From ink spills to splatters of cooking oil, "Stain Rescue" from the Good Housekeeping Institute offers an A to Z guide on removing your toughest marks from every type of fabric. The following is an excerpt.
Here is a general guide to choosing the right cleaning method for your garments. Care varies based on colorfastness, weight, trimmings, linings, special finishes, and fabric and garment construction. Always read and follow the manufacturer's care label recommendations before cleaning garments.
ACETATE: Synthetic fiber. Dry-clean.
ACRYLIC: Synthetic fiber. Machine wash knits in warm water on gentle setting. Wash inside out to reduce pilling. Roll in a towel to absorb extra moisture, and dry flat; or dry at low setting in a dryer. Dry-clean woven acrylic fabrics.
BLENDS: Fabrics of combined fibers: cotton/polyester, cotton/linen, silk/polyester, wool/polyester, and so on. Follow care guidelines for the more delicate or most prominent fiber in the blend.
CANVAS: Heavy, firm, tightly woven fabric, originally cotton or linen, now also made of synthetics or blends. Machine wash in cold water and tumble dry on low setting. Dry-clean if not colorfast.
CASHMERE: Undercoat hair of the cashmere goat. Treat as wool, and follow the care label. Sweaters may be hand washed with care, but it's best to dry-clean both knits and wovens.
CHIFFON: Thin, transparent fabric, usually silk; can be made of synthetic fibers. Hand wash for best results.
CHINTZ: Glazed cotton, often printed. Dry-clean unless label states that glaze is durable and fabric can be washed; if so, wash as directed on labels.
CORDUROY: Ridged-pile fabric that may be cotton, cotton/polyester, or rayon. Turn inside out and use warm water. Dry at regular setting; remove from dryer while slightly damp; smooth pockets and seams with hands. Hang until dry.
COTTON: Natural vegetable fiber woven and knitted into fabrics of many weights and textures. Hand wash lightweight fabrics, such as batiste, organdy, and voile, and hang to air-dry (or iron damp with a hot iron). Machine wash light-colored and white medium- and heavyweight cottons with warm or hot water. Use cold water for bright colors that may bleed. Dry at regular or low setting. Remove from dryer while still damp. Iron damp with hot iron. Cottons like towels and underwear can be washed and dried on hot settings if desired.
DAMASK: Jacquard-weave fabric; may be cotton, linen, silk, viscose, wool, or a blend. Hand wash lightweight fabrics (see individual fiber listings for care). Dry-clean silk, wool, and all heavier-weight fabrics.
DENIM: Strong, heavy twill-weave fabric, usually cotton, but can be a cotton/synthetic blend. Prone to shrinkage unless purchased preshrunk. Machine wash in warm water. Traditional blue and other deep colors bleed the first several washings, so wash separately, as necessary. Dry at low setting to avoid shrinkage. Iron while damp with a hot iron, as needed.
DOWN: Soft underplumage of water fowl, often combined with adult feathers (should be so labeled). Both machine-washable and dry-cleanable, but treatment depends on the fabric shell of the item; follow manufacturer's instructions carefully. Do not air dry. Tumble dry on gentle setting (temperature no higher than 140°F or 60°C ). Fluff and turn often during drying.
FLANNEL: Napped fabric in plain or twill weave. Cotton and synthetics may be machine washed. Dry at low setting and remove while damp or line dry. Wool should be dry-cleaned.
GABARDINE: Firm, closely woven twill fabric, originally and often worsted wool; also made of cotton and synthetic fibers. Follow label directions or dry-clean.
LACE: Open-work textile; may be cotton, linen, or synthetic. Hand wash using a detergent for delicate fabrics. Avoid rubbing. Squeeze out excess moisture; don't twist or wring. Shape by hand and hang to airdry or dry flat; do not tumble dry. Pin delicate lace to a cloth before washing.
LINEN: Natural flax fiber; light- to heavyweight fabrics. Hand wash or machine wash in warm water if colorfast; use oxygen bleach, as needed. Iron damp on wrong side. For heavy linens, use a hot iron; for lighter-weight linens, blends, and linens treated for crease resistance, use a lower temperature. Can also dry-clean (especially heavy linens).
