain whether or not a fabric will need pre-washing

Sometimes, doubt will creep into our minds if a fabric will actually shrink, and if it does, how much will it shrink? An easy way to do this is to wash a test piece of fabric. The recommended size would be half a metre, cut from self-edge to self-edge. Wash and dry it how you would normally care for the finished product. Once it is dry, iron (if needed), and measure the fabric. If the piece of fabric has shrunk substantially, then you know that you need to pre-wash the fabric before cutting and stitching the fabric. It’s a bit of a time consuming task, but well worth it in the end if you want something that is usable!

4. Steps for pre-washing fabric

You would pre-wash fabric exactly the same way as you would wash and care for the finished product. The safest way is to cool wash in a washing machine at 30*. My philosophy (except for extremely delicate fibres, such as silk) is that, in this day and age, any item used on a daily basis that cannot be cared for easily and conveniently, potentially shouldn’t be kept at all. It sounds a bit extreme, but life is busy with working from home, kids, and pets. The last thing anyone wants is to faff over a cushion cover for hours on end.

Once the fabric is washed and dry, give it a good press, and you’re ready to begin product construction. You should now have the ease of mind knowing that the next time it gets washed, the shrinkage will be minimal to none.

5. Final use of the product

Its hard to think of a fabric-based product that would never need to be washed. If these include being used as a painting drop sheet or a comfort-blanket for your dog, then the thought of pre-washing the fabric shouldn’t ever cross your mind in the first place.

Generally, pre-washing fabric is important to do when making your own products. It is also a good idea to pre-wash the fabric before handing it over to your upholsterer for cutting and sewing. This will avoid any disappointment when post-washing horrors may potentially occur!

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