How should I wash? - a silk Tibetan shirt, lambswool cardigan, guernsey jumper, raw denim
June 18, 2011 9:55 AM   Subscribe

How should I wash or clean these garments? - a silk Tibetan shirt, a lambswool cardigan, a guernsey wool jumper, raw denim jeans

I am reluctant to pay for dry cleaning every time, and don't trust them not to mess up clothes sometimes. The web has conflicting information on how and whether to clean things, so I'm hoping to get some good points of view on what to do about these things.

a silk Tibetan shirt - This is 100% silk shirt with but the weave is quite coarse and tough. I suppose it would be 'raw silk'. It's a golden colour, not been washed before.

a lambswool cardigan - This is soft lambswool, quite loosely woven. Not been washed.

a guernsey wool jumper - a genuine guernsey jumper, handloomed wool, tightly woven together. Company says dry clean only. Been dry cleaned once.

raw denim jeans - these are cheap raw denim jeans. Look good, but starting to show creases. Not been washed. Label says wash as little as possible. Would like to know how best to get them looking 'flat'. iron?

How should I safely wash and dry these things and are there any you really need to dry clean?
posted by Not Supplied to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, one more if you know how. Standard 100% silk shirts i.e. the normal silky silk.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:56 AM on June 18, 2011

my suggestions:

silk - can hand wash in a mild detergent (synthrapol is best) and air dry flat or on clothes line.

wool cardi - dry clean

raw denim - wash inside out in machine with cold water and air dry flat or on clothes line.
posted by norasurfacedesign at 10:01 AM on June 18, 2011

Hand wash the wool, instructions can be found here.
posted by fire&wings at 10:08 AM on June 18, 2011

I say dry clean when you need to, spot clean the rest of the time, air out the wool (keep it safe from moths) and give up the ironed jeans look.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:09 AM on June 18, 2011

I'm a knitter and I hand-wash my woolens in lukewarm water with Soak or Eucalan or some kind of no-rinse wool wash. Don't agitate the water and don't make it too hot. Don't squeeze the water out of the garment, but roll it out in a towel to get the excess water out.
posted by pised at 10:14 AM on June 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Good news! You do not need to dry clean your woolen things. Hand washing is actually much better for wool.

Felting/shrinking requires three things: heat, moisture and agitation. What this means in practice is that you can wash your wool items in hot water BY HAND as long as you don't move them around too much. I'm a fiber artist and consequently I wash a lot of wool.

I usually fill the tub of my top-loading washer with warm-to-hot water. Throw in a bit of wool wash like Eucalan. The advantage of using a wool wash is that it contains lanolin which keeps your wool soft. You can find it at yarn stores or online. If you don't want to buy something just use shampoo or conditioner. (Yes, really. Wool is sheep hair.) Whatever you do don't use Woolite. It's not formulated to wash woolen items any more. Put your sweater in the water and hold it down until it's fully saturated. Then just let it be for 15-30 minutes. After that you can spin out the water in the washer if your machine has a spin only cycle. Otherwise remove your sweater, wring out the water by hand and then roll it in a towel to get as much water out as possible. Air dry it flat after gently tugging it into shape.
posted by Cosmic_Sparklejunk at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2011

This may not be relevant since I think you are in the UK, but in the US, at least, a label that says "Dry Clean Only" means that the item can only be dry cleaned or it will be damaged. A label that says "Dry Clean" means it can also be washed.

This is a US government regulation, so anything possibly made to be sold in the US would probably be consistent with this. I know I've saved a ton of money on dry cleaning by gently washing the "Dry Clean" labelled clothes.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:00 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dryel is a home dry cleaning kit. Basically, you toss a few garments into a special bag with a moist cleaning cloth/mesh that comes with the kit, and toss the whole shebang in the dryer for 20-30 minutes. The stain remover doesn't work, but it's great for general freshening up and it works on most fabrics (leather, suede, and velvet are no-nos). It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than dry cleaning - if you use it according to instructions it comes out to a little more than a dollar per garment, but I've found you can use just half of the cloth for the same number of items and it works just as well.

