Cleaning Your Clothes
Posted: Apr 25 2014
We’ve already talked about how to store your clothing, but how should you take care of your expensive (and extensive) wardrobe? By carefully cleaning and washing your clothing you can vastly extend the life of your pieces, transforming that pricey shirt into an investment that will last for years.
First, though, a caveat: everything in this post is a suggestion, and you should always (and I mean always!) carefully read the care instructions that come with each garment. These instructions can be found on a small tag usually sewn into an internal seam, and deciphering any difficult symbols is as simple as a Google search. Trust the people who designed your clothes!
With that warning taken care of, cleaning your clothing starts with your washing machine. Do you have a modern high efficiency front-loading washing machine? Or are you living in an apartment building and stuck feeding quarters into something straight out of a 1970s horror movie? In general, the gentler (and therefore more modern) washer you have, the better. Washing machines can very rough on your clothing, and if you’re stuck in a situation where you don’t have access to a washing machine that won’t destroy your wardrobe, you’re better off hand washing.
When using a washing machine, always opt for a gentle cycle with cold water. There’s no real difference between hot and cold water in terms of cleanliness (clothes are cleaned by the soap you’re using, not the water temperature), and hot water can damage delicate fabric and fade colors. When selecting a detergent, look for something that’s gentle and colorfast. Woolite Dark is great for protecting your denim, and most organic detergents lack the harsh chemicals that can ruin your clothes. Don’t use bleach.
If possible, avoid drying your clothes in an electric dryer. Dryers can be very damaging on clothing – they function by heating clothing and tossing it against each other – and hang drying your clothing is a much safer bet. If hang drying isn’t an option (limited space, limited time, whatever) use the lowest heat setting your dryer has, and, if possible, disable the spin function. On more modern dryers, select the “Delicate” setting.
Also, if you can, avoid using dry cleaners. Most dry cleaners subject clothing to extremely harsh chemicals and press them with industrial pressing machines that can damage stitching and destroy delicate buttons. Dry cleaning an expensive suit can destroy the chest canvas – the piece sandwiched between the outside of the jacket and the lining that gives the jacket shape – and make a jacket look flat and lifeless. Instead, search for a reputable dry cleaner who will hand press a suit. While this service can be expensive, most suits need to be professionally cleaned only once or twice a year. Look at it like an investment.
It’s also a great idea to invest in a steamer. Steamers – which use steam to smooth our wrinkles – function almost as well as an iron and are much easier and faster to use. When using a steamer try only to use filtered water – water from the tap can sometimes contain elements that can discolor clothing.