Cleaning Tips: How To Clean Twill

A guide to cleaning twill fabrics, including a definition and examples of twill, general cleaning guidelines, and steps for stain removal.

Clothes, especially those destined to become part of a business or formal wardrobe, are an investment. Therefore, clothing should be carefully selected for durability, versatility, and comfort. Twill clothing is an excellent choice, and if cared for and cleaned properly, can last for years.

What Is Twill?

Twill is any fabric woven with a distinctive diagonal thread pattern. It is softer and more pliable than plainly woven cloth, and is more resistant to wrinkling. It can be one-sided or reversible, and because it can stretch in either direction, it is comfortable even when close-fitting. Twill weaves use more threads per inch than standard weaves, which provides more durability. The steeper the diagonal angle, the stronger the fabric, with the average angle set at forty-five degrees.

Twill fabrics do have drawbacks. The raised threads, called wales, can flatten or become shiny from prolonged pressure and wear, a condition that is difficult to reverse. While dirt won't be visible on twill as quickly as other fabrics, it is harder to remove because of the nature of the weave.

Common clothing made with twill includes sport coats, blazers, suits, and denim jeans or jackets. Twill can be found in many other pieces of clothing, however, including caps, slacks, and even non-clothing articles such as duffle bags and tablecloths. Wool, cotton, silk, rayon, and other types of threads and blends can be used to weave twill, and each combination yields a different weight and texture to the finished fabric, all of which need to be considered for cleaning.

Cleaning Twill: General Guidelines

When cleaning any piece of clothing, the most important step is to read and follow the manufacturer's label. Depending on the nature of the cleaning, however, there are several ways to clean twill without frequent loads of laundry or trips to the dry cleaners.

Allowing garments to rest at least twenty-four hours between uses helps avoid swift buildup of dirt, perspiration, and dust. Clothing should be hung neatly with enough space for air to flow around the garment, and if necessary, brushed with a natural bristle brush. Natural bristles are softer and less likely to damage the fabric, but synthetic twills that use nylon or rayon should not be brushed because it increases the static electricity in the garment. Tight weaves will not benefit much from brushing, and applying extra pressure to penetrate a tight weave is more likely to break threads and damage the fabric.



To brush twill, first shake the garment to loosen any dust or dirt. These particles absorb moisture that can lead to stains. Brush with short, controlled strokes against the grain, usually upwards or against the diagonal. This will collect most of the particles, so be sure to wipe the brush frequently to avoid spreading dust or dirt to other parts of the clothing. To restore the look of the garment, finish by brushing with long strokes along the diagonal.

If dry cleaning is necessary, take note of any stains and report them to the cleaner. Also let them know about the type of wear the garment has seen; stains from perspiration are often invisible and may go untreated, but once exposed to the high heat used for ironing, they will be impossible to remove. Outfits composed of several pieces should be dry cleaned together so that they will fade consistently, even if only one piece needs cleaning.

More and more clothing today is machine washable. For general cleaning, first inspect the garment and make any necessary repairs, such as tightening buttons or closing a stretched seam. Slight damage may be aggravated by laundering, so it is best to fix the problem immediately. If washing a garment for the first time, read the label carefully and test the fabric for colorfastness on an unseen area or inner seam to be sure the color will not bleed. Separate garments to be washed by colors, required cleaning temperatures, and degree of dirtiness before washing to prevent unnecessary wear and tear. Finally, pretreat any heavily soiled areas and then wash the clothing as instructed by the manufacturer. By carefully inspecting, sorting, and treating clothing for routine cleaning, you insure that it will remain in peak condition and wearable for many years.

Cleaning Twill: Spots and Stains

Ninety percent of spots and stains can be removed from twill if treated promptly, before the stain has had a chance to set. There are three general types of stains: surface deposits such as ketchup that do not absorb much into the fabric, absorbed stains like ink and coffee that penetrate very quickly, and ground in stains such as dirt or grass that are usually the result of footwear or a fall or skid. No matter what type of stain, quick attention can help minimize the damage and prolong the life of the clothing.

While different types of stains must be treated differently because of the specific staining chemicals involved, certain general rules apply to all stains. Always start with the least intrusive method of removal to minimize stress to the fabric. First, remove any deposits quickly to prevent the stain from spreading. If possible, scrape material off the clothing, or use a clean white cloth or tissue to absorb as much liquid as possible. Do not use colored rags or cloths, because the colors may be affected by the stain and transferred to the first garment instead of removing the stain. Take care not to rub stains on twill, which may force particles deeper into the ridges of the fabric.

Next, rinse the affected area with cold water. Hot water will set stains permanently. If you are wearing the garment, sponge around the stain with cold water as much as possible. After the bulk of the stain is removed, it can be soaked in warm water with detergent to help break down any remaining marks. If the stain is still present, it may be necessary to spot treat the area with a stronger solvent or cleaner.

Different solutions involving saltwater, bleach, glycerin, vinegar, or even turpentine may be needed for different types of stains. Always test a solution on a hidden area or inside seam before using it on the stain to be sure that it will not damage or discolor the fabric. For loose twill weaves, use a toothbrush, dull knife, or cotton swab to press the solvent into the ridges, but only use an up-and-down motion, not a sideways motion that will spread the stain or distort or break threads. While twill is very durable, broken threads fray easily and such damage is difficult to repair.

Cleaning Twill: Avoiding Stains

The best way to clean difficult stains is to avoid acquiring them in the first place. To avoid staining jeans and slacks made of twill fabric, place a napkin on your lap while eating to catch any spilled food or drink. To protect blazers and suit jackets, remove them prior to eating and hang them neatly. When outdoors, always protect your clothing from poor weather with appropriate raingear or overcoats. Be prepared for stains by carrying white tissues or handkerchiefs to use for immediate stain treatment. These precautions will help minimize and even prevent many accidental stains.

With proper cleaning and immediate attention to stains, twill clothing can last for years. Naturally more durable than plain-weave fabrics, twill is highly versatile and found in many timeless pieces of clothing, where it is a valuable addition to any well-dressed wardrobe.

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