If a tag says “dry clean only,” it means business. However, clothing tags are required to list only one way to clean a garment, which means sometimes “dry clean” (no “only”) is negotiable. In general, cotton, linen, polyester, acrylic, nylon, and some cashmeres, if colorfast (test on a seam), can be hand-washed in mild detergent, like Woolite, and laid flat on a towel or hung to dry. Silk, acetate, wool, leather or suede, and velvet, however, must be dry cleaned. Don’t forget about trims and decorative detailing, too, which may shrink, bleed, or fall off if wet-washed.
Pit stains are, well, the pits. Many antiperspirants contain aluminum chloride, which reacts with sweat and discolors light fabrics. None are foolproof, but there are a few ways to get rid of these unsightly yellow stains. Turn the shirt inside out and rinse in cold water. For old stains, sponge with white vinegar, let it set for at least thirty minutes, and launder in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. Don’t use the dryer, which will set the stain. For new stains, try rubbing with ammonia (1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup water) before washing. If that doesn’t work, try Clorox—but not together with ammonia, unless you want to pass out on your laundry room floor.
Your lady clothes are up against your lady parts all day. Don’t you think they require some TLC? It depends on the garment—your cotton granny panties and period undies can probably stand to go through a spin cycle or two—but for the most part, it’s best to hand wash frilly or stretchy delicates. At the very least, machine wash them on the delicate cycle in a mesh wash bag, and never dry in a dryer.
If you wash it, wash it inside-out and air dry it to prevent pilling. There are small electric shavers and fabric combs made for de-pilling, but they don’t always work. For a cheaper alternative, brush the sweater very lightly—this is key, unless you want some new air vents in your garment, too—with a disposable razor. There are also special pumice stones that de-pill sweaters. Be warned: They’re a little smelly and crumbly, but worth it for a smooth, ball-free sweater.
There’s no gray area here. Use an anti-fade detergent, which keeps the chlorine in wash water from fading black dyes, and turn the garment inside-out to wash. Hang or lay flat to dry—the tiny layer of fuzz that a dryer can create on cotton fabrics can mute darker colors. If it’s already faded, consider re-dyeing.
Why is it that when you most need an iron, there’s never one around? Here’s a trick for steaming wrinkles out of your clothes: When you’re showering—or you can run the hot water and close the door—hang the crinkled garment on a hanger away from the water and let the steam loosen the fabric. The creases should fall out. Of course, the best way to avoid wrinkles is not to get them in the first place. Don’t over-dry clothes, and remove them from the dryer and hang or fold as soon as they’re dry.
It’s all fun and games until someone spills a little merlot on your new skirt. The first thing to do, while the Rorschach is still wet, is to try to blot out all the wine you can with a paper towel or napkin. If the fabric is washable, run under cold water, apply a small amount of clear liquid dish soap, and rinse again. Pre-treat it before machine washing. Don’t have any dish soap on hand? Chances are if there was red wine, there’s white. Saturate the stain in white wine or club soda and blot. A liberal salting—just regular table salt—also helps absorb some of the liquid and keeps the stain from spreading and setting.