Do I really need to take this t-shirt to the dry cleaner's?
April 14, 2017 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I bought this t-shirt last year. Washing it on the same setting as all my other t-shirts completely destroyed it. Why? I bought another one. Will it survive the wool cycle?

The shirt came with a tag that said the fabric was especially delicate and to have it dry-cleaned. I ignored that and washed it on normal cycle at 30 or 40 degrees Celcius using regular laundry liquid in my Miele washing machine. It came out shrunk and generally looking horrible. I felt pretty stupid for ruining the most expensive t-shirt I have ever bought after one wear and threw it out after some failed attempts to salvage it. Recently, I came across the same shirt in a sale and bought another one. I want to do this right this time, but taking a t-shirt to the dry cleaner's still seems a bit silly (and pricey). I usually wash delicate clothing in a mesh laundry bag on wool cycle at 30 degrees C using this stuff. That works fine for cashmere sweaters, so I feel it should be okay. Or will it?
posted by snownoid to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would just dry clean it. Viscose has extremely poor wet strength and the fibers are brittle, so anything 100% viscose is not going to be very washing machine friendly. It's much more stable when it's blended with and supported by a more resilient a/o stretchy fiber (e.g., polyester!).
posted by janell at 10:19 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]

It's viscose, not a viscose blend, and that does not play well when wet. Dryclean it or else get ready to throw another one away.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:28 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]

Not dry cleaning it already cost you more than multiple dry cleanings would have, and it will probably get harder and harder to find that shirt again as more time goes on. This, plus the info on viscose above, would make me start thinking of the shirt as an investment piece. However, unless you're getting really sweaty in it or exposing it to smoke or something else stinky, I don't think you'd need to dry clean it after every wear.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:08 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]

This is the kind of situation Dryel was made for. It's not exactly the same as dry cleaning--more "clothing refresher"--but I have used it on dry clean only items and it works well. It is much less expensive than dry cleaning, it does remove small stains and odours, and it's kept my clothes looking nice--no shrinking or fading.

The starter kit comes with a big dryer bag, moist cloths, and a spot cleaner. (You can buy refills with just the cloths--the dryer bag is reusable.) You use the spot cleaner on any stains (test first on an inconspicuous spot), then put a few items into the bag (up to 4? Can't remember) with one of the moist cloths. Zip up the bag, put it in the dryer, and tumble for 30 minutes on medium heat. Then hang up the items right away so they don't wrinkle.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:38 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]

If you have a dryer, you can clean it at home with a dry-cleaning bag like dryel. I've been using them for years for silk and wool.
posted by tinymegalo at 11:39 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]

As has been said above, viscose and rayon fabrics labeled "dry clean only" are usually serious about it. Cashmere and other natural fibers are a totally different ballgame, not comparable. If the item were inexpensive, I would try hand-washing (no wringing, squeeze water out in a towel); but at that price point, it's not going anywhere near water. Dryel might work, just note that it goes STRAIGHT into the dryer, no washer.
posted by serelliya at 12:17 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]

I wash and dry and iron rayon and viscose all the time and have never had a problem, but I always put mine in cold water. Why are you washing it at 30 or 40 Celsius? At 40C that's over 100F. That's way, way, way too hot.
posted by sardonyx at 1:27 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]

Thank you all for your advice. I don't own a dryer, so the dry cleaner it is.

sardonyx, I don't know really, 30, 40, and 60C are the defaults for doing laundry here in Germany I guess? I thought my washing machine didn't even have a setting for washing in cold water or any temperature other than 30, 40, 60, and maybe 90, but I just checked and realized it can do anything from 20C to 90C in increments of 10 plus cold. Mind blown.
posted by snownoid at 3:30 PM on April 14

The good thing about viscose and rayon and tencil and those kinds of fabrics is they're pretty lightweight. You don't need to put them in the dryer. Drip drying/hang to dry is fine. I just added the bit about the dryer because (for whatever reason) these types of fabrics tend to scare people off a bit. They insist that the fabrics can only be treated delicately. I know it's only personal experience, but I've never found that. (Also, I usually just use the dryer to knock the majority of the water out. I still prefer to iron things that are slightly damp.)

You got me curious about washing temperatures, so I just looked up the difference in how they're classified (at least here in North America) and found this:

In general, hot water is 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 Celsius) or above. Warm water is between 110 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit ( 43.3-32.2 Celsius). Cold water is generally between 80 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7-15 Celsius). If cold water is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius), clothes are unlikely to be cleaned very well.
posted by sardonyx at 4:29 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

Machine drying can be more damaging than washing. Did you put it in a dryer, or does your washing machine have a dry cycle? This is the kind of thing I would hand wash in lukewarm water and dry flat on a drying rack or towel on the floor. If it responded well to that, the next time I might try the coldest, most delicate cycle in my washing machine, but I'd still air dry it flat.
posted by doift at 7:23 PM on April 14

It's 100% viscose, and sheer.
You might as well wash jello.
Yes, dry clean.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:56 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

I bought rayon? viscose? crepe blouse once that was dry clean only but pffft, I had plenty of rayon challis and always machine-washed it. To be on the safe side though, I hand washed it and laid it flat to dry but that didn't prevent it from buckling and stretching; it was ruined.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:15 PM on April 14

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