All Washed Up


Lei ChicThe label said dry clean only, but the latest bill says you were the one taken to the cleaners. So last night you tossed your new silk top in the washer and the result was spot on: a huge water mark right in the center.

You tried dyeing it (you now have a blue top with a darker blue stain), covering it (a large sequined flower in the middle of your stomach, not a good look), and now you’re desperately splashing on more water in an attempt to turn your big blunder into a passable cheetah print.

Stop the vicious cycle.

University of Hawaii textiles professor Dr. Shu-Hwa Lin helps you come clean with a new article covering dry cleaning dos and don’ts. It’s all the information you need to keep your outfits out of hot water.

1 – Linen – Machine wash
The flax fiber is fairly hardy. But you may want to dry clean to avoid those pesky wrinkles, which can basically shrink your work top into a belly-T.

2 – Wool – Machine wash
Wool is the term for hair fibers not only from sheep, but also goats, camels and even rabbits. It can be washed in the machine or by hand, but it can shrink, especially if tossed in the dryer.
One note: do not use bleach on wool. To treat spots, dab on some hydrogen peroxide instead.

3 – Silk – Hand wash a few times, dry clean long term
Traditional silk spun by worms becomes even more delicate when wet. Sunlight and any agitation (even from the gentle cycle) also make the fibers more likely to break. So you can wash that skirt once or twice in a gentle detergent like Woolite, and lay it flat inside to dry. But in the long run, dry cleaning will keep it from wearing down or tearing.
Oh, and be careful when treating stains. Silk is notorious for water spots.  One tip to treating oil stains, dust on some baby powder, let it absorb, then dust it off.

4 – Rayon – Hand wash, dryer cleaning is preferred
For a manmade fabric, rayon is not that durable and it’s guaranteed to shrink in the dryer. Not only that, but it’s not great at holding on to color: that indigo halter will probably wash out in about 20 hand washings. So if that dress isn’t one of your disposable impulse buys, dry cleaning will keep the cellulose fibers from breaking and keep your colors bright.

5 – Polyester – Machine wash, probably
This petroleum-based creation is the superman of fibers. It’s durable and wrinkle resistant. But polyester is often mixed with less hardy fibers, so check your tag carefully and cater to the most delicate one. And always pull it immediately out of the dryer to avoid shrinkage.

6 - Acrylic – Whatever
This synthetic fiber withstands machines, dryers, irons and bleach. However, if the tag still says dry clean, check the content of the lining or trims. The fabric in those might have a different shrink rate, meaning a turn in the washing machine could leave you with a maxi lining for a newly mini skirt.

Recommendations for Cleaning Garments and Textiles by Dr. Shu-Hwa Lin, undergraduate student Jazmine Nakamura and graduate student Kelly Mammel is available on the University of Hawaii’s website. Click here to read the article.

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