Caring for Your Clothing

A Guide to Protecting Your Investment

In the words of Mark Twain “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Also, I’m not too sure many of us would be comfortable traipsing around town buck naked! Alas, we are not here to debate the necessity of wearing clothing, rather to discuss how best to care for the clothing we do wear.
So, you’ve spent hundreds, quite possibly thousands, on your wardrobe. How do you go about protecting the investment you’ve made in your image? Lots of people have “tried and true” methods for cleaning your clothing items, some are great and others are, well, not so great. We’ve scoured the internet for the most reliable of sources and compiled them all here for you in our guide to caring for your clothing.

General Laundry Tips

Ready your clothes for the wash by doing the following:
  • Remove all pins and buckles
  • Zip zippers
  • Close snaps and hooks
  • Secure Velcro to prevent snags
  • Do not button buttons, as they can weaken the buttons and buttonholes
  • Empty pockets and turn them inside out
  • Unfurl socks
  • Unroll cuffs
  • Tie sashes and strings to prevent tangling
  • Place delicates in zippered mesh bags
  • Turn items like t-shirts & sweaters inside out to prevent pilling
Caring for your Washer & Dryer 
  • Leave the washer door or lid open after each load to allow it to dry for a few hours
  • Dry just washed clothes promptly, even 4-5 hours can allow mildew to grow
  • Deep clean the interior of your washing machine once a month with a store bought cleanser or by running a complete cycle with hot water and detergent, then again with 2 cups of bleach, and a third time without any products 
  • Wipe up spills immediately to prevent damage to exterior or electronic control panel
  • Once a week, wipe down the exterior and inside the lid or door with a soft cloth and an all purpose cleaner and then rinse with plain water
  • Vacuum regularly around the bottom to remove lint and other debris
  • Clean lint trap each time you use your dryer
  • Periodically vacuum inside your dryer lint trap housing to get rid of residual lint from the trap
  • Every 6 months, wash your removable lint trap with soap and water to remove build up from dryer sheet residue
  • Twice per year, pull dryer out and remove dryer duct for cleaning

