2012-01-07

Wash and Dry

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There is a chance this may be the most useless post ever posted here. But there is also a chance that you have been living under a rock just like me and this post will change your life. I might be being dramatic here...
One of the biggest downers of thrifting is dry cleaning. It's great that you got a nice dress for under $10 but if you pay $17 to clean it, your celebratory feelings will be short-lived. Also short-lived will be your celebratory dance, and those are entertaining, let's not do anything to ruin those... When Wag-Jag had a deal on dry cleaning a while back, we snapped up a few vouchers but even with the discount, it adds up quickly. Of course, not reading the small print and realizing that we could only use one voucher at a time and only at a specific location, made the deal not quite as awesome as we anticipated. Lately, I have become rather rebellious and I often ignore the 'dry clean only' tag and only use dry cleaning as a last resort. What changed is that my friend taught me a tiny hand washing trick that made things much easier...
I find I have done the most accidental damage to clothing during the drying part of handwashing. The item is often heavy with water and wringing out excess water it can be difficult and unwieldy. If the item is too wet when you hang it up, it can stretch out in awkward places and alternately, a quick spin cycle can easily damage anything delicate. I ruined a great wool dress with a quick 3 minute spin cycle and the memory still stings... So now I hand wash and rinse an item as usual (cold water with a touch of detergent and vinegar (except with linen)) but I dry it in a much smarter way...

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1. Wring item out very gently (just so you are not sloshing a tidal wave over your floors) and lay it out flat across a dry towel.
2. Roll up the towel with the washed article inside.
3. Press down all along the rolled up towel so the dry towel soaks up much of the moisture from the item inside.

With the towel absorbing most of the moisture and its weight, it can be hung up or laid out to dry without difficulty. I usually hang up anything made of woven fabric, while I always lay out any knits because they stretch...
I still dry clean some items; structured jackets, pleated items made of natural fabrics, anything that is crazy delicate or precious vintage are not worth risking. But my fairly decent collection of silk shirts all get hand washed despite their dry clean only tag... maybe if I paid $200 for an Equipment blouse, I would be hesitant to risk it but my $4 thrift store finds have survived splendidly.
Washing and drying this heavy alpaca sweater used to be like noodling a catfish; way too much wrestling... It would become so heavy and out of control that I could not even attempt to wring it and drying it would take days. The towel trick has changed  my life.
Ha. I sound like an infomercial... except I am not selling you a pair of pajama jeans. I am just sharing a really simple trick that a lot of people might already know...

61 comments :

Maca said...

Love this tip! Thank you for sharing!

Martha said...

That's how knitters wash their wool! I wash my less delicate wool using this guide from a great knitter, but the towel trick is the best for the delicate/fragile things. The link I'm posting works because you don't have an agitate cycle but you still do spin out the water.
http://exercisebeforeknitting.com/2010/02/26/how-to-wash-your-woolens/

Shug in Boots said...

Well. Apparently I have been living under a rock as well. I will talk myself out of buying something that has ANY sort of complicated laundering instructions. This may quite possibly change my life. THANKS for sharing!

Kimberly said...

Makes total sense now that I have read it, but have never thought about doing this. I'm with you and try to dry clean very little of my thrifted items! Thanks!

Kaylan said...

I have a similar addiction to thrifted silk blouses as well as an aversion to dry-cleaning, so this post is quiteeeee useful! Many thanks :)

Ninichissima said...

I've done yesterday a similar thing with my mom. We washed a tweed dress and a D&G jacket, also in cold water with hair shampoo (as it is very mild). We hung them on separate clothes hangers and then ironed when they were still a bit wet. All steps done verrry carefully!

They both look perfect now! Your tricks are great though

Hooked on Shoes said...

Yeay! So glad you found a way to outcheat the drycleaners, it does add up. I just use them for my winter coats and expensive pieces only. I've always used the handwash & towel trick on my silk (anything that's not a cocktail dress and thus gets worn fairly often) and lately I've even tried putting some items through the wool program on my machine. So far: nothing ruined. Better knock on wood.

Anonymous said...

I'm a knitter too and how I typically wash my knits is to fill the washer with water and some detergent (usually on low as I only do a few items at a time). I let the washer fill until it starts to agitate (letting it agitate for a bit just to mix the soap around in the water, then shut off the washer. I add the clothes at this point and let them soak for a while. Then, reach in and gently squeeze each item like I would if I were handwashing in the sink. I switch it to rinse and spin at this point (skipping the whole agitate cycle completely) and let it do all the hard work of rinsing and wringing out the wet clothes for me. I've never had a problem doing it like this. What you DONT want is to use hot water or let your knits agitate. It's the warm water and friction that felts things. Then just lay everything flat to dry.

