Washing Delicates

by Julia Woodbury
(last updated March 12, 2018)

"Delicates" refers to any type of clothing or linen that should not go into the washing machine along with the regular clothes, the towels, and the socks. Today many washers do provide a gentle or delicate wash cycle. Before using such a cycle, gauge how gentle it actually it and how much delicate treatment your dry clean and delicate clothes really need.

Some examples of delicates might be dry clean clothes, loose knit clothes that are likely to become misshapen in the wash, and antique clothes and linens.

In the case of dry clean clothes it is useful to know about the subtle difference between articles of clothing that are "dry clean" and articles that are "dry clean only." For the latter group it is mandatory that you use a professional dry cleaner. For clothes that are simply "dry clean," you have the choice of dry cleaning and hand washing. In all cases, follow the care instructions. If it says hand wash, wash it by hand. If it says dry clean only, better dry clean. If the instructions are missing from a delicate, find an article of clothing that is similar in material and use those care instructions.

Now for the hand washing. It would probably be best to wash delicates right away so as to not allow stains or dirt to set. Here are the tools you will want to collect before beginning:

  • Gloves
  • Dishwashing soap (dawn or joy), mild clothing detergent, or body wash. Make sure that your soap is not colored, otherwise it may add a colored tint to the delicate item.
  • Towels

Locate a clean sink or wash basin and fill it with cold water. Add a few drops of soap to the water and agitate it until suds form. Soak the delicate item for five to ten minutes, gently working the fabric so the soap suds up. Use a patting or kneading motion; don't scrub.

Immerse the delicate in rinse water, using the same patting or kneading motion to work the soap out. Repeat the rinsing process until the water runs clear of dirt and soap. Make sure you rinse thoroughly otherwise the clothing will itch. Also, don't run water over the delicate, especially if you are washing an item that cannot withstand too much stress, such as an antique item.

For drying, do not wring or twist out the article. Lay the delicate flat between towels and press out the excess water. Put the item on a fresh, dry towel and allow it to air dry.

For large knits, make sure to shape them when you put them out to dry, otherwise they will be misshapen.

You can measure your sweater before washing so you will know how to shape it after it is washed. Four useful measurements are across the chest, shoulder to shoulder, across the bottom, and along the outside of each arm.

Author Bio

Julia Woodbury

Julia Woodbury is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University. She delights in the written word and has interests in magazine writing and editing. ...

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