If you need to know the difference in certain fabrics or if you're just interested then the following table will help. We've also included help with special cleaning instructions you might need to know. . . . ..Cleaning Instructions are below each name group.
Name Description Likely Fibres
Acetate Silk like fabric often used for linings. Colourfast and shrink resistant. This is a fibre, either triacetate or diacetate.
Warm wash or dry clean only. - Fibre weakens in water. - o not ring. - Spin only if care label allows - Iron while damp on cool setting. - Do not use acetate or acetone on fabric
Acrylic Soft warm and durable, often used for knitwear. Won't shrink. This is a fibre.
Warm wash, cold rinse, short spin can be wrung Pull knitwear into shape and dry flat Cool iron only when garment is dry.
Angora Very soft hair from a rabbit or goat made into hats scarves and jumpers. Will molt onto other clothing. This is a fibre but it can be mixed with other fibres such as nylon for effect or strength.
Best to dry clean  - If washing use only cool water and wool detergent - Hand wash and treat gently - Do not wring Roll in towel to dry - Shake and straighten and lie flat to dry.
Astrakan Lambs skin or simulated lambs skin. Wool fibre or acrylic.
Dry clean or shampoo or wash as wool - Do not iron
Bonded Fabric Looks like tissue but may be much finer. Used as interlining to stick fabrics together and stiffen fabrics. Can be any fibre but normally would be heat resistant.
Must follow the instructions on the label - Some will be dry clean only - If used as an interlining likely to come unstuck at the temperature that was used to stick it in the first place.
Batiste Very light fabric. Cotton or linen
Follow instructions for cotton or linen.
Braid Decorative edging used on some garments. Many fibres often using a metallic thread.
Dry clean only
Brocade Very heavy fabric often velvet with metal thread and raised flower or leaf designs. Acetate, cotton, silk viscose or mixture
Dry clean only - may damage if ironed
Broderie Anglaise Lacy fabric with open embroidery. Cotton or polyester/cotton mix.
Wash as for cotton - Ensure no hooks to catch embroidery - If it appears to shrink in washing stretch out the embroidery while ironing. - Good to iron while damp.
Buckram Stiff harsh fabric often used as stiffening in curtain tops. Cotton or linen heavily stiffened.
Dry clean only.
Calico Generic term for medium weight cotton. Cotton.
Wash as for cotton or dry clean if allowed.
Cambric Lightweight loosely woven fabric most often used for handkerchiefs. Cotton or linen.
Follow instructions for cotton with no restrictions.
Camel Hair Wool fabric taken from a Camel, coarse hairs from the top and fine hairs from the belly. This is a fibre
Dry clean only - Iron with a damp cloth on top of fabric to stop shine.
Candlewick Tufted fabric with pile. Mostly cotton but can be nylon, polyester, viscose, acetate.
Clean as for the fibre type. - Shake out and fluff up the pile after drying.
Canvas or Duck Very stiff fabric used for tents, handbags etc.. Cotton.
Wash with warm water and soap, scrub with brush if necessary and rinse well. - Line dry - 
Shouldn't need ironing because of weight.
Cashmere Fine wool from the cashmere goat. Is a wool fibre.
Wash by hand as for wool - Best to dry clean - Prone to shrink in water - Do not wring or tumble - Dry flat - Steam if possibly or cool iron.
Cavalry Twill Firm fabric where the weave gives lines in a diagonal pattern. Often used as riding breeches and hard wearing trousers, raincoats, etc.. Wool, Cotton or man-made fibres.
Dry clean unless label says otherwise. - May be prone to shrink in water. - Iron under wet cloth if wool.
Cheesecloth Very light loosely woven fabric. Cotton.
Hand wash - Do not wring - Do not tumble - Prone to shrinkage - Stretch and iron while damp
Chenille Soft velvety fabric often used in knitwear. Cotton, viscose, wool or silk.
Clean according to fabric type - Best dry cleaned to keep pile soft - Shake while drying - Brush when dry - Ironing not recommended
Chiffon Very soft gauze-like fabric often used in party type dresses. Silk, viscose, acetate.
