How to take care of African Print Fabrics [How-to Guide]
by Peace Anyasodo
The lifetime of all fabrics can be elongated through proper care, making your clothing investment last that little bit longer. This certainly applies to African print fabrics like those found in our t-shirts, jumpers and other products.
As such, we thought we would share a comprehensive guide on how to care for your African print clothing.
If you're in a rush, you can jump to a relevant section using the links below.
African print fabric is made from cotton which is an all-weather textile; it is both breathable and insulating, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. Cotton is gentle; its natural fibres do not irritate sensitive skin, making it the material of choice for medical bandages and baby clothing. Cotton is strong; it has a high tensile strength that makes it less likely to tear. Its tensile strength increases when wet which allows cotton clothes to hold their shape after many washes
African print fabric, commonly known as Ankara, is created using wax and multiple colours of dye to print patterns on 100% cotton cloth. The result is a vibrant and durable cloth that can be used to create traditional attire for special occasions or to enhance everyday clothing like we do at Nkiti. We go into the Ankara manufacturing process in much more detail in our blog post here.
Clothing that is made entirely of Ankara can be a little stiff and needs additional care, while clothing that incorporates Ankara in their design can follow similar care instructions as many other items of clothing you own.
How to wash African Print Clothes
To clean your Ankara clothing you can dry-clean, hand wash or machine wash.
If you choose to have your Ankara dry cleaned, you’ll want to ensure the dry cleaner you choose has experience with African print fabrics, as harsh solvent can damage the materials and cause colours to fade. But you can just as easily (and far more cheaply) wash your African print clothes at home.
The best care for any clothing is to gently hand wash it, but using a washing machine works just as well.
For hand washing, we recommend that you:
- Turn clothing inside out
- Use lukewarm or cold water
- Use a mild detergent or bar soap
- (Optional) Add fabric softener and leave to soak. You will only need this if you want to soften clothing that is made entirely of Ankara - e.g. our Yellow & Blue Reversible Bomber Jacket. However, our Bomber Jackets are already quite a soft cotton!
- Rinse thoroughly after washing
Be gently with your clothes, to avoid damaging the cotton or dyes;
- Do not use really hot water
- Do not rub or wring out the material
- Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals
- Don’t over-wash, if the whole material doesn’t need cleaning then only treat the areas that do
For machine washing, we recommend that you:
- Turn your clothing inside out
- Set the temperature to 30°C or lower
- Use a mild detergent
- (Optional) Add fabric softener. You will only need this if you want to soften clothing that is made entirely of Ankara
- (Optional) Run the spin cycle. This is not ideal for clothing made entirely of Ankara, but is fine for clothing that incorporates elements of Ankara fabric e.g. our joggers
We personally tend to chuck our Nkiti clothes in the wash with the rest of our clothes. We usually add a dash of fabric softener to all of our laundry, mostly for the scents! The fabrics we use in our clothing designs are high quality and don’t deteriorate rapidly, even after several washes.
You don't have to take our word for it though, here's a customer review on one of our Kente print t-shirts.
This t-shirt is so soft and comfortable, I find myself always gravitating to it. I've had it for a while and it washes super well and keeps it's colour and it's just versatile and honestly super comfortable. So glad I got this and it's a keeper.
How to dry African Print Clothes
You can air dry or tumble dry your Ankara. We are definitely team air-dry; it is much gentler for your clothes and will also save on your electricity bills. Talk about a win-win!
For fast air-drying, we recommend that you:
- Hang your clothing in a well-ventilated space, this can be done indoors or outdoors on a drying rack or clothes line
- Spread out each item, and leave space between different items, to allow proper air circulation
- Place clothes near a fan or a radiator to air-dry more quickly
- Use a coat hanger to maintain the shape of tops and dresses
Do not dry in direct sunlight or directly on a heat source such as a radiator, as this can cause the material to shrink or colours to fade.
Air drying isn’t always practical if you don’t have the space or time, using a tumble dryer is also possible. However, do not be tempted to throw your garments in on a hot and quick cycle no matter how much of a hurry you are in. The excessive heat and friction of the tumble dryer will damage the dye making your wax prints look old quickly.
If you tumble dry your clothes ensure that you;
- Set the heat to low (some machines have a Delicate or Gentle cycle)
- Do not over-dry to prevent ageing your clothing
How to iron African Print Clothes
Before wearing Ankara you may want to smooth out wrinkles or sharpen pleats. You can iron Ankara damp or dry. Making use of steam is an easy way to make quick work of it.
For steam ironing, we recommend that you;
- Use a sturdy ironing board
- Use a clean iron (too many times have we instantly ruined clothes)
- Use the cotton setting
- Spray with water. This will help quicken the process when ironing dry Ankara
- Use steam to smooth
How to store African Print Clothes
To prevent folds and wrinkles in your Ankara fabric use clothes hangers when storing in a closet. For most of our Nkiti products that incorporate Ankara, such as hoodies, t-shirts and joggers, folding is fine.
Like all clothes, Ankara is best kept in a cool, dry and dark place like a wardrobe or trunk.
With a little love and care you can maintain the rich colours and quality of your African print clothing.
These steps will ensure that the colours stay vibrant and the cotton does not shrink, keeping your Ankara looking brand new.
Let us know if you have any questions or tips for how to care for Ankara in the comments below!