A textile is a flexible material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw wool fibres, linen, cotton, or other material on a spinning wheel to produce long strands known as yarn. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibres together (felt).
The words fabric and cloth are used in textile assembly trades (such as tailoring and dressmaking) as synonyms for textile. However, there are subtle differences in these terms. Textile refers to any material made of interlacing fibres. Fabric refers to any material made through weaving, knitting, crocheting, or bonding. Cloth refers to a finished piece of fabric that can be used for a purpose such as covering a bed.
Textile preservation refers to the processes by which textiles are cared for and maintained to be preserved from future damage. The field falls under the category of art conservation as well as library preservation, depending on the type of collection. In this case, the concept of textile preservation applies to a wide range of artifacts, including tapestries, carpets, quilts, clothing, flags and curtains, as well as objects which ‘’contain’’ textiles, such as upholstered furniture, dolls, and accessories such as fans, parasols, gloves and hats or bonnets. Many of these artifacts require specialized care, often by a professional conservator. The goal of this article is to provide a general overview of the textile preservation process, and to serve as a jumping-off point for further research into more specialized care. Always contact a professional conservator if you are unsure of how to proceed in the preservation process.
One of the safest and easiest ways to clean textiles is to vacuum them. The fabric is placed on a clean, flat work surface. If the specimen is particularly delicate, or simply as a precaution, a fibreglass screen edged with twill tape may be placed over the textile. The screen allows dirt and dust to pass through, but prevents individual threads from being pulled loose or unravelled further by the suction. Using a vacuum attachment and the lowest power setting, move the suction over the screen until the entire area has been cleaned. If needed, move the screen to a new area and begin again. Always remember to vacuum both sides of the textile, as dirt may filter through to the other side. Hanging textiles will need to be vacuumed less often than horizontal pieces, as there are fewer places where dust can collect.
Wet cleaning is a non-toxic, environmentally safe alternative to dry cleaning, utilizing computer-controlled washing machines, biodegradable soaps, detergents and conditioners, and various types of pressing equipment that may be specialized for many different fabric and fiber types.
Dry cleaning is any cleaning process for clothing and textiles using an organic solvent rather than water. The solvent used is typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), abbreviated "perc" in the industry and "dry-cleaning fluid" by the public. Dry cleaning is necessary for cleaning items which would otherwise be damaged by water and soap or detergent. It may be used if hand washing— and may be needed for some delicate fabrics.
Steaming and ironing textiles should be done with caution, as the heat may affect the viability of the fibres. More importantly, the fabric should always be cleaned before either of these processes is used, since heat may trap dirt and stains in the fibres to such an extent that the stain becomes permanent. Always use the lowest setting for either of these procedures. If a garment relies on folds to maintain its proper shape (such as pleats), it may be better to finger-press the folds into place when the garment is damp and allow it to dry that way, rather than subject it to the added stress of ironing.
Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)