Soft, warm, synthetic shearling or sherpa fleece is everywhere these days, as popular for inexpensive car seat covers, mattress pads, throws, saddle pads and dog beds as it is for jackets, coat collars and aviator hats. A key reason for such popularity is that polyester lambs wool is simple to launder: just toss it in the washer and dryer, or line dry. There are, however, exceptions to the easy-care rule of thumb. To be on the safe side, follow product instructions if you have them.
Follow the product or fabric maker’s cleaning instructions. Synthetic shearling or sherpa fleece is usually machine washable. You'll typically use cold water and the gentle or delicate cycle, then line dry or tumble dry on low as polyester fabric is very heat sensitive. The fabric's distinctive woolly appearance is due to curling of the surface nap or pile during fabric finishing, and washing won’t affect that.
Spot clean collars, trim and other items that are only slightly soiled to save wear and tear caused by unnecessary washing. These strong, high-performance fabrics are very warm for their weight and wind resistance but they also repel water and wick moisture, which makes them ideal for spot cleaning. For simple washable stains, dip a corner of your rag in water and quickly “rinse” the stain by lightly brushing the fabric. Dip another corner into the detergent solution and clean the stain the same way. “Rinse” again. For more complicated stains, use a commercial fabric cleaning stick.
Dry clean a synthetic fleece garment or other product only if directed, or if some element of the item may not be washable. Sometimes garment linings won’t survive washing and drying, for example, or would require ironing; the high heat could damage the synthetic lambs wool. If dry cleaning is called for, request that the pile method be used, which means that solvent will be used sparingly and fibers will retain their loft.