Joan Crawford once said: ‘Care for you clothes like the good friends they are.’ But unfortunately, each time you chuck your beloved pals in the washing machine for a quick spin, you’re actually treating them like friends who forgot your birthday.
Hand washing your dirty clothes, especially the delicate ones, is almost universally the best thing for them and will ensure they’ll stay loyal to you for a long time.
We spoke to Steamery Stockholm‘s Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Frej Lewenhaupt – who is a textile engineer by trade – to find out exactly how to hand wash clothes. These are his answers…
Why is it good to hand wash clothes?
Machine washing is a harsh clothing care process. It’s not just the soaking of clothes in water that has an impact on the their appearance, but the movements – such as twisting and shaking – that manipulate fibres, seams, and trimming, which may result in damage.
Another big positive about hand washing is that you also have total control of the items being washed, and can adjust your method. For example, when removing stains you can focus on only these spots, so the rest of the garment doesn’t need to be washed at all.
What fabrics should I hand wash?
All items you personally define as delicate items (clothes that are dear to you) will last longer if hand washed.
However, the most general way to define if clothes should be hand washed will be found on the care label. Normally high fashion items, delicate silk, wool, cashmere, and merino wool (especially fine knits) meet the qualification for hand washing.
Can I hand wash ‘dry clean only’ clothes?
Many garments that have a ‘dry clean only’ symbol can actually be hand washed.
Usually, this is about either the fashion brand, the fabric mill, or the suppliers to the fabric mill, being extra careful. The sign is there to ensure they take no responsibility if you harm the garment in a wash. But, in many cases, it’s perfectly fine to hand wash.
Be very careful if you decide to hand wash ‘dry clean only’ items, as some of these fabrics might be harmed by water.
To avoid this, before hand washing any ‘dry clean only’ items, look up how the item’s textiles and trimmings will react to water, if you cannot find anything extra sensitive, it should be ok to hand wash gently.
What fabrics or clothes should you avoid hand washing?
Suiting cannot be hand washed.
How To Hand Wash Clothes?
How To Pre-soak Clothes
- Pre-soak clothes by filling up a clean bucket or cleaned sink of lukewarm (30°C) water.
- Add one measurement cup (30 ml) of Steamery Sport Wash (or another gentle detergent which doesn’t contain harsh chemicals like bleach, optical brighteners, colourants, zeolites or phosphates) and soak the garment for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Note that Steamery Sport Wash is not recommended on wool and other protein-based fibres. For such garments use Steamery Delicate Wash.
Pre-soaking is a successful method to rinse out smell and dirt from your garments. A heavy sweat or funky vintage smell (for example) can easily be taken out by pre-soaking your clothes using an agent with odour control.
How To Pre-Treat Stains
- Pretreat by gently dabbing the stain with a pre-treating agent and make sure the stain has been soaked.
Pre-treatment of stains is key for a successful result where a spot has occurred. Different stains are to be treated depending on the type. However, the most common solutions are:
- For protein-based stains, use a Surfactant-based stain remover or detergent.
- For fat acids and grass, use Bile soap-based stain remover and dishwashing agent.
- For wine and other harsh stains, use Oxy stain remover (try to remove these as soon as they appear).
Note that stain removal is a science of its own. There are many methods out there, this is the briefest of summaries.
Step By Step Guide To Hand Washing Clothes
- Pre-treat any stains and/or pre-soak your clothes if needed.
- Fill up your wash basin with lukewarm water.
- Soak your garment and gently press water and detergent through the fibres.
- Let it rest for 15 minutes and repeat the gently pressing for the water and detergent to penetrate the fabric.
- Pour the water and detergent out and rinse clothes with cold water.
- Repeat this process again.
- Finish by rinsing with water until there are no detergent residues left.
- Gently press the laundry to release excess water (do not twist any garment).
- Tightly roll in a terry cloth towel to release water.
- Gently pull and straighten out fabric, taking care to focus on seams, collars and cuffs.
- Flat-dry knits by laying them out on a surface.
- Hang-dry woven fabrics and jersey.
If you can, steam your item once dry, rather than ironing, as it is much gentler on your clothes, plus it can be used on most textiles, and gives your item that ‘new’ appearance.