To Hand Wash or Dryclean? 5 Secrets to Success when Hand Washing!

I am getting this question regarding "hand wash vs dryclean" more often and the answer is more complicated than you may expect. Some items hand-wash beautifully! But there are risks.

I always recommend you take your items to the drycleaner!

Why? 2 reasons: 1) Cleaning items always involves (at least a small) risk. And a trusted drycleaner has the experience and training to minimize these risks - and - worse case scenario - if something were to go wrong, a reputable drycleaner should help resolve any issues. and 2) How much is your time worth?

Many items people believe are dryclean only, really are not! Cashmere and many silks hand wash beautifully! That said - here are the solutions to the most common issues in hand wash!

RULE #1: NEVER HAND WASH AN ITEM WHEN THE LABEL READS "Dryclean Only" or "Do Not Wash!" They mean it! And beware the trim and other add-ons. Often a label will read . . . excluding trim (watch for this with leather trim!). I recommend not buying garments with labels like that - it means there is no way to clean that garment!

Risks: Water is a harsh solvent. Water may cause fabrics or linings to shrink, colors and trims to bleed, older fabrics, or heavily soiled (old stains) may rinse our with holes. Certain fabrics do not wash well - acetate and velvet come quickly to mind! And I would leave any leathers to the professionals. It is always a good idea to test a garment before committing the entire piece into the bath!
5 factors to consider when Hand Washing:

1) Stains: When you clean with water, BEWARE! If there are stains, and you do not remove them, they are likely set for life!

2) Pilling: Unfortunately, the price you pay for a sweater and whether or not it will pill are unrelated. Expensive garments are often made from poor quality yarn fibers that break easily. You can reduce pilling by turning it inside out before dipping - dry flat. A razor or shaver can do wonders. I do not recommend the stone or tape, both of which can make the problem worse.

3) Wrinkling: Hard wrinkles are normally created in the dryer. Do not overdry clothes - they should be slightly damp when they come out of the dryer AND do not overload the dryer OR your washer! Line drying can cause the same issue - the sun can overdry and/or bleach your clothes. Often these wrinkles become permanent! Wrinkles should be removed promptly - especially in knits - Once set they may become permanent.

4) Color Fading: Natural fibers do not hold color! That is why jeans fade so easily. Silk is also a natural fiber. Today's polyesters are amazing, and I would recommend that if you prefer black or navy shirts, to consider one of the new blended materials. Cold water and light drying (see above) are also recommend!

5) Color Bleeding: This applies to both trims and black (red or any bright color) and white prints. The only way to be sure is to test. And then you still can't be sure! Dyes are supposed to be fixed by the manufacturer - but often this doesn't happen. You can fix the color by soaking it a color fixative, but it is not always possible. I recommend consumers take item that fails back to where you bought it - I never understand why people forgive retailers for selling non-cleanable items. If more people held clothing manufactures accountable - perhaps the problem would lessen.. . . . .

Whoops - guess cleaning is in my blood, and I can't help having a (strong) opinion on the matter!


Mack said...

Nice post; very informative! (also, nice silver!)

The Ablitt's said...

Thanks Mack!

Mark said...

This is a really nice blog.Thanks a lot for this post. Did you know? We are carrying millions of microbes on our hands. We can pick up germs from objects such as doorknobs and stair railings which touch by other people who are not good hand washers. Most are no harmless, but some can cause illness such cold, flu and diarrhea. We can spread this germ to other people or give them to our selves by touching our eyes, mouths, noses or cuts on our bodies. For more details regarding this you can visit us at Daytime cleaning.

John Kenly said...

Great post. I always prefer to go for dry-cleaning.

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Sami Salo :) said...

This was really helpful for future reference. I was wondering, you happen to know if I can gently handwash and air dry if it says DO NOT WASH and DRY CLEAN ONLY on the label, but it's not silk? The lining is polyester, and the outer material is half-half cotton-poly blend. I don't have much experience with dry clean items, but I've heard that often you CAN hand wash if it's not silk!

The Ablitt's said...

It is sometimes possible to hand wash dryclean only items. . . even silk ones. The challenge is that you won't know if it is washable until you try, and the item is either ruined or not! Silk is a natural fiber and can also sometimes be hand washed. You never know why a garment maker puts "Dry Clean Only" on the label. . . it could be dyes, fabrics or some other unknown factor. A better drycleaner can do some testing and make an educated guess about whether an item could be hand washed. But the true test is washing it. . . . so measure your risks carefully!

Jason shwartz said...

This really is great information for anyone that is using hand washing as their washing technique. Something that really stands out is that there are so many different ways to get those clothes clean. I definitely think that hand washing as well as dry cleaning are great options. Thank you for sharing.