DIY: Delicate Clothing Care

August 02, 2013


One of my hidden talents is Laundry. I take pride in caring for our clothes and linens at home. I find it somewhat therapeutic for my OC self. It only makes sense to take care of our investments! I have some garments that are over 15 years old that I still use regularly and definitely don't look their age. Knowing the basics of fabric care and when to send special items to the pros is all it comes down to. As with most of the things I do, I always aim to DIY at home (yes, even the delicate items) since it's better for the environment, convenient, cost-effective, and a healthier alternative to professional cleaning. 

I love my silks, wool, and cashmere - and actually wear them often. Most people avoid them and other specialty fabrics because they fear the dry cleaning bills or "work" that needs to be done to maintain them. I often get asked by friends and family:

 How do you keep your clothes in such great condition.......without spending too much time or money?

Because I could go on and on and write an entire novel on laundry, and because I'm pretty sure most of us have all mastered everyday items- I'm going to focus on the next level - hand washing delicates.

W H A T   I   U S E:

The Laundress Fine Fabric Wash
(Silks, nylons)

The Laundress Wool Wash
(Cashmere & Wool)

The Laundress Stain Bar
(Pre-treating stains)

Wash Basins
(At least two, one for darks and one for colors)

Bath Towels
(One white and one dark colored)

Mesh Drying Rack


Sweater Stone



Sweater Comb



I'm a huge fan of The Laundress products. They are definitely pricey, but if you calculate how much you save on dry cleaning bills they are more than worth it! I love the soft scent, and how amazing my clothes look and feel after washing. To keep costs down, I only get their two specialty detergents for silks, wool, and cashmere (pictured above). For everything else, we use regular detergent (Cheer Stay Colorful). I have tried Woolite and the like before, but they don't compare to the gentleness and effectiveness of the Laundress. I get their products from either  J.Crew, The Container Store, Drugstore.com , or Crate and Barrel.


G E N E R A L   T I P S:

1. ALWAYS read the labels to see what kind of fibers the fabric is made of and suggested cleaning options. If you must cut these tags off, take a photo of the label and the garment. Keep a file of these for reference.
2. Some manufacturers put "DRY CLEAN" on the care label just to be safe - but most fabrics including silks, wool, and cashmere can all be washed at home. Unless it says "DRY CLEAN ONLY", then delicate hand washing ( or even machine washing) with special detergent then air drying works just fine. See charts below. 
3. Items that have serious stains or ones I don't know how to treat, pieces with intricate lace or beading, suits, leather, and DRY CLEAN ONLY items are always sent to the pros.
4. Always separate colors. I have one wash bin for whites and lights, and another for darks. Make sure all zippers are zipped up, buttons un-fastened, and anything with embroidery or embellishments turned inside out.
5. Pre-treat using the Stain Bar. Make sure to rub areas that get the most stains - collars, sleeves/under arm areas.
6. Never wring or squeeze after rinsing. I use one white bath towel for the lights, and one dark towel for the darks. The reason why I use two towels is because colors and lint can transfer (i.e. -white fuzz on a black silk shirt, a white cashmere sweater with blue towel stains...etc). Having drying towels designated to lights and darks makes the job more effective and efficient. On a flat surface,  spread a towel out and lay the item of clothing on top of it. Roll it up gently (just like a fruit roll up) to remove excess water.   Let the item hang to dry on a hanger (if its a lightweight top) or if it's heavier guage, dry flat on a mesh rack.
7. Never machine dry delicates!
8. To keep cashmere and wool looking like new, I de-pill them using a Sweater Stone (for heavier gauge/thicker items) or a Sweater Comb (cashmere or fine gauge knits).
9. I have 5 laundry baskets - 2 for everyday laundry (lights and darks), 2 for hand wash- (Lights and darks), and one dry cleaning bag. This prevents any "accidental" laundering of specialty items in the regular wash.
10. Take 5-10 minutes every other week for laundering delicates. It really is so simple and easy, you will kick yourself for all the times you took these delicates to the cleaners or passed up that gorgeous silk blouse you spotted at J.Crew!


The Laundress created fantastic cheat sheets on this whole topic. Feel free to right click and download their charts and "recipes" below.


S Y N T H E T I C   F I B E R S


N A T U R A L   F I B E R S



D I D   Y O U   K N O W:


Wool is naturally stain and wrinkle resistant, quick drying, 
antimicrobial, and a fire retardant.

Linen softens as it ages, dries quickly, doesn’t lint, and resists deterioration from sunlight.

Ramie resists heat, bacteria, and molds.

Starch can encourage mold and mildew.

You should iron natural fabrics (such as linen or ramie) while damp.

Cotton absorbs water more easily than any other fabric, can withstand a range of temperatures, and maintains color.

Air-drying is easier on clothes, can reduce wrinkles, and eliminates static cling.

You shouldn't wash sweaters until you’ve worn them six times or more (or of course- if it's soiled). Fabrics like cashmere last longer and stay looking new when they contain natural oils (from the specialty detergents and body oils) and are not washed too often.

Clothes can be air-dried anywhere but the bathroom. It's too damp in there!



I hope this post was helpful! Would love to know if you'd like more tips on general laundry and stain care.

Have a great weekend!

S H O P   T H I S   P O S T:

4 comments:

  1. Very cool post! Thanks for sharing! In the past, I've definitely avoided delicates and "dry clean only" because I'll think it's a hassle, but lately I've been buying more work blouses (silk, polyester, etc) and sometimes I don't have a choice. These tips will definitely make things a little easier!

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  2. Thanks Melissa! So glad you found this post useful! :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  3. This is an AMAZING post, Reece! Bookmarking this for reference! :D

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  4. Thanks Mich! So glad you found this post helpful :)

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