Caring for your clothes by fabric

Cotton: The touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives. Also, the shrinking, the stretching & the wrinkles. How do we keep our favorite natural fabric looking and feeling new? Cotton can be washed in the machine with any detergent at any temperature.
  • For best results, machine wash on normal cycle
  • White cotton can be washed in hot water, you may bleach white cotton but do so with care
  • Dark colored cotton should be washed in cold water
  • Light colored cotton should be washed in warm water
  • Tumble dry on low setting
  • Cotton can wrinkle easily, but it also irons well on the highest setting
Denim: Denim is an American tradition. Reminiscent of days working the fields, denim has transformed in the fashion world from the fabric of farmers to the hottest go-to item for day or night.
  • Denim should be washed only when stained or sagging
  • Raw denim can take up to 6 months to break in and shouldn’t be washed until then
  • Always wash denim inside out
  • Machine wash with cold water on the delicate cycle
  • Do not use fabric softener when washing denim
  • You may wash by hand with Woolite
  • Add 1/2 cup of distiller white vinegar to the final rinse to maintain the wash of your dark denim
  • Lay flat to dry or hang upside down 
  • If you must tumble dry, do so on the lowest setting and remove denim before completely dry and lay or hang
Wool: Sheared from sheep, this natural fabric warms us all winter long. If not properly cared for wool, like cotton, can shrink or stretch to transform your favorite winter sweater into doll clothing. 
  • Treat wool with a lint brush after wearing to remove surface dirt and lint
  • Remove light stains on wool by blotting (not rubbing!) with cool water or club soda and an absorbent, white cloth
  • If your care label says to hand wash, you may wash in the hand wash cycle on your machine in cool water
  • To wash by hand, use a mild detergent and lukewarm water, allow to soak 3-5 minutes then rinse in cool water and gently squeeze excess water
  • Lay flat to dry
  • Never use hot water or bleach on wool items
  • Allow 24 hours between wearings of wool items to allow wrinkles to smooth out and the elasticity of the fabric to return
  • Wool needs to breathe, so use caution when storing – never store in air tight plastic, instead wrap gently in tissue appear
Rayon: Rayon is considered a semi-synthetic fabric as it is made from primarily naturally occurring polymers, like wood pulp. Types of Rayon include Modal, Lyocell (a.k.a. Tencel) and Viscose each with a different manufacturing process and finished product. Across the board, types of Rayon fabrics are known for being breathable, moisture absorbent & comfortable to wear. These fabrics drape well and have a soft, silky appearance.
  • ALWAYS follow the instruction on the care label, if dry cleaning is recommended, then dry clean you must
  • Washing by hand is preferable for Rayon, use cool water and a hand washing detergent like Woolite
  • If using the machine to wash be sure to choose your gentle cycle and cool water 
  • Rayon may bleed dye, so it’s best to wash alone
  • Never wring, twist or bunch up Rayon instead gently shake and smooth out with your hands
  • Lay flat to dry; if you must hang, use a non-wire hanger to avoid rust spots
  • Iron while still damp to make your job easier
  • You may iron with a low to medium setting with steam to remove wrinkles
  • Always iron inside out or use a pressing cloth to prevent shining
Polyester: Polyester fabrics are strong, resilient, wrinkle-resistant, colorfast, crisp, and hold pleats and creases well. But they are also nonabsorbent, attract and hold oil stains, may pill when rubbed and may yellow with age. Polyester is used for clothing and filling garments and coats; some bed linens and towels are also made from polyester blends. Polyester can be safely dry-cleaned or machine-washed.
  • Turn polyester fabrics inside out before washing to prevent snags and pilling
  • Pretreat stains with stain remover for 10-20 minutes before laundering
  • If stained garment is white, you may try soaking item for 24 hours in a gallon of water with 1/3 cup of automatic dish washing soap; this also brightens whites that have yellowed
  • Machine wash polyester in warm water on the normal or permanent press setting
  • You may use chlorine bleach on some polyester, check your care label first
  • Tumble dry on a low setting and be careful to not over dry as it may lead to gradual shrinking
  • Iron polyester on a moderate heat setting or use steam 
Nylon:  Nylon fabrics are extremely strong, lightweight, smooth and lustrous. They are also nonabsorbent and have excellent wrinkle resistance. Often combined with spandex, nylon knits are very stretchy but recover their original shape. Nylon is used to make many items, including lingerie, rainwear and workout clothing.
  • Machnine wash sturdy nylon items in warm water with an all purpose laundry detergent
  • Hand wash lingerie and hosiery in warm water and light duty detergent
  • You may machine wash delicate nylon items in a mesh bag to prevent stretching or tearing
  • Use fabric softener to reduce static electricity
  • Tumble dry on low or lay flat to dry
  • Iron on a cool temperature setting
Acrylic: Many acrylic items resemble wool in softness, bulk & fluffiness. Acrylics are wrinkle resistant and typically safe to machine wash. It’s biggest drawback is its tendency to pill, but fabrics blended with wool or polyester will do this less than pure acrylic.
  • Acrylics may be dry cleaned
  • Turn garments inside out before laundering to prevent pilling
  • Wash delicate items by hand in warm water with a gentle cleanser, gently squeeze to remove excess water
  • Machine wash sturdier articles in warm water on permanent press or delicate cycle
  • Tumble dry on low or lay flat to dry
Down: Down is the warmest insulation material for clothing items, found frequently in coats and vests. Harvested mostly from the feathers of domestic geese, humans have utilized these feathers to stay warm for centuries. Some down articles are designed to be washed while others still require dry cleaning. 
  • Check the label, dry clean if you must
  • It’s important to use a front load washer, as the agitator in top load machines can damage the item
  • Use the permanent press cycle
  • Do not overuse detergent as it can prevent down from getting fluffy again, look to the detergent bottle for guidelines 
  • If your garment is very dirty, stop the wash cycle halfway through and allow to soak for an hour or so
  • Add an extra rinse cycle or run through the wash a second time without soap to ensure all residual detergent has been removed
  • Tumble dry on low setting, high heat can cause unnecessary wear of down items
  • Toss a couple of tennis balls in the dryer to help break up clumps
  • Periodically pull item from dryer and shake out before returning to dryer
  • Down must be dried completely to prevent mold and mildew growth
Silk: Silk has been known to man for eons but up until the 19th century, production was limited and silk was hard to come by. Now silk is produced in many places, however, compared to the world’s total fiber production, silk fibers still only make up less than 1%. Delicate, shiny and irresistibly soft, silk is the most elegant of natural fibers. 
  • Dry cleaning is fine for most basic pieces, but it’s better to hand wash
  • Hand wash silk in cool or lukewarm water
  • Only use a tiny bit of mild detergent like Woolite, Ivory or shampoo dissolved in water
  • Silk doesn’t tolerate temperature changes well, so keep the temp consistent throughout the cycle
  • Do not wring silk, roll up in a towel and gently press the water out
  • Items labeled “washable silk” may be machine washed in the gentle cycle in a mesh bag
  • To prevent color loss, add up to 3 Tbsp of white vinegar for every 2 quarts of water
  • Hang on a padded hanger to dry
  • Press silk while still damp on low setting
  • Never use steam on silk to prevent water marks
  • Silk needs to breathe so store in a dry, dark place where air may circulate
Cashmere: If you think caring for cashmere is best left to the professionals, think again. This super soft wool obtained from cashmere goats can actually further soften over time, if properly cared for. When it comes to cashmere, a little TLC goes a long way. Despite what it says on the tag, hand washing cashmere is best to achieve optimal softness and protect it from chemicals.
  • Hand wash in cool water with mild detergent like Woolite or baby shampoo
  • Keep your cashmere in a lump while washing to prevent stretching, never hang by the shoulders
  • To dry, you can use a salad spinner to remove excess water or roll in a towel and press gently
  • Lay flat to dry
  • Only wash when absolutely necessary, about twice per season is best
  • Always clean before storing to prevent moths from eating your precious sweater
  • If you do dry clean, be sure to promptly remove from the plastic as this fabric needs to breathe
Suede and Leather: Cleaning suede and/or leather can be particularly tricky. In most cases, you’ll need a professional to assist with caring for these items. For an overview of what you can do at home, click here to watch a segment with Martha Stewart. The basics are as follows:

