How to wash polyester in a washing machine

Learn how to wash polyester to freshen up those gym clothes

Woman stretching in black leggings on a gray background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Freshen up your wardrobe and learn how to wash polyester without damaging or shrinking it. 

Maybe you've spilled a drink on your favorite top or your workout clothes are starting to develop a funky smell. It's time to toss that polyester garment to get it looking as good as new. 

You may be a little worried about washing polyester at home, but no need. Our experts have you covered with tips on the best ways to do washing.

How to wash polyester without damaging your clothes

Polyester is a frequently used synthetic material found in just about everything these days. It's common in stretchy clothes like leggings and sports bras. If you need to learn how to wash gym clothes or anything else with polyester, but don't want to spend a fortune at the dry cleaners, you're in luck.

Polyester is a pretty durable material that can be easily washed in a washing machine at home. Once you have all your laundry room essentials together, you can get started and wash away.

Terracotta colored sports bra and leggings on white background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: check care label

Before you get started, it's important to know what you're working with. The laundry symbol meanings on the tag will tell you if your garment can go in the machine, if it can withstand heat, and what products to use (or not use).

"First things first, always consult the care label. Different materials may have specific instructions, so it's best to review these first before attempting to clean," says cleaning expert, Karina Toner.

Karina Toner, Operations Manager, Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is a cleaning expert and the Operations Manager at Washington D.C.-based Spekless Cleaning. 

Step 2: separate by color

Wash your polyester items with similar colored items to avoid any color bleeding in the wash and ruining your fave outfits.

"Separate your laundry into whites, colors, and darks to make sure your whites don't get discolored. It's also a good idea to leave some room in the drum so the items aren't overcrowded," says Karina.

A good litmus test for whether or not your machine is too full, is to close the door and see if there is some empty space visible at the top. For top loading washers, avoid loading beyond the top line of holes in the drum.

Step 3: treat stains

Before you throw your clothes in the wash, treat any stains you want to remove. Use a special stain remover like Miss Mouth's stain treater available on Amazon and leave it to soak for at least 30 minutes. Make sure to remove food stains as these pesky messes can leave permanent marks if not treated. 

Step 4: wash in cold water

While polyester can handle the washing machine pretty well, it's best not to expose it to heat, so make sure you select a cold setting. 

"Polyester fabric is best washed in cold water to prevent shrinkage and color fading. Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle with cold water for optimal results," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid.

It's always best to play it safe with a gentle detergent like Tide Free & Gentle detergent, available on Amazon.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services.

Step 5: dry on low heat

Polyester is usually safe to put the in dryer but make sure to use a low heat setting to avoid shrinking the material. To play it safe, you can also air dry on a drying rack like this Amazon Basics rack

If you're super short on space, this retractable drying rack from Amazon works brilliantly over doors, balconies, radiators and even chairs.

"After washing, remove the polyester items from the washing machine and gently shake them to remove excess water. Hang or lay the items flat to air dry, away from direct sunlight and heat sources," says Angela.

You may be able to use bleach in laundry items made from polyester for stain removal (on white garments), but we would recommend testing on a small section of the fabric before to avoid laundry mistakes you'll end up regretting.

No need to worry about common laundry myths that claim you can't wash polyester without shrinking it. Just avoid extreme heat and use a gentle cycle.

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.