Clean according to fabric type - Place in bag for protection - Dry cleaning recommended - Tumbling not recommended - Do not sprinkle water on dry chiffon as it will mark - Iron while damp cool iron
Chintz Fabric with pattern and shiny glaze often used in furnishing or colourful clothing. Cotton.
Dry clean only - If washed the glaze is likely to be removed - Use cold water - Do not rub or twist - Do not tumble - Iron while damp try from reverse side
Corduroy A ribbed fabric where the ribs are formed by cutting yarns to show the ends of the fibres, similar to velvet. Cotton, cotton/viscose or cotton/polyester.
For best results wash be hand or dry clean - Do not wring or twist - No not iron on right side - Use cool iron on wrong side or under a damp cloth.
Cotton Shirts, dresses, furniture and almost all other types of garment or household furnishing can be made of cotton. This is a fibre.
Wash or dry clean depending on the weave or knit. - Will distort and shrink both in wear and in the wash. - Take instruction from the garment label - Generally can be washed, tumbled and ironed
Crepe Cloth made from a highly twisted yarn giving a wrinkled or puckered appearance. Most often wool.
Follow label instructions - If washable best to hand wash - Roll in towel to absorb moisture - Do not tumble - Iron on reverse or under damp cloth
Crepe de Chine A finer high twist yarn as above. Silk, viscose, acetate or polyester.
Clean according to fibre type - Iron while damp - If shrinkage is apparent then stretch into shape while ironing  wet.
Damask Shiny surfaced material made with satin and sateen type weave in patterns made especially for table cloths. Linen, silk or synthetic.
Wash as according to fibre - May be boiled if hardy table cloth - Will look best if starched - Iron at hottest possible setting for fibre
Denim Jeans material, indigo died. Cotton.
Wash on its own - Will run colour - Likely to stretch in wear and shrink in wash - Iron while damp - Ironing over linings is likely to cause shine.
Dralon Brand name for acrylic fibre. See Acrylic.
See Acrylic.
Faille Fine soft fabric with ribs in the weft direction (across the fabric) Used to be silk, now may be man made fibres or synthetics.
Treat for the fibre - Likely to be dry cleanable - Care needed ironing anything with ribs in case of shining or flattening.
Felt Matted appearance very soft, often used for card tables and baize on snooker tables. Must have some form of hair fibre in it, commonly wool, but may have mixed fibres.
Do not wash - Will shrink dramatically - Make a paste with white spirit and French chalk and rub well into cloth. dry and then brush off.
Flannel Loose weave woolly finish, appears to be felted surface. Wool
Dry clean only - Iron under a damp cloth
Flannelette Soft cotton appearance often used in night gowns. Cotton in the warp direction and soft cotton in the weft.
Wash as for cotton
Flock Fabric Fabric where fibres have been stuck on to a base giving a velvet pile. No specific fibres are used.
Hand wash or follow the instructions - Do not spin or wring - Iron on reverse side.
Foulard Lightweight twill fabric often printed. Originally silk but may be acetate.
Wash according to fibre - No special instruction needed.
Fur Fabric Fur simulation fabric in varying designs and colours replicating animal fur. Nylon, polyester, acetate, viscose or acrylic.
Dry clean or follow the label instructions - Lightly sponge surface with warm water and - detergent - Do not iron.
Gabardine Used for raincoats and sportswear, a strongly woven fabric with diagonal twill ribs. Wool worsted, cotton or some man made fibres.
Dry clean only
Georgette Sheer fabric with crepe like yarn of high twist but finer material. Wool, cotton, silk or man made fibres.
Dry clean silk or wool - Wash man made to the weakest fibres on the care label - Iron for the fibre type.
Gingham Finely checked or striped fabric. Cotton.
As for cotton.
Glass Fibre Fine glass filaments. Glass.
Handle with extreme care - Use rubber gloves and face mask - Do not machine wash  - Wash on its own - Hand wash gently moving the fabric in the suds - Rinse and drip dry - Rinse sink out after use.
