Last Updated: November 16, 2020

How To Wash Fleece – Simple Steps

Over the last four decades, there’s been a surge in popularity for all things fleece. Yet most of us know very little about it, including how to wash it.

What we do know is that we have a soft spot for our snuggly fleece products and that we’d hate to see them mangled by a washing machine.

That’s why, here, we’re going to shed some light on what fleece actually is, and why it’s become so popular, before moving on to look at some simple steps for washing your much-loved garments – trust us, proper washing techniques can make the difference between your latest fleece jumper lasting 6 years or 6 months!

What is fleece made from?

Although the term ‘fleece’ refers to the fleece coating of a sheep, fleece is actually an entirely man-made material. It’s constructed from teenie weenie fibers that are woven together to produce the final fabric. The fibers themselves are most often made from polyester, although, nowadays, increasing concerns for the environment have led to the use of other eco-friendly forms of fleece. These include fibers made from recycled plastic bottles or from natural products (e.g hemp and rayon) that avoid the use of plastic. However, in general, standard non-recycled plastic remains the most common source of fleece fibers.

Why is fleece so popular?

It all comes down to the structure of the fibers – this is what makes fleece light weight, insulatory, breathable, water-resistant, comfortable, and fast-drying – pretty much everything you want in a base layer (but it has heaps of other uses too)! 

However, with time and general wear and tear, these fibers will inevitably begin to dissociate from their structure, resulting in visible bobbles known as lint. Ideally, you want to remove lint as and when it appears (either by gently scraping a razor over it or using a lint roller) so that it doesn’t get worse. Rough handling and forceful contact speed up the process of lint formation, which is why we always wash our fleece delicately and avoid washing it with other, tougher fabrics.

How do you wash fleece?

You’re bound to get attached to your snuggly fleece products in no time, and with careful washing, there’s no reason why you two shouldn’t be together for years. Below, we’ve outlined some simple steps for three ways to wash your fleece products at home.

Spot washing

No matter how carefully you wash your gear, inevitable wear, tear, and fiber shedding occurs during the washing process. This means that washing your gear less often is one of the easiest ways to increase the longevity of your gear.

Perhaps you shoved your fleece jumper in your bag and never actually wore it, but a banana squashed in your pack and ended up on the sleeve. Or maybe you were on the couch with your favorite fleece blanket and dropped a bit of chocolate on it. In cases like this, we’d definitely recommend spot cleaning!

Step 1: Check the label

Although fleece items rarely run in the wash, you can never be too careful. Check the label for heavily dyed items that might run – this might affect where you wash and hang them.

Step 2: Apply detergent to the stains

Apply a small amount of mild detergent (or soap) to the affected area – make sure there is no bleach in the detergent as this will affect the color of your item. Leave for 5-10 mins.

Step 3: Fill a basin with water

Fill a basin with cool water (never hot – this will shrink your items!) and rub the affected area gently with a sponge. If this is ineffective, upgrade to an old toothbrush, but make sure you don’t scrub too hard.

Step 4: Check, then repeat or rinse

Check to see if the stain is still there. If it is, repeat the above step. When you can no longer see the stain, gently rub the affected area with clean, cool water to rinse off any remaining detergent.

Step 5: Dry your item

Very gently, wring out the material to remove excess water – just enough to stop heavy dripping. Find somewhere well ventilated and hang your item to dry. Ideally, this will be out of direct sunlight to prevent color fade. And remember: heavily dyed fleece may cause stains as it drips, so check the label and be careful where you hang your item (especially the first time you wash it!).


Because fleece fibers are pretty fragile, we don’t recommend washing them in a machine alongside other, hardier fabrics, such as jeans and towels. Therefore, if you only need to wash one or two fleece items, it can be a good idea to hand wash them (rather than running a whole cycle with an almost empty machine).

Step 1: Check the label

As before, make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you start.

Step 2: Fill a basin and leave to soak

Fill a basin (or any suitable container) with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Place your item in the basin and leave to soak for 5-30 mins (depending on how soiled the item is).

Step 3: Wash, rinse, repeat

Swirl fabric around gently for 5-10 minutes by hand. Drain the water and replace it with clean, cool water (no detergent). Swirl again for a few minutes. If the water appears dark and dirty, refill the basin and repeat the step above until the water runs clear.

Step 4: Dry your item

Again, gently wring out your garments and hang them in a suitable location to dry.

Machine washing

And finally, for when time is of the essence, or you have heaps of fleece to wash, nothing is easier than a machine wash.

Step 1: Check the label

…we’re sure you know this by now, but here it is again!

Step 2: Place items in the machine (beware of lint)

As we mentioned, avoid washing fleece with tough items (such as jeans) as they may create lint. Also, make sure you turn your items inside out so that any bobbling that does occur isn’t visible on the outside.

Step 3: Set the machine

Add some mild detergent to the machine and set it to a gentle setting (e.g. delicate/handwash) that uses cool water. 

Step 4: Dry your item

Gently wring out your garments and hang them in a suitable location to dry (don’t be tempted by the dryer setting!).

So, there you have it, three ways to wash your fleece at home. You might want to try them all until you know which works best for you, or perhaps you’ll end up using a mixture of techniques. Whatever you decide, make sure you remember the basic principles:

  • Only wash when necessary
  • Check the label
  • Use cool water
  • Be aware of lint
  • Use a gentle detergent, and don’t add bleach or use fabric conditioner
  • If using a machine, opt for a delicate/hand wash setting
  • If washing by hand, be gentle
  • Hang dry – don’t use a dryer

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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