Washing Delicate Items

Back in the day delicate items had care instructions of “hand wash only” meaning just that - pieces had to be washed by hand in the sink. Nowadays with the latest and greatest washing machines, and the growing popularity of front loading washers, much of that type of washing can be done in the machine set at the “delicate” or “hand washables” setting.

Some items that you are taking to the Dry Cleaners might also be able to be laundered at home, saving a ton of money. Some items your mother wouldn't have dared to put in the washer can now be washed right at home! Look at the item’s care label for cleaning instructions. If it says “dry clean only” then do just that, however if it says “dry clean” then you may be able to launder it at home. By labeling it “dry clean” the manufacturer is merely suggesting that method of cleaning, but if you have the time and are willing to gamble, you could probably get away with doing it yourself.  If there is any kind of special trim or finish to the garment, then don't take the risk.

Unless your item is particularly fragile, or you are just too afraid to risk any damage, you may want to give machine washing a try. A few important laundry help tips should be followed:

Always use a mesh bag to protect items from pilling, twisting, or entanglement. In a pinch, a pillowcase closed with a rubber band will work fine.

Always use a detergent that is safe for delicate fabrics.  Note: If you are hand washing an item in a basin, and you don't have fine-garment detergent, then using a little mild shampoo may work just as well.

Never put delicate items in the dryer or in sunlight! Lay items flat to dry either on a drying rack, or a clean towel. Some sweaters will require reshaping when lying flat. To speed up the drying process, you should turn the item over after a while and place it on another dry towel. You may also have to steam some items after drying to remove minor wrinkles.

If you choose to wash by hand in a basin, there are a few basic steps to follow. Just fill your sink or basin with cool water (whatever temperature is recommended on the care label), and add the recommended amount of fine-washables detergent. Swirl your hand in the water to mix, then add your garment and let it soak for about 20 minutes. You may want to work the suds through the garment, but do not rub.

Then drain the sink and refill with clean water, or have separate basin with clean water nearby and rinse the garment.  Lay the garment out onto a clean towel and roll up the towel, pressing as you go to squeeze out the excess water. Never wring or twist – you could damage the item that way. Unroll the towel and place the garment flat on a dry towel or drying rack to air-dry. Do not dry in the sun.

Finally, always remember to separate colors when washing your delicates and try not to soak too long, since colors may bleed out from the fabric. Cleaning your delicate laundry items at home whenever possible will not only save you money, but may help to prolong the life of your garment.