As the name implies, polished cotton is a woven cotton fabric with a smooth, shiny surface. The shine can result from the weave itself, or from pressing the fabric between cylinders during manufacture, a process known as calendering. Some polished cottons have more shine than others because they are treated with a resin or glaze during the process.

Polished cotton is available in a variety of prints and solid colors. However, when polished cotton is printed with intricate floral patterns, it is more commonly known as chintz. In decor, chintz is seen covering chairs, sofas, headboards and other upholstered pieces, as well as in curtains, pillow covers and decorative tablecloths. However, because the glaze finish can wash off with water, it's not a good idea to use chintz for items that need to be laundered, such as dining table linens.

Decorating With Chintz

Prominent American designer Elsie de Wolfe popularized chintz in the early 1900s. She used chintz extensively in many of the rooms she designed, covering upholstered pieces in matching chintz fabrics. She also liked to have the room's wooden furniture, especially chairs, tables and desks, painted in solid colors picked from the chintz pattern, then embellished with hand-painted motifs of flowers, birds and hearts adapted from the chintz design. This ensemble use of chintz continued to be popular up through the 1990s, which was the last big heyday of spreading chintz throughout a room.

Chintz continues to have a place in home decor, but contemporary use of chintz is more likely to feature it on a statement piece rather than as an ensemble. For example, a set of window drapes, a chair and ottoman pair, or a single loveseat might be the only place chintz shows up in a living room. The remainder of the room often mixes in other patterns and stripes against a backdrop of solid color that coordinates with the chintz pattern. These looks lend a romantic feeling to traditional and country decor styles.

Caring for Furniture Upholstered With Chintz

Dry-cleaning methods should be used when cleaning chintz, as water can remove the shiny finish. Vacuuming will be your first choice to remove dust and dirt from chintz upholstery. You may be able to remove spots or stains with a commercial stain remover by applying the product to a towel and blotting the stained area with the towel, but you should always test the product first in a hidden area of the furniture piece. However, a professional cleaning service that understands the special qualities of chintz fabric is your safest and most effective option.

Polished cotton fabrics made for garment wear can be made into curtains, pillow covers, and other light decor pieces. These fabrics tend to be more washable than decor materials, but they still require special care. Follow the manufacturer's laundering instructions. If you need to press the fabric to remove wrinkles, use a medium iron on the wrong side and iron while the fabric is still damp.