  • Treat leather or suede with a water repellant prior to wearing
  • Hang leather and suede items promptly after each wear
  • Use a suede brush after each wear to remove surface dirt and lift the nap
  • Have your item professionally cleaned as needed, at least once per year
  • Never store leather and suede in plastic, wrap in tissue instead
Special Notes
Lingerie: Delicate lingerie made of silk, satin or lace should always be hand washed and left out to dry, as machines can damage small bits of high-quality fabric.
  • Hand wash in cold water with a tablespoon of mild detergent
  • Swirl your pieces around in the water for a few minutes
  • Rinse each piece individually 
  • Be sure to rinse thoroughly as detergent can weaken the materials’ delicate fibers
  • Gently wring out excess water
  • Lay flat to dry
  • Hand wash light and dark lingerie in two separate batches, to prevent bleeding
  • Hand wash any item for the first time by itself as these items tend to bleed dye
Swimwear: While your swimsuit doesn’t need to be washed with detergent every time you wear it, it should be rinsed with cool tapwater every time you take it off. This will remove most of the sunscreen, dirt, sweat and chlorine.
  • To wash, turn the swimsuit inside out and add 1 tablespoon of liquid detergent to a sink full of cool water
  • Swish your swimsuit around for a few minutes and then rinse well
  • Gently squeeze – do not wring or twist – to remove excess water
  • Lay flat to dry
  • Do not dry in the sun, as it will fade and break down the fibers in your suit, so dry indoors or in the shade
  • At the end of each summer season you may wash your swimwear in a mesh bag in your washing machine, use the gentle cycle with a mild detergent like Woolite

Most importantly, follow the directions listed on the care label. The manufacturer knows how to best care for the item you’ve purchased. To decode the clothing care label use this chart from the Soap and Detergent Association:

Noteworthy Considerations on Laundry

Hard Water
Hard water is water with a high mineral count. This isn’t harmful to humans but it can wreak havoc on your clothes and the machines that wash them. Hard water does not clean as effectively as soft water and can lead to incomplete soil removal, whites may become grey or dingy and as unremoved soil accumulates, fabrics can feel harsh or stiff. Short of installing a water softener, there are a few things you can try to make your laundry clean more effectively.
  • Use extra detergent in the wash, there is no set guide for this so you’ll need to experiment 
  • Use the hottest water setting possible for your clothing 
  • Add a laundry softener like Borax, Calgon Water Softener, Washing Soda or Baking Soda
  • Avoid chlorine bleach and opt for a color safe bleach instead
  • Practice good laundry habits like sorting, pretreating and limiting load size
Brighten Whites without Bleach
Keeping whites white can be a challenge. The first step to doing this is to always wash your whites separately, in hot water. Smaller items like napkins, socks and linens can be whitened by filling a pot with water, add a few lemon slices, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add linens. Allow to soak for an hour or so and then launder as usual. You can also whiten in the wash by adding 1/2 cup Borax or white vinegar to the wash cycle. Also, hanging your whites in the sun will allow for natural bleaching.

Washing Baby Clothes
Regular laundry detergents can be too harsh for baby’s sensitive skin. Try these tips when washing baby’s clothes:
  • Use the mildest soap available without chemicals or additives
  • Avoid fabric softeners
  • Always pre-soak stains as soon a possible in cool water to avoid setting 
Stains can be a real pain. Red wine, chocolate and the occasional scraped knee are regular occurrences in life. Check out this detailed guide from the American Cleaning Institute for best practices on stain removal, by clicking here.

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