The most beautiful garments are often made from very delicate materials. Your favourite blouse, that goes with every type of bottoms, is made of silk. Your cozy, warm jumper that has this divine look is made from 100% wool. Other materials like synthetics, chiffon, lace, velvet, fine knits, polyester, and other lightweight fabrics can all be included in the delicates category. All of them require extra care, but since we love them dearly, we want to take our time to look after them properly.
In the earlier post I included the explanations for the care labels. Dry clean is one of the instructions that often is on the label of a delicate garment. Dry clean generally means that you could wash it by hand, or even put it in the washing machine using the hand wash setting. If your label says Dry clean Only, unfortunately, this time to play it safe, you have to take it to the professionals.
Let’s start with silk
The safest way to wash your silk garments is by hand. It is best to wash one item at a time. In this case there is no friction between them, and the colours do not matter, as they would not mix. You want to prepare warm water in a basin and include washing detergent in it. At this point it is very important to check what washing detergent and stain removers can be used for silk. The reason why the detergent is particularly important for silk is because of the structure of the fibre. Silk is a protein fibre - with a composition similar to that of human skin. And like skin, silk also reacts to alkaline substances by being loosened on the surface. With normal alkaline detergents, silk first becomes rough and dull - and after several washes it becomes brittle. Normal heavy duty detergent should be avoided at all costs. Make sure your detergent is enzyme-free. Enzymes attack these natural fibres, causing the fabric to erode over time. Look for detergent that is recommended for silk only. Once your basin is ready you can dip your silk item in the water. Make sure all the air bubbles come out and your garment is completely under water. Let it soak for 30 mins. You can then move it a bit around, without actually rubbing the fabric. Lift and put it back in the water several times. Use cold water to rinse.
When taking your garment out of the water do not wring it. Instead, you can press it with your hands until the water gets out. If this does not work properly, place your silk item on a towel and roll it up like a sleeping bag to help absorb the moisture faster. To dry follow the instruction on the label, but usually for silk air dry hanging on a line is recommended. For a crisp look steam your garment with a steamer.
Let’s move on to wool
Silk and wool are wonderful natural fibres that even have an auto-clean characteristic. Wool specifically needs very little cleaning. If you feel your woolen jumper is not that fresh anymore, but looks perfectly clean, hang it outside, shake it a bit, wait a few days and then put it onto a lavender pillow and your jumper will smell fresh again. Wool jumpers should only be washed when you have a stain or you sweated really badly - otherwise no need.
If you decide your woollen garment needs a wash after all, keep in mind what to avoid when hand washing wool. Water + Heat + Movement make felt from wool. Therefore fill your basin with warm water (< 30°C, never hot) and add washing detergent for wool. Use mild wool detergent, and avoid heavy duty or organic laundry detergents that contain enzymes and bleach. Never use bleach, oxygen or chlorine, when washing wool. After adding the wool washing detergent into the water make sure it is dissolved before soaking your jumper in it. Really limit movement and heat when placing your garment in the water. Soak it for up to 30 minutes and then push down a few more times before taking it out. Rinse in cold water. When taking it out push the water out by pressing on the jumper. You can then put your jumper to spin in the washing machine, choosing the lowest spinning program. After that lay flat on a tower to dry.
What we do with other delicate items
If you want to machine wash your delicate garments it is important that you don’t mix them together if they are made from different types of materials. So lace can be washed with lace, velvet with velvet ect. It is important to not wash them with other non delicate fabrics, as delicates tend to easily snag and lose shape when washed with unlike fabrics. Even though at 30°C the colours should not be affected, I try to separate the colours before or add a colour catcher. Make sure you use the correct washing detergent for delicates, and wash on hand wash setting and 30°C in the machine. Always double check the care label for temperature and washing cycles, and do not tumble dry delicate garments. Air dry so that they don’t lose shape.
For the sake of your delicate garments and the environment, if your item isn't dirty but just needs freshening up, rather than slinging it in the wash bin, try hanging it outside or in a steamy bathroom to breath first.