Grosgrain Fine fabric with ribs running across. Silk, viscose, acetate.
Dry cleaning is best.
Hessian Coarse fibre like sack cloth. Jute.
Dry clean only
Jersey Finely knitted fabric normally used for knitwear or T Shirts. Wool, silk, cotton, viscose, acetate or nylon.
Dry clean wool, silk and viscose and acetate - Wash cottons as per instructions on care label - Low tumble - Do not wring - Will distort due to stretch during wear and washing - Iron with normal cotton iron setting - Take care if printed T Shirt Iron on reverse in that case.
Kapok Fine cotton like material waterproof light and fluffy. This is a fibre from the Kapok tree.
Dry clean only.
Lace Delicate open mesh or net that can be made into a pattern by knitting.  Cotton, polyester, nylon, or mixture.
Clean in a bag (Pillow case will do) - Use mild detergent - Cotton may be boiled- - Tumble on it's own - Pull into shape while ironing - Hot iron cotton.
Lame General name for fabrics containing metallic threads, originally gold and silver lame. Must be a mixture together with metallic fibre.
Normally dry clean - Do not treat with acid when stain treating
Lawn Very fine normal woven material. Cotton, linen, Poly/cotton or viscose mixtures.
Hand wash - Rinse thoroughly - Wring or spin - Iron as for cotton.
Linen Similar to cotton but normally of finer quality as the fibres are longer. Flax (linen)
May hot wash - Better to dry clean fine garments - Iron on reverse side - Prone to shine if seams are ironed - Also prone to crease very badly - Ironing while damp may help.
Metallic Yarns Shiny yarns that look like they have metal running through. Plastic coated aluminium mixed with other fibres.
Dry clean only.
Modacrylic Similar to acrylic material but less strong. This is a fibre.
Wash in warm water and detergent - Dry cleaning allowed - Drip dry - Only use cool iron - Very susceptible to heat
Mohair Fine wool from the angora goat gives a shiny appearance. This is a fibre.
Dry clean recommended.
Moire Ribbed and corded fabric with a ripple effect (like water marking). Silk, acetate, polyester.
Dry clean only
Muslin Very loosely woven  fabric normally used to mop baby milk. Cotton.
Warm wash - Iron while damp.
Net Most common form is curtain nets but all will be of similar design with larger or smaller net. Cotton, nylon, polyester.
Cotton nets should be washed in hot water. - Cool wash for man mades and synthetics - Do not wring - Use curtain whitener if they have gone gray - Iron cool - Dress nets should be cool washed by hand or dry cleaned.
Nylon Smooth fibre with good stretch properties and that doesn't take in much water. This is the fibre known as polyamide.
Warm Hand wash or dry clean - Cold rinse - Drip dry - Sensitive to heat - Shouldn't require ironing
Organdie Stiff transparent delicate fabric. Cotton or nylon.
Hand wash in cool soapy  - water - Spin and hang to dry - Iron on right side while damp
Organza Dress fabric both fine and stiff like chiffon. Silk, nylon, viscose.
Dry clean or wash with great care as fabric is delicate - Drip dry if washed
Pique Plain weave fabric with sunken lines around cords. Cotton.
Treat as for cotton - Iron on reverse side
Polyester Strong smooth fabric that now can be used in many forms, often the material of football shirts and is the microfibre in fleece garments. This is a fibre.
Wash warm - Cold rinse normal spin - May be tumbled but choose low heat - Iron cool as the fabric is thermoplastic (it melts at fairly low heat).
Poplin Cotton type fabric with ribs across. Cotton, viscose, silk or wool
Clean as per the fibre and care instructions.
PVC Often rubber looking material. Chlorofibre, polyvynilchloride
Great care - Hand wash - Drip dry - Do not iron
Rayon This is the US term for viscose See viscose.
See viscose.
Sateen Very smooth but normally dull appearance to this fabric. Will be seen on all satin fabrics as the reverse side from the shiny side. Silk, cotton, polyester, nylon or acetate.
