How to clean your clothing seems simple enough – place in washer, add water, some soap and it’s a done deal, right? Wrong. The manufacturers of your clothing take the time to print instructions on those little labels for a reason. Read on to learn the details of how and why things are washed the way they are, and why you sometimes need to dry clean instead.
The hand washing technique is reserved typically for delicates or things that are likely to be damaged by the force and repetition of a machine. To hand wash a garment, find a clean washbasin, tub or sink, fill with cold water and add just a few drops of mild detergent. Then, knead gently for two minutes. Some recommend a hair conditioner rinse for use on silks. Rinse until the soap is gone and lay flat to dry. Hand wash is NOT the same as Dry Clean.
This is the most common technique of cleaning your clothing – the washing machine. Most washing machines have a variety of settings, hot water, cold, warm, cold then warm, etc. Just remember that hot water contributes to shrinkage and is harder on fabrics than cold. However, there are some serious stains out there that can only be mastered by a hot wash cycle. After a machine wash, you have the choice of a machine dry or hanging the clothing to dry naturally. The latter is better for the clothing but may take hours instead of minutes, depending on the humidity of where you live.
Dry Clean Only
This is our personal favorite, for many reasons – the best of which is that dry cleaning is one of the most efficient and gentle ways to clean your clothing. The label on your garment is a “best practices,” guide. If the label says, “Dry clean only,” that’s the best way to handle the garment. In a pinch, cotton, linen, cashmere, polyester, acrylic, and nylon can usually be machine-washed. Items made of silk, taffeta, wool, velvet or other exotic fabrics should be dry-cleaned.
Some sources suggest you can wash items that are “dry clean only.” Do this at your own risk. The labels are there for a reason and anytime you vary from the recommended method of cleaning, you run the risk of damaging your clothing.