To Wash or Dry-Clean? A Helpful Guide

To Wash or Dry Clean? A Helpful Guide

Keep your clothing and linens in good condition with proper care and cleaning. There are many materials that can be laundered in your washing machine, while others require dry cleaning. The good news is that far more fabrics are machine washable these days, which means trips to the dry cleaner can be few and far between. However, there are some instances when you will want to opt for dry cleaning over machine washing. Here’s a handy guide to keep your clothes looking good and smelling fresh.

When to Machine Wash

There are all kinds of clothing and home items that can be washed in your machine at home or at the laundromat. Cotton is one of the most versatile fabrics and for good reason. It can be machine washed and tumble-dried because it’s light and sturdy. You can toss cotton dresses, T-shirts, and other cotton apparel in the washing machine — even long-staple-fiber Supima cotton, percale, and sateen are all machine-washable materials. To prevent shrinkage, purchase garment-washed items or wash them in cold or warm water instead of hot. Tumble dry on a low- or medium-heat setting for best results, or you can hang your cotton apparel outside on the clothesline.

Another machine washable material is wool, which is a popular material for dress slacks, sweaters, and coats. You may see some wool fabrics designated as dry clean only; however, there is washable wool apparel that can go in your machine. Silk and cashmere are two more fabrics that you may be surprised to learn are machine washable. If you’re washing delicate silk lingerie, use a mesh laundry bag and set your washer on the gentle cycle. Mesh bags help protect delicate items from snagging on other clothes in your laundry load. Cashmere can be washed the same way — in a mesh bag and with the gentlest cycle on your machine. For delicate materials like these, lay them flat to dry instead of tumbling them in the dryer.

Polyester is a popular material for everything from men’s and womens polo shirts and pants to home decor items. While you may see some polyester with a dry clean tag, most pieces can be tossed in the washing machine. This is especially the case for polyester blends, such as a top or pants made from polyester, cotton, and spandex. Polyester can usually be machine dried as well, although you may not want to use the highest heat setting.

When to Hand Wash

Any fabric that can be machine washed can also be hand washed. Although hand washing apparel and linens can take more time, it’s sometimes preferable to machine washing. For example, if you have a clean shirt with a small spot from spilled food or drink, washing it by hand can preserve the fabric and reduce your water usage. Try to address the spill immediately if possible; be sure to blot instead of rub to prevent working the stain into the fabric. You can even use a bleach pen on white shirts, which can be purchased at any store that sells laundry detergent. Don’t use bleach on colored apparel unless it’s specifically labeled as color-safe.

As previously mentioned, you can wash silk and cashmere — such as a silk slip or long cashmere cardigan in your machine on the gentle cycle. However, if you only have one or two pieces, consider washing them by hand instead. You can use a laundry basin, your sink, or bathtub to wash delicate items. The type of detergent you choose also makes a difference; look for a gentle formula without harsh cleansers or bleach. You don’t need a lot of agitation to clean and refresh silk and cashmere; simply swirl the items around in a mixture of detergent and warm water. If there are soiled areas, gentle scrubbing can help prevent stains from occurring.When to Dry Clean

There are some materials that you’ll always want to dry clean. For example, leather and suede should always be professionally cleaned. Viscose is another fabric that needs to go to the dry cleaner. Tulle and chiffon fabrics are other examples of items you will want cleaned by a pro. If you have a business suit with structured tailoring, opt to have it dry cleaned even if it says machine washable on the label. Velvet is another material that you’ll probably want to take to the dry cleaner. If you’re unsure whether to machine wash or dry clean an item, it’s better to be safe than sorry and let a professional handle the job.

Bed linens are usually machine washable, especially if you choose cotton or linen. However, there may be some duvet covers and comforters that you’ll need to have dry cleaned, depending on the material. The best thing to do is carefully read all labels before laundering any item, so you’re clear on the manufacturer’s recommended care instructions.

Simplifying Your Fabric Care Routine

Whether you have to wash or dry clean your clothes, creating a routine can help make laundry easier. For example, you can choose a certain day of the week to wash bedding and another day to wash clothes. It’s a good practice to launder your white and light-colored items separate from bright colors to prevent the colors from bleeding. For the easiest fabric maintenance, look for apparel and bedding labeled as no-iron. These items stay wrinkle-free even after repeated launderings, so you can wash, dry, and go.


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