Hope this helps!!!

Anonymous said...

Want a funny story? A few years ago I took a couple of bags full of clothes to the drycleaner. Everything had dry clean only tags. Not dry clean, but dry clean only (lots of silk, pleats and leathery stuff). The owner, an older guy, started sorting the clothes in two piles, one about 1/4 and the other 3/4 of the clothes I brought in. He told me that only wool and acetate should not be attempted to be washed at home. He handed me the larger pile back and he told me, very nicely, "go home and do your laundry, lady". So there :)

Wholesale Printing said...

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~Lara~ said...

Actually, I had not thought of this! So thank you for sharing! How handy!

Essence Brown said...

the post is most definitely one of the most important post on your blog. thank you, its the little things you cover that make your blog so special.

Malin said...

Dang, this is appropriately timed advice. I actually just hung a knit jumper, forgetting that trick that my mum taught me when I was little.... Thanks!!

Wendy said...

Great advice & handy technique there.
I always end up coming home with dry clean only pieces from the thrift store. I buy at-home dry cleaner products from Walmart. It's basically a special dryer sheet. You put 1-4 items in the dryer on medium heat and add this dry cleaning sheet. It's always worked for me! I only go the the cleaners if I have something with significant stains, or it's fur or leather.

Jentine said...

Wendy- I have used those sheets too but they don't seem to do too much. Maybe I need to try different brands?

Suzie Salmon said...

I personally believe the dry cleaner should make the initial investment in the clothes and then rename the cleaning fee "rental fee" because that's basically what owning a "dry clean only" garment is...you rent it back from the cleaner each time you take it in then pick it up!

barefootandvintage said...

i've been living under a rock. thanks for this! i shall try it.
ps. have you ever noodled a catfish?

Terri said...

Do Canadians noodle? I thought that was a Missouri and Oklahoma thing. Nevertheless, I'm going to remember this trick.

Lisa said...

Thank you for this tip. I'm an avid thrifter and have tried to avoid purchasing those "dry clean only" items so as not to ruin my bargain, but I do have a few. This technique will be helpful.

Laura said...

Thanks for the tip. I will definitely be trying the towel trick!

Laura

Hilary said...

Genius! I'll mark this post as "life changing" - mostly because I was just pondering the other day how very old-lady like I have become simply because of how often I go to the dry cleaners these days. I have a few items in my closet that could afford this trick instead of a $10 service though. Thanks for sharing!

thepraguenosis said...

you are definitely not alone - i just discovered this tip about a week ago, and was equally as excited about it. it's the little things in life, right?

Sarah said...

I totally already do this - I even have a couple of extra huge towels specifically for this purpose! I hand wash everything from cashmere to silk and dry it like this before lying it over dry towels on a clothes horse to finish drying out. :)

Glad to know I'm not alone, my husband thinks I'm crazy when I start rolling towels and standing on them to press the water out!

http://theaccidentalhoarder.blogspot.com/

Allison said...

Already knew this little tip but just had to comment to say that I am so impressed you likened something fashion related to noodling a catfish. Well done :)

Eleanor said...

I bow to your genius.

I have always dared to use the washer and I bought a HE front loader last year, and without the agitator, I figured, Why not?
But the chunky sweaters.....
You have changed my life.

Dylana Suarez said...

Beautiful!

xoxo,

colormenana.blogspot.com

Megan Rose said...

THANK YOU! A hundred times, thank you. haha. I hate when I forget to check the tag, and then bring home something that's dry clean only.. it makes me hesitant to even wear it, because I don't want to have to take it to the cleaners.. not only is it expensive, but it's not environmentally sound. So, this was definitely a great post. :)

-Megan Rose
Somewhat Stylish

A Southern Drawl said...

That actually makes a lot of sense! Glad it works! Also, I sometimes buy "dryel" (there's other brands that have this too). It's like dry cleaning at home. You stick your clothes that need to be dry cleaned in a bag that's given in the box and you stick the detergent sheet that's also given and put it in the dryer for the time instructed. It's super convenient!

A Southern Drawl

Ani said...

Wow, this post could not have come at a better time! I've found so many great items at the thrift store lately and I feel like ALL of them are "dry clean only". This is extremely helpful. Thank you!

whosthisani.blogspot.com

Christen said...

Thank you. This is so helpful!! I also use Dryel regularly for dry clean only items. But this is much less expensive!

neighbourhood.gal said...

