Garments made from lace, silk and cashmere inspire desire in boutiques and distress when they accidentally go through a regular wash cycle… Here’s how to keep your delicates in perpetually beautiful condition.
Decoding washing labels
So the label on your gorgeous silk shift says ‘dry-clean’ — but you really want to wear it tonight and it does need a wash. Is it okay to wash at home? In a word, yes. ‘Dry-clean’ means that dry-cleaning is the recommended method, not the only method. However, if the label says ‘dry-clean only’, then it’s off to the dry-cleaners with you. The symbol for dry-cleaning is a circle, sometimes with a letter in it to tell the dry-cleaner which solvent to use. If the circle is crossed out, do not dry-clean the garment.
Here are some other handy label hints:
Wash with like colours = wash with colours that are similar, as the colour of this fabric is likely to bleed.
Wash separately = wash this item alone, as its colour is very likely to bleed.
Hand-wash only = this is usually for delicate items, and you should follow the label.
How to hand wash
Delicate lingerie, wool and cashmere jumpers, and silk retain their colour and shape best when hand-washed. Check the garment’s label first: if it says ‘dry-clean only’, don’t attempt to hand wash it.
- Before washing, always read the label. It could have specific instructions.
- If there are no specific instructions, choose a mild detergent (such as wool wash, for wool and cashmere, and also for silk) and fill a clean sink or tub with lukewarm water. Add a teaspoon of the detergent for each item you’re washing.
- Submerge the garment in lukewarm water and use gentle motions to move it through the water. Don’t scrub or twist.
- Drain the sink and run a tap with cool, clean water. Move the garment gently until the water is clear.
- Gently squeeze out excess water, then roll the garment up in a dry white towel to dry further.
- Lay flat in the shade to dry completely.
Do I really have to dry-clean?
First, see Decoding Washing Labels. If your garment is labelled ‘dry-clean’, but you’re still worried, consider:
- The fabric and construction. Acetate or rayon, taffeta, structured wool suits and anything with permanent-pressed pleats are all best dry-cleaned, while cotton, linen, silk, wool, cashmere, polyester, acrylic and nylon are generally safe to wash at home.
- Specific care instructions for detailing. Does your garment have a beaded collar or delicate lace fringing? This could require separate cleaning.
How to wash cashmere, lace and silk
Australian fashion designer Collette Dinnigan knows a thing or two about caring for delicates. After all, her creations are all about intricate beading, lace, cashmere and silk. She teamed up with appliance brand to teach people how to launder delicate garments.
Collette on cashmere
- Never hang it on the washing line — this will ruin the shape of the garment. Always lay cashmere flat to dry.
- Don’t pick up a wet cashmere garment by the shoulders, as this could stretch the item.
Collette on lace
- When washing lace garments, do up any buttons or fastenings beforehand, so they don’t snag or stretch.
- Avoid ironing, if possible. Laying the item flat to dry should eliminate most wrinkles.
Collette on silk
- Never leave silk to soak — it could ruin the fabric completely.
- If there are marks or stains, rub lightly with mild detergent and a damp sponge. Really bad stain? Take it to the dry-cleaner.
- If silk is wrinkled, hang it in the bathroom while you shower. The steam will help the wrinkles to drop out easily.
- Never spray perfume on silk, as it can easily stain — permanently.