Tricks For Delicately Cleaning Your Clothes When You Can't Afford To Dry Clean

Spring is upon us, and along with the hot sunny days out pops the light, breezy dresses and tanks in bright happy colors. Unfortunately, many of these delicate garments come with a warning on the inside tag — dry clean only. And just cause you dropped some serious cash on a lovely new top doesn’t mean you are rolling in enough moola to professionally clean the it regularly. Thankfully, this doesn't mean that you have leave your beautiful garment un-enjoyed for fear of getting sweaty or (heavens forbid!) spilling a dribble of wine on it.

When washing delicate fabrics at home, first read the label and review the instructions for care suggested by the manufacturer. As long as the garment isn't made from leather, suede, fur, or delicate fabrics and embellishments such as sequins and feathers, you may be able to get away with laundering it successfully yourself.

Now you can put that money you saved on dry cleaning towards your next bottle of wine (fingers crossed: no spills this time!). If you’re prepared to go off-roading with your clothes cleaning, here’s how:

Step #1: Spot Test


Before you decide to eschew dry cleaning, Laundry Reviewed recommends that you do a spot test. This will give you peace of mind that the colors will not bleed when subjected to water. First trickle a bit of water or a small drop of your detergent on a clean cotton swab (like the ones you use to clean your ears). Gently rub it over a seam or unnoticeable section of the garment. If no dye leeches on to the swab, then you are good to go! Let the section dry so you can see if there is any damage to the spot you experimented on. Why they sell clothing made out of fabric that can be damaged by water, I will never know.

Step #2: Washy-Wash!

Fabric: PolyesterCan I Wash It At Home: Yes

Polyester is the queen of fabrics in my book because it is by far the easiest to care for. This synthetic fiber is very strong, durable, and even quick drying. What was once used to make outrageous suits in the '70s can be found in your closet today in the form of flowy sundresses. If a polyester garment is labelled "dry clean only," it is most likely because of a design detail that the manufacturer believes would be better cared for by a professional. Plop your polyester piece into your washing machine, and run it on a short gentle cycle with cold water. Hang to dry or lay flat depending on the garment, though polyester tends to be good about retaining its shape.

Fabric: SilkCan I Wash It At Home: Probably

As you probably already know, silk is a protein produced by silkworms used to make their shimmering cocoons. It is quite durable, though if improperly treated, it can become misshapen and the dyes can bleed. Chlorine bleach can destroy the fabric entirely.

To lightly clean or refresh a silk item, The Telegraph suggests steaming it with a portable steamer and then removing the loosened dirt with a clothes brush. For heavier stains, fill a small tub with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent and swoosh the item around gently for a few minutes. Squeeze out the water and let dry on a drying rack. Iron on a low setting to smooth out any stubborn wrinkles. If you follow these instructions, 5,000 silkworms will not have spun in vain!

Fabric: RayonCan I Wash It At Home: Probably (With Caution)

Rayon is perfect for the summer — breathable and comfortable, like cotton. It is a manufactured fiber that is considered semi-synthetic, actually being made from cellulose-based wood pulp (otherwise known as parmesan cheese). However, this fabric is not as sturdy as cotton and thus needs to be handled with care. When washed the fabric may bleed, lose it's shape, or even shrink. You don't want a rayon shirt that was once smart and crisp to look flabby, so hand washing is best.

It is also very delicate when wet, and may be susceptible to tearing. To remove stains, hand wash gently in cool or cold water, with a very mild detergent. Best is to fill a bucket with water and dip the piece in, gently work stains with your fingers, and squeezing the soap through. Rinse afterward with cool water, but do not wring the water out. Lightly shake it, and lay it out flat on a drying rack, smoothing out wrinkles carefully with your hands. It may seem like a long and arduous process, but if you take these precautions the fabulous fabric should stay as bouncy as when you first bought it!

Fabric: CashmereCan I Wash It At Home: Yes

We've all heard the horror stories that say if you wash a wool sweater it will come out misshapen or child-sized. But The Telegraph reports that dry cleaning cashmere, despite the care instructions, may make the fabric thinner each time. The best way to care for your fuzzy sweater is by hand washing it in cold water with a gentle soap, and allow it to air dry flat. Store the garment on a shelf instead of a hanger. To smooth out wrinkles or loosen dirt, try a portable steamer.

Step #3: Drying Pro-Tips:


When drying a garment made from delicate fabrics, never twist or wring out the excess water. In order to not damage the fibers, gently squeeze out the water, and then lay the garment flat on a clean dry towel. Roll the towel up like a burrito and gently squeeze out the excess water. Transfer the garment to a drying rack and allow it to air dry completely. Follow instructions on the label to rid the piece of wrinkles — whether by using an iron on a low setting or a steamer.

So fresh and so clean, clean!


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