It's funny how we can do a thing, but then not take it any further.

I do this towel technique when I hand wash my bras and hose, but I've never considered trying it with clothes.

j.love said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
j.love said...

Brilliant! You just saved my wallet from having to dry clean a recently thrifted silk shirt! Thrifting joy still in tack. Thanks :)

MONKEYFACE said...

LOVE IT!!!! CAN YOU TELL?!?!?! I NEEDED THIS

A.Co said...

I didn't know this!! Thanks J!

leFiligree said...

i also try to handwash everything but wool blazers (which can be spot cleaned at home anyway). if i take anything to the dry cleaner i will inevitably FORGET it there! silk satin seems to resent hand washing, but everything else can handle it.

Anonymous said...

This is how my mom taught me to handwash when I was about 13. I use this technique for really delicate things, but most items fare just fine with handwashing or soaking in the washing machine (no agitation--or only a few seconds for very dirty items) and a quick spin (30-60 seconds, say) to remove the excess water. Then reshape and lay flat to dry.

Definitely try to avoid dry-cleaning thrifted clothes--I'd go broke! And it also smells bad . . .

Velma

Anonymous said...

I have taken it a step further due to extreme laziness and now "hand wash" everything in the washing machine, inside of those little mesh zipper bags. I have done silk, rayon and wool blended sweaters with no trouble, it keeps things from getting stretched out, just use some delicate cycle cleanser such as Woolite and gentle spin cycle and lay to dry or use your wonderful towel dry method for heavier favbrics...

Anonymous said...

ahahaha, i'm not usually one to comment on blogs, but the image of pajama jeans killed me! keep up the great work Jentine!

a fellow fashion lover and Ontario-ite,
xo

Anonymous said...

I hand washed 5 cashmere sweaters (all thrifted) yesterday and did the towel roll-up. Does the trick very well. All the sweaters said dry clean but I've been hand washing them from the get-go. They just get softer.
Thanks for sharing the post. I LOVE your site. I also thrift a lot!

Lola

Words in Silence said...

I just bought 2 vintage wool, very well fitted jackets for $15 a piece, and a mix, velor jacket. The dry cleaning would be expensive- do you suggest this for jackets ok? I like this idea for shirts and dresses though!

myedit said...

Words in Silence- I usually just suck it up and pay for drycleaning on my jackets... I figure I will have them for years...

Keri said...

Instead of a towel, I actually use the as seen on TV product, ShamWow. Works really well!

Crystal said...

I find that hanging my clothes to dry is an invitation for disaster. Let me clarify -- I live with three cats. I'm curious to know, as a fellow kitty momma, do you have any tricks for keeping the rascally punks from tearing down your clothes? :)

Ginta said...

Thank you for sharing!
I wash my silks too. It'd be just crazy to spend all that money on dry cleaning when it costs me twice as much I've spent on the blouse, skirt or dress. It's just crazy! The thing that turned me into washing my silks was the idea that long ago in Japan they hand washed all those beautiful kimonos too and, hey, nothing bad happened!

Allie (Wardrobe Oxygen) said...

Not useless at all! I didn't know this until I cloth diapered my daughter and learned how to wash the wool covers. Now I do it with all my delicates! Thanks for the great tutorial.

Rachel B said...

Well, I already knew about this because I'm a knitter - but it's good to see you spreading the love to all those non-knitters out there.

Mrs.M in MI said...

I usually use Dryel - it's never ruined anything and freshens things up. I also often stick my thrift store purchases in the freezer for at least 24 hours before cleaning and wearing them.

On a side note, I used this towel trick every day on my hiking trip to Switzerland last summer. The airline lost our luggage so I had one outfit for ten days.

My clothes were all made of those quick-dry athletic fabrics, so I could usually wash my clothes in the sink when we got in from the day's hiking and after the towel trick and a little air-drying I could go down to dinner in dry clothes in less than an hour.

Kammy said...

Great post. I have been thifting for years. What I save on purchases generally gets spent at the dry cleaners. I'll definitely be giving your tips a try. Any tips on how to remove odor from vintage leather?

http://kammybrownsays.wordpress.com

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Silk satin seems to resent hand washing, but everything else can handle it.
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Alex Smith said...

It makes me hesitant to even wear it, because I don't want to have to take it to the cleaners.
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Sam Smith said...

We hung them on separate clothes hangers and then ironed when they were still a bit wet. All steps done verrry carefully!
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This technique will very helpful. thanks for sharing it.

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