When it comes to delicate fabric and dry-clean-only clothing, washing your favorite items can be quite a hassle. Picking things up from the dry cleaner isn’t always a quick stop, especially if any unexplained marks or stains appear on your clothes. Or, depending on the chemicals used at specific dry cleaners — like perc — they can trigger allergic reactions from respiratory issues to irritated skin.
The same chemicals also tend to remove the natural oils from yarn, which can leave sweaters dull and thin. But cleaning your favorite sweater dress or down comforter doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. It also doesn’t have to be expensive.
Did you know women’s blouses cost twice as much to dry clean than men’s button-down shirts? But, just by using few tricks of the laundry trade, hard-to-clean items can be washed at home for less.
Helpful tips to clean delicate garments at home
* For delicate items that are machine washable, use a mesh bag designed for laundry. Mesh bags help protect bras, lingerie and fine fabrics. To minimize irritation, turn clothing inside out and use the shortest, gentlest cycle available.
* For dry-clean-only clothing, use an at-home product like Dryel (www.dryel.com). Since Dryel uses a protection bag with a cleaning cloth, it works well for dark jeans and sweaters that are vulnerable to stretching. It can also save money on cumbersome items like curtains, throw pillows, bedding, even stuffed animals.
* Hand wash clothing in cold water with mild detergent. Once you’re sure colors won’t bleed, use a spot remover on stains and scrub gently with your fingers. Linen, cotton, cashmere and polyester pieces can be washed by hand, but don’t hand wash fabric like silk, velvet and taffeta.
* Unless using a dry cleaning kit (like Dryel), skip the dryer. Too much heat can ruin accents, embroidery and fibers. Instead, lay flat to dry on a white towel to avoid discoloring. If the garment was hand washed, gently push out excess water using a towel before laying it flat to dry. Roll fabric between towels to dry as needed, but don’t twist or wring out delicate clothing.
Be careful hanging wet fabric on racks or in closets, it may stretch and lose some shape.