Fleece Care and Maintenance
Unstable elements come as part of your job, work, and play. When you're looking for professional gear you want the right choice for the right moment. Fleeces and liners provide excellent protection against those elements, from zip-ups to pullovers and more. These integrate near seamlessly with parkas or outerwear, come in many styles and with the technology to keep your body dry, cool, and offers numerous places to store the equipment you need to survive and excel.
But how do you keep your fleece at top condition, performing well again and again after use?
How you can make your fleece gear last, look well, remain durable and get your money's worth is as simple as knowing how to care for it. We can tell you how.
What is fleece?
Fleece is a man-made fabric that mirrors the advantages of wool but is only a fraction of the weight. Fleece is a magnificent insulator and originally named, 'polar fleece,' when it was first created. It's made from synthetic materials, not to be mistaken for the natural fibers of wool, and sometimes can be made from recycled plastics—also known as polyester. The fibers are then brushed to increase volume and give it that unmistakably soft-to-the-touch sensation. Sometimes natural fibers, such as wool, hemp, or rayon are also added to the mix and weave.
Fleece has a pile surface on both sides, so each side has a layer of cut fibers letting air pockets sit in between the threads in the pile surface.
Why is it popular?
Not only is it warm, but it's extremely durable, moisture-resistant and incredibly light. Fleece is ideal for extreme weather conditions and extreme sports in those conditions. It tends to be even warmer than wool and a less weighty option than wool.
When should you wash fleece?
Fleece jackets, sweater shirts, hoodies, pullovers and so on should be washed once every six to seven times worn. If your fleece garment still has its tag, pay attention to washing and drying instructions.
Do: Use a mild soap powder when washing fleece.
Don't: Use a liquid detergent.
Liquid detergents are generally very strong and can wear down any finishes that may be applied to the garment. This is especially true if your fleece has been specially treated to resist moisture and can even wear down the durability of your fleece. A liquid detergent can erode both qualities.
The good thing about sweatshirts made of fleece is that they are generally low maintenance, but the nap can become fuzzy or piled (sometimes fleece can become almost crunchy and static-filled) the best bet is to always turn your fleece garment inside out before washing. Then make sure that you wash with similar colors and double check you aren't washing them with items that have a lot of lint—like towels. Rinsing your fleece in the washer twice ensures you rid it of any detergent residue that sometimes makes funky smells or affects the performance of your fleece.
- Close all fasteners, zippers, buttons, toggles, snaps or hooks on your fleece garment.
- Turn your fleece garment inside out.
- Set your washer to cool/cold water.
- Set your washer to delicates/hand wash or gentle.
- Use very mild detergents during wash.
• Or: hand wash in cold water if you prefer.
- Dry fleece in dryer on the lowest possible setting or lay your fleece garment on a clean dry towel to air dry or hang to air dry.
Is your fleece garment treated with a water-resistant finish?
- Avoid fabric softeners.
- Avoid liquid detergents.
- Avoid dryer sheets.
- Never use bleach.
- Avoid ironing. If you MUST remove wrinkles, steam from a distance, while finger-pressing flat only.
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets will gradually reduce the effectiveness of a fleece garment treated with water-resistant finishes.
For your fleece gloves, hats or scarves:
- Wash only three to five times a season if possible.
- Always store your gloves in an area where they will get plenty of air and heat to dry. Sweat and weather moisture often stays inside gloves stored in pockets, contributing to a musty, mildew like smell.
Heat and friction are the enemy.
- Always use cold water to wash anything made of fleece.
- Set your washer on either delicate or try and hand wash your fleece in cold water.
- If you don't air dry fleece or have time to, tumble dry on low.
Heat and friction, even your own body's heat, can contribute to matting the fabric. Should you accidentally wash fleece garments in hot water or dry them in a dryer on a high heat setting, fibers can melt. Once the fibers have melted the damage is most usually irreversible.
You can try to restore some of your fleece's texture if it's started to pile or get fuzzy—as long as the fibers haven't melted.
Restore some of the texture using a razor or a wire pet brush, lots of time and patience, to bring the nap closer to the original state. Start in one corner of the item and work in small sections brushing gently to loosen matting and separate fibers.
Combat static without softener or dryer sheets.
If you've got yourself a shocking situation of overly static-filled fleece garments, you can fight the static cling and still avoid using softeners or dryer sheets. Consider looking at dryer balls made of felted wool. Toss them in the dryer with your favorite fleece on tumble and low. Not only do they help speed up drying times, but they also reduce static.
Another alternative to that, but not as convenient nor fast is to simply line dry or air dry to reduce static.
How to handle the tougher stains
Fleece wear may save your life in the roughest of situations, but the effectiveness lessens when it is not cared for or cleaned properly. The tips above are great for casual working out, hiking, trailing, mountaineering fleece…But what about the fleece you wear that goes with you in the field? During training or missions? Or even active duty? Some of the toughest jobs end up leaving your fleece with stains that require more than just a washer and dryer.
• Funky smells: Sometimes you don't have the time to air-dry out your active fleece wear. This can cause some pretty weird, mildew like smells to come from your fleece. To help with this, add a very small amount of baking soda to the wash while following the instructions above to wash the garment.
• You've probably heard it a million times, but it's true: Address the stain as soon as it happens or as soon after as possible. The faster you get to it, the easier it will be to remove.
Set-in or old stains
Have a stain that has settled into your fleece for a while before you can wash them? Don't toss them in the wash! First:
- Find out what the stain is, first. Food, grease, ink, blood.
- Use a clean dry, undyed cloth to brush any loose debris from the stain first.
- Soak the stain in very cold water to begin to loosen it. Fleece resists water well, so work gently at the stain with fingers to loosen it.
- Use your mild soap powder detergent directly on the stain and allow to sit one hour. For blood stains, you can use Hydrogen peroxide for this step, gently working it in. You may have to repeat the steps for Hydrogen peroxide several times to get it all out because if you do not and place it in the dryer, the stain will set.
- Dab rubbing alcohol on any oil-based stains. Avoid using white vinegar on synthetic fleece as it will damage the fibers.
6. Remember: don't scrub harshly, especially on dyed fleece. You could create a splotchy or worn appearance and possibly damage any fleece that has been treated with a finish.
- Handle stains as soon as possible.
- Do not wash a stain before treating.
- Find out what the stain is first, before treating.
- Use a clean, dry cloth to loosen any stains before treating or washing.
- Always use cold water for washing or stain treating.
- Use mild soap powder, not detergents. Also, avoid dryer sheets and fabric softener.
- Combat static with wool dryer balls, natural static sprays, or air drying.
- Dryer settings should always be the lowest temperature, tumble dry.
- Matted or piled fabrics may be returned close to the original state with a razor or wire pet brush.
Fleece is a remarkable fabric, lightweight and able to tackle any situation the world tosses at you. With the proper care and maintenance, you can extend the life of any fleece garment you own—saving you the time, effort, and hard-earned money spent on gear that lasts as long as you do.