Treat with care and follow the care label for fibre type - Iron on dull side - Easy to damage with sharp objects - Water will mark the fabric.
Satin Shiny side of the sateen fabric normally used in fine fancy dress wear. Silk, cotton, polyester, nylon or acetate.
As above.
Seersucker Fine material with puckered stripes or checks. Cotton, silk, nylon, polyester.
Follow instructions for fibre - Should need no ironing
Serge Strong twilled material used for suits. Mostly Wool and wool mixtures.
Dry clean only - Iron using damp cloth - Iron jackets from the inside taking care of linings.
Shantung Coarse silk fabric with slubs. Mostly tussah silk but can be polyester or nylon.
Wash as for fibre - Dry clean recommended for silk items - Iron damp with warm iron.
Silk Soft fabric with lustrous look that does not contain heat and is therefore good for hot climates. This is a natural fibre.
Dry clean. - If washed treat with care silk can be damaged by rubbing - Do not wring - Hang to dry - Iron while damp - Clean often as ingrained stains may not come away.
Taffeta Crisp smooth fabric with a slight rib running across. Silk, polyester, acetate or nylon.
Dry cleaning recommended.
Terylene This is a generic name for polyester. Polyester.
As polyester.
Ticking Used for pillows and duvets and mattress covers. Cotton.
Wash as for cotton.
Toweling As the name implies used for towels and dressing gowns extensively. Cotton or polyester/cotton mix.
Machine or hand wash dependent on label - Tumble but not too dry - Should not need ironing but can be ironed on medium setting.
Triacetate Silky smooth fabric often used as lining and party type dressing. Man made fibre.
Dry clean recommended - Hand wash if necessary - Cold rinse short spin - Cool iron only - Do not use acetic acid
Tricot Knitted fabric. Viscose, nylon, polyester.
Appropriate cleaning for fibre type as on label.
Tulle Very fine soft netted fabric in a hexagonal shape. Silk, cotton, viscose or nylon.
Was as per fibre or dry clean for safety - Place netting in bag again for safety - Limp cotton tulle can be starched - Iron as for fibre being careful not to catch and tear fabric.
Tweed Coarse heavy weight fabric used for outer garments. Wool, wool/nylon or wool/polyester mixes.
Dry cleaning recommended - May wash dependent on fibre type - Iron using damp cloth or on reverse side.
Velour Heavy fabric with a pile. Acrylic, may be other fibres.
Dry clean only
Velvet Lustrous material with rich pile normally in vivid colours, used extensively for party wear and curtaining . Originally silk but can be cotton, nylon, viscose or polyester.
Dry cleaning recommended - If washed drip dry - Do not wring or spin - Steam instead of iron - If ironing necessary do so from the reverse side on towel. - Do not rub the surface it is easy to crush the pile
Vicuna Often made into blankets with a coarse look and feel. Hair from a vicuna lama.
Treat exactly as wool.
Viscose May be similar to cotton but can be made very lustrous and is often used for ladies suits, dresses etc..  Man made fibre regenerated from cellulose.
Dry cleaning recommended as it weakens in water - May be washed as per instructions - If material has lustrous or deep look to it care must be taken when ironing it will readily shine.
Viyella Generic name for this mixture of fibres. Mix of wool and cotton.
Hand wash warm with mild detergent - Dry clean recommended - Drip dry  - Iron on reverse side.
Voile Light weight see through fabric often used for shirts, blouses and net curtains. Cotton, viscose, nylon or polyester.
Wash according to fibre type - Do not wring or twist - Hang to dry - Iron while damp
Winceyette Soft fabric with pile one side often used for children's and women's night wear. Cotton, wool/cotton blend or viscose.
Warm wash - Cool tumble or hang dry - Medium iron if needed.
Wool Soft fabric with many uses and looks from fine knitwear to coarse coats. Hair from sheep, goats or camels
Dry clean recommended - Hand wash or machine wash on wool setting - Will readily shrink if not specially treated wool - Do not wring - Dry flat - Cool iron
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