Wash Care Advice for African Print Clothing

South Africa is known for its vibrancy; from its people and cultures to its cuisine and fashion. When it comes to fashion, African print clothing has become a much sought-after fashion statement for many people living here and abroad. From the iconic Madiba shirt to the gorgeous African print skirts and dresses.

Updated 8 March 2023


Author By Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time 5 minutes

A woman with an Afro hairstyle and braids wearing a patterned top. Clothing Care

African print clothing is both comfortable and iconic.

However, it can be hard to know how to wash African fabric so that the colours stay vibrant for years. You don’t want to take any chances with colour running or fabric shrinking when it comes to your favourite African print pieces, so having a guide on how to wash African wax print fabric is key.

Skip is here to help! We've put together a handy guide on how to wash your African print clothes, with tips on how to keep the colours looking bright and vibrant.

What are African Print Fabrics Made Of?

Original African print fabric is made of 100% cotton. It is also known as Ankara fabric, and it is made in a specific way in order to create the strong, thick texture that is known as Batik. Batik is a wax-resist dyeing method that helps to create the vibrant colours and shapes of African prints using 100% cotton fabric.

Because it is 100% cotton and has been through the wax-resist dyeing and producing manufacturing process, African print fabrics need to be washed and cared for in a particular way to keep the colours from running into each other and to keep the fabric from looking aged.

How to Wash African Wax Fabric for Best Results

When it comes to washing African print clothing and fabric, the key to any kind of 100% cotton fabric is cold water! 100% cotton does not like hot water, because it encourages the fabric fibres to relax – which allows the colours to bleed and run – and the fabric fibres then shrink after they’ve been washed which can cause the fabric to shrink and distort.

Top Tips on How to Wash Ankara Fabric in the Washing Machine.

  • Only wash African print fabrics on a cold wash cycle or on the 30degree wash cycle. Nothing warmer than that.

  • Ideally, choose a gentle machine wash cycle or even the cycle for delicate items

  • Choose a laundry detergent, like Skip Auto Washing Powder, that is formulated to enhance bright colours and keep them looking newer for longer.

  • Use a gentle fabric softener too, to help soften the fabrics.

Top Tips for Washing African Print Fabric by Hand.

  • Fill a bucket of water with cold water or tepid water, do not use warm or hot water.

  • Use a mild laundry detergent that's safe on your hands like Surf Washing Powder in the wash and do not agitate the fabric too much when washing.

  • Rinse and fill the bucket again with cold water and add 60ml of a gentle fabric softener. Allow the fabrics to sit in the water to soak for an hour or two – if you want the fabric to soften a lot, you can leave it to soak overnight.

  • Rinse well.

For both machine washing and hand washing, dry your African prints outside in natural light and air. Never tumble dry these fabrics as they can shrink or stretch in the heat.

Keen to know more tips on stopping colours from bleeding on your favourite fabrics? Read our blog on How to Prevent Colour bleeding now.

How to Iron Your African Print Fabrics

If your African print fabric needs to be ironed – like a tablecloth or shirt – then it's wise to wait until the fabric has completely dried in the sun. Choose the cotton setting on your iron, or on high heat. Iron on the pattern side of the fabric (otherwise referred to as the right side) and make sure the fabric has dried. If it isn’t ironing well, you can give it a light spray with water from a spray bottle for better results.

For more fabric care tips and care tricks, browse through clothing care today.

Frequently Asked Questions on washing African Print Clothing

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