5 Expert Tips for Washing Your Delicates at Home

hand wash clothing safelyYou just got a stain on your fave new sweater. You're upset, but you're pretty sure you can fix it without the added errand and expense of dropping it off at the dry cleaner. But ... in the back of your mind is the nagging fear that you may inadvertently ruin it for good. How do you know when you can cheat a bit and salvage it yourself?


Cleaning expert Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space, shares her strategies for washing at home without ruining your beloved garments.

1. Use cold water.

"You always want to use cold water, especially when washing delicates," Maker advises. "Hot water will cause things to shrink and colors to run."

When laundering lingerie and wool sweaters, cold is definitely the way to go, whether you're washing by hand or in the machine.

2. Use the right products.

Maker says if you're definitely the DIY sort, you should consider purchasing specialty products designed to make sure your pieces come out the way you hoped.

"The Laundress has a line of products available so you can choose the appropriate one for whichever garment you're washing. They have a wool and cashmere wash as well as a denim wash. You definitely want to use a gentle detergent when you're washing more delicate items and then only really use a capful."

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3. Never rub or wring.

Resist the temptation to scrub, Maker says.

"When you're washing by hand, you want to fill a basin or bucket with cool water and then you're immersing and swishing," the cleaning expert advises. "You don’t want to rub and scrub. It's more like massaging. Too much rubbing can cause pilling and the wearing down of fabric."

Once you've rinsed your garment in cool water, don’t wring it.

"Instead, ball it up and press it against the basin or side of the tub to remove excess moisture. Then, lay out an absorbent bath towel. Roll up your garment inside it like a burrito. That will get even more wetness out. Then hang it or lay it flat to dry, whichever is appropriate," she says.

4. Do a little research.

If you're nervous, err on the side of caution, Maker suggests. Read your labels, and if that isn't enough, either call the store where you purchased the item to ask an associate's advice or visit the manufacturer's website for online care guidelines.

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5. Use common sense.

If you've spent $2,500 on a designer handbag, don't risk destroying it by trying a cleaning method you're not sure will work.

"My whole guideline and what I go by is if it’s something that's really important to you, either it has sentimental value or you spent a lot of money on it, err on the safe side," Maker says.

As you're shopping, keep in mind how comfortable you'll be caring for the garment before you commit. It's just common sense, the cleaning guru says.

"If you're buying suede shoes, be smart about when you wear them outside," she notes. "You can condition leather at home, but if you have an ink stain on an expensive purse, take it to a specialist. Some things aren't worth hacking. If you're facing a challenge that goes beyond something you think you can simply fix at home, don't push it. Take it to a professional."

While it's tempting to try to tackle a tough stain yourself, you don't want to end up destroying a much-loved piece. When it comes to your wardrobe and accessories, better safe than sorry! 


Image via Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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