Pay attention to clothing labels
We addressed the importance of reading labels in our previous post “How to Read Clothing Labels: The Basics,” but it doesn’t hurt to stress the point again. The various words and pictures on clothing labels tell you exactly what to do on most garments and if you’re ever unsure or if the label specifically says, “dry clean only” take it to a professional clothing cleaner to be safe.
Learn the art of hand washing
Clothing with labels that read “delicate” may do fine in the washing machine, but do better when you hand wash them. Hand washing can sound involved, but it’s relatively simple, and once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll no longer fear the “hand wash only” label. For effective, safe hand washing of garments, first make sure you scrub clean the sink, tub or basin you’re using to remove mildew, stains, and chemical residue. Once you have a thoroughly clean sink, tub or basin, fill it with lukewarm water (unless the label specifies a temperature) and follow these steps:
- Mix in a mild detergent such as one specifically designed for delicates
- Submerge the clothing items and use your hands to swish them gently side to side for five minutes
- Don’t scrub items, even if they have stains
Don’t put too much laundry in at one time because you need ample water working around and through the fabric fibers. If you have several hand wash items and they’re quite soiled, change the water every couple loads, so you’re not cleaning clothes in dirty water.
Pre-treat Stains promptly
Letting a stain sit on an item of clothing is never a good idea, and immediate pre-treatment can help prevent a permanent stain. As soon as your item gets a stain, wet it with plain water. Use warm or hot water for dirt and other inorganic stains and cold or lukewarm water for organic stains like blood. Dab the water onto the stained area from behind and place it on a paper towel or absorbent cloth. There’s a chance it will soak into the paper towel instead of your clothing.
For items that are stained as well as dirty, soaking can help remove stains. Soaking requires submerging the entire garment in water and letting it sit for a few hours to an entire day in room temperature water. If you don’t soak the entire garment, you run the risk of fibers swelling and warping out of place, damaging the item. Soaking an item weakens and breaks up stains, which can make later stain treatments easier and quicker.
Lay flat to dry
Delicate and expensive items of clothing usually require air-drying because tumbling around in a hot dryer can cause damage. Some delicate items are suitable for hanging, but most do better when laid flat to avoid creasing, dimples, and wrinkles. You can use a rack with slots, a futon frame or even a baking rack to dry clothing flat, as long as it allows airflow underneath the clothing. Turn clean clothing every 30 minutes for even drying.
Know when to machine wash
Delicate items don’t all require hand washing and many garments labeled “dry clean” “hand wash” or “delicate” can go safely in your washing machine if you’re careful. If you see the words “hand wash only” or “dry clean only” written on the labels though, follow them to avoid damaging your expensive clothing. The ideal washing machine for delicates is one that doesn’t have a central agitator that can grab, twist, and tangle delicate items. Front-loading washing machines don’t have central agitators and operate with large spinning drums to clean the clothing.
For your delicates, choose the “delicate” or “gentle” setting, opt for a cool temperature or a warm wash and cold rinse with a shorter wash cycle. Your washing machine setting needs to match the motions of how you would hand wash as much as possible to ensure gentle cleaning of your clothing. You can further protect delicate items by placing them in water-permeable washing bags, so they avoid snagging inside the machine or on other clothing.
To avoid clothing dyes from damaging delicate items, always wash similar colored items together and whites and lights in their separate loads. When you’re cleaning an item for the first time, wash it alone to avoid staining other clothing if it bleeds dyes. To test the bleeding of a garment’s dye, wash it with an old rag or towel. If after cleaning, the rag or towel has the new garment’s colors on it, continue cleaning the clothing alone or with other items you don’t mind staining.
Following the above steps can prevent damage to your delicate and expensive clothing, but the safest option when in doubt is to trust your items to Embassy Cleaners professional clothes cleaning services.Professionally Clean My Clothing image credit