MICROFIBERS (IN CLEANING CLOTHS): Tightly woven polyester and nylon fibers. Machine wash separately to keep them lint-free. Never use fabric softener as it reduces the cloths' static properties and makes cleaning less effective. Line dry or machine dry on normal setting, again, separately from other laundry.
MICROFIBERS OR FLEECE (IN CLOTHING AND BEDDING): Small and fine polyester yarns that are tightly woven. Machine wash in cool to moderately warm water and air dry or machine dry, warm setting. If you have not purchased anti-pill fabric, turn garments wrong side out when laundering to reduce pilling. Fleece is heat sensitive, so hot dryer temperatures and ironing should be avoided to reduce pilling.
MOHAIR: Fiber from the angora goat. Treat as wool.
NYLON: Synthetic fiber used in fabrics of different weights, sometimes blended with other fibers. When used alone, it is both dry-cleanable and machinewashable; use warm water. Tumble dry on a low setting, or hang on plastic hanger and drip or air dry. To avoid permanent yellowing, keep away from sunlight or direct heat.
ORGANDY: Sheer, lightweight, plain weave cotton. Hand wash; starch to maintain characteristic crisp appearance. Iron damp with hot iron. Can also dry-clean.
POLYESTER: Strong synthetic fiber in fabrics of various weights and textures; often blended with cotton and wool. Does not shrink or stretch. Wash in warm water. Tumble dry and remove promptly to prevent wrinkles. Iron at low setting. If blended, follow guidelines for the more delicate fiber.
RAMIE: Natural fiber from ramie plant (similar to linen), used alone or blended, often with cotton. Machine wash in warm water; tumble dry. Iron damp with hot iron. Can also dry-clean. Avoid excessive twisting.
RAYON: A generic term for a man-made fiber including viscose and cuprammonium rayon. Some garment labels identify the fabric as "rayon," some as "viscose." Follow label care instructions. Dry-clean for best results.
RUBBER: A fiber found in both natural and manmade form. Used in sneakers. Remove laces (wash those separately) and machine wash warm. For best results, air-dry or dry at low setting. Using too high a temperature in the dryer will sometimes melt the rubber or shrink the canvas part of the shoe.
SATIN: Fabric with a lustrous finish, traditionally silk, now also acetate and polyester. Dry-clean silk and acetate. Wash polyester satins following fiber guidelines.
SEERSUCKER: Fabric with puckered stripes woven in during the manufacturing process; usually cotton, but also nylon, polyester, and silk versions. See specific fiber for washing instructions. Drip or tumble dry. Iron on low heat, if needed.
SILK: Natural fiber from the silkworm; in fabrics of various weights and textures. If recommended, hand wash plain-weave crepe de chine and thin, lightweight, and medium-weight silks in lukewarm water with mild soap or detergent or in cold water with special coldwater detergent. Do not use chlorine bleach. Rinse several times in cold water until no trace of suds remains; towel-blot. Dry flat. Iron on wrong side at warm (silk) setting. If so labeled, some silks can be machine washed; follow label directions carefully. Dryclean heavier (suiting weight) silks, pleated silks, and those in dark colors, which may bleed.
SPANDEX: Generic name for stretch fibers often added to other fibers to give them elasticity. Machine wash in warm water on the delicate cycle (if exercise wear, wash after each wearing to remove body oils, which can cause deterioration). Do not use chlorine bleach. Tumble dry on low setting. Iron using low setting.
TERRY CLOTH: Toweling fabric with looped pile made of cotton or cotton/polyester. Machine wash in warm or hot water. Tumble dry or line dry.
VELOUR: Napped fabric, originally wool, now also cotton, silk, and synthetics. Dry-clean unless manufacturer's label indicates it can be washed.
VELVET: Soft-pile fabric, originally silk, now usually rayon or cotton. Dry-clean.
WOOL: Natural fiber made of sheep fleece. Hand wash sweaters and other knits in cold water with coldwater detergent. Rinse thoroughly. Squeeze; do not wring. Towel-blot and dry flat, blocking back to original size. Machine-washable wools are so labeled; follow instructions carefully. Dry-clean woven wools and heavy sweaters.