(I have zero affiliation with this product; I've just found it very useful as a somewhat forgetful/procrastinatory person who never gets around to handwashing anything.)
posted by bettafish at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2011

I would definitely not put wool through any kind of dryer dry cleaning process - both rubbing and changes in temperature are bad for wool. I agree with the advice to carefully hand wash the wool, following all the detailed instructions you can find. You also likely need to wash the wool a lot less often than you might think, it's very resistant to dirt and smells. You can definitely hand wash the silk, although be prepared for the dye to run a little. I use baby shampoo to hand wash silk.

Hand washing silk and wool is not just a cheap alternative to dry cleaning that you can get away with, it is better for them. I have no idea about raw denim, sorry, although hand washing will definitely not hurt it.
posted by crabintheocean at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2011

I would definitely not put wool through any kind of dryer dry cleaning process

You would think, but, the Dryel thing does not do to wool what dryers do to wool. Dryel is a nice little freshen-it-up thing, and it will not negatively affect wool/cashmere sweaters. I have used it on probably at least thirty sweaters (among other garments) over the years; nary a shrink or felt anywhere. Quite safe.
posted by kmennie at 11:52 AM on June 18, 2011

By calling it "raw denim," and telling you to wash it as little as possible, the maker is telling you that this fabric has not been preshrunk (unless it says "Sanforized"), and that the dye is apt to run. So, use COLD water, wash inside out, by itself or only with other darks, and HANG to dry. Any significant heat, like putting them in the dryer, may shrink them to toddler-size. Even washed in cold water and air dried, they may shrink, mostly in the length. After washing, it might not be a bad idea to put them on while they're still damp and move around a lot; this will loosen the fibers some if they've shrunk. Most of the shrinkage and color loss will happen with the first wash, though it will continue to a lesser extent every time they're washed.

"Raw denim" is also a fashion thing--it's supposed to show creases. The idea is that you wear a pair of "raw" jeans for months without washing them, and they develop creases and fade lines that are exactly appropriate to your body, instead of having the pre-set crease and fade patterns of pre-washed jeans. So if you don't like the creases, washing the jeans should give you a result closer to what you want. But, if it's a really cheap fabric, they may shrink beyond wearability and leave a lot of blue color in the wash water.
posted by Corvid at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2011

Bluedaisy - I agree with you about the intent of the labels, but I think if you sort of know what you're doing with fabrics the real meanings are looser than that. I tend to think of "Dry Clean Only" as more like "we do not guarantee this if you don't dry clean it" (not that most places will take anything back if it goes wrong in the wash anyway).

Right now I'm wearing a DKNY dress that say "Professional Dry Clean Only" on the label, yet I've been throwing it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle (absolutely no machine drying) every couple of weeks for a year and it still looks great - I was confident I could, because it's a self-lined cotton jersey tank top attached to a rough unlined linen skirt. At this point I basically will not dry clean anything that does not have tailoring and interfacing, weird fabric finishes, or require tricky pressing I don't want to risk at home.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2011

I know Cosmic_Sparklejunk reports good experiences handwashing woollens in warm-to-hot water, but I swear by COLD. The only time I used warm/hot (cooking grease incident, washing inexperience, don't ask), my beautiful, new, oversized sweater ended up in my three-year-old niece's wardrobe.
posted by likeso at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2011

Right now I'm wearing a DKNY dress that say "Professional Dry Clean Only" on the label, yet I've been throwing it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle (absolutely no machine drying) every couple of weeks for a year and it still looks great

Crab, sure, but did you read the FTC link I posted? Because then it sounds like the manufacturer is possibly in violation of Federal Trade Commission regulations:

...if your label says Dry Clean Only, you are warning consumers that the item can't be washed safely, even by hand. To have a reasonable basis (and to be accurate), you must have proof that the garment will be harmed by washing. A reasonable basis for a warning not to wash a garment can consist of reliable evidence that the garment, a fair sample of the garment, or a component of the garment was harmed when washed by the safest method.

Now if your dress says "Professional Dry Clean" and not "Professional Dry Clean Only," then it's fine.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that there is some attempt to protect consumers in the US with these regulations, and knowing that a label that says "Dry Clean" actually means "It's okay to wash this gently" can be helpful.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2011

You can freeze your jeans to clean them, though I have no idea if this would help with creases.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks. I think I'll freeze the jeans and learn to love the natural creases, and have a crack at washing the other things.

I'll probably just get some ecover washing up liquid for the lot as it will be a pain buying different washes.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2011

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