DIY Cleaning: Hand Washing 101

So I want to talk a little bit about the basics of washing garments by hand. This post is going to cover general washing. Stain removal will be covered in a future post.

Hand washing is often a good alternative to machine washing and dry cleaning. I often hand wash garments that would be more sensitive to machine washing, to extend their lifetime. Dry cleaning is expensive and generally not good for the environment. There are also times when it is unnecessary. Many garments put a “dry clean” label on their clothing, because that’s easier than describing a high maintenance routine.

Can I hand wash this?

The trick is knowing what kind of fabric you are dealing with and if it is heat or water sensitive. Your hand wash friendly fabrics are cotton, linen, polyester, cashmere and acrylic. You need to be careful with wool and silk. Too much heat will cause wool to felt.

In general, for hand washing, think of heat as your enemy.

There’s a difference between “Dry Clean” and “Dry Clean Only”. “Dry Clean” is a suggestion, and often you can hand wash instead. “Dry Clean Only” is a little more strict, with less wiggle room.

Your weapons of choice in hand washing:

Soak: Environmentally friendly, biodegradable. Soak is now my #1 hand washing liquid. I have used it successfully on silks, cashmere and wool. It comes in a variety of subtle, pleasing scents, and also has an unscented option. Bonus: it’s built as a no-rinse cleaner, which is why I like to travel with it for quick sink washes of things like swimming suites. Always use cool or room temp water.

Vodka Spray: (for directions on how to make this, visit the post “Febreeze is the Devil’s Brew). Vodka spray can increase the length of time between dry cleaner visits, or be used as a pre-treatment on something you plan to hand wash.

Dry Cleaner’s Secret/Dryel: My secret weapon to keep costumes fresh during runs of shows, in between trips to the dry cleaner. This is not super great for the environment, but is an okay alternative when you would otherwise be dry cleaning. Since it operates on the steam generated by the heat in your dryer, this isn’t a good choice for heat sensitive fabrics. Stick to cottons, linens and polyesters for this one. And be careful!

Tips on drying:

If you hand washed it, don’t throw it in a dryer. It needs to air dry.

Be careful with your knits, as they can be strained if you hang them to dry or ring them out. Instead, try drying sweaters and other garments flat on a bath towel. Or throw them over the side of your bathtub, which usually distributes the pressure evenly enough to avoid stretching out your garment.

Now you are armed with the basics of hand washing. Remember to check your tags, pre-treat when needed, and most of all–KEEP CALM.