The Spanish word sarape (pronounced suh-RAH-pay) means blanket. In the United States, serape is the alternate spelling. Serapes were originally an article of masculine clothing made of two hand-woven strips of wool of various designs sewn together with an opening left in the center for slipping over the head. Today, serape generally refers to a mass-produced multi-colored, striped, fringed, one-piece blanket woven of cotton or cotton blends in a variety of sizes. While serapes are sometimes still used as shawls or coverings, more often today they are used as decorative items in homes and businesses.
Determine the fiber content of the serapes by checking manufacturer's tags or other documents that may have accompanied the purchase and separate any wool serapes from those made of cotton, cotton blend or synthetic fabrics. If there are no identifying tags, you can use the general rule of thumb that wool will feel rougher to the touch while cotton and blends will have a softer, more luxurious feel against the skin. If you're still unsure about the fiber content you may want to use one of several easy-to-find, simple at-home tests, like the burn test, that can help you to at least determine whether the fiber is natural or man-made.
Wash wool serapes by hand in cold water, soaking and squeezing in a large basin or tub, or machine wash using little to no agitation. Use a liquid soap or detergent specifically designed for cold water washing of delicate and woolen fabrics. Rinse well at least twice, carefully squeeze out excess water without twisting or wringing, and hang or lay flat to dry.
Launder cotton serapes by machine at home or in a laundromat on the normal cycle using any good detergent. Cotton can withstand hot water but cool or cold water is recommended to prevent fading of colors. Hang or lay flat to dry in order to prevent shrinkage and puckering. Alternatively, tumble dry on a low to medium setting, remove from the dryer promptly and be prepared to iron, as cotton wrinkles easily.
Use cool or cold water to launder cotton blend serapes in order to prevent fading. Wash in your washing machine at home or at a laundromat on the normal or gentle cycle. Tumble dry on low or medium heat and remove from the dryer promptly to minimize wrinkling. Alternatively, hang or lay flat to dry.
Wash serapes made of synthetic fabrics such as acrylic or polyester in warm water in a home or commercial washing machine set on the normal or gentle cycle. Tumble dry on low or medium heat. Remove promptly to prevent wrinkling.