The Correct (and Totally Simple) Way to Wash Delicate Clothing

Don’t let a hand wash only care label scare you away from a piece of clothing. Follow these steps to clean delicates in a half hour or less.

correct_way_delicateiStock/Anna Issakova

Step 1. Check the care label

Most delicate items—pieces made of silk, wool, and linen, and garments with embellishments such as sequins and crystals—come with care tags to explain the best way to get them clean. If the tag says dry clean only, take the item to a professional. If it says hand wash only or machine wash delicate, follow the steps below.

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Step 2. To hand wash…

Fill a clean sink or basin with lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of mild detergent such as Woolite, baby shampoo, or a gentle fabric-specific soap. Place the garment in the basin and swirl it around the soapy water for a minute or two. Remove the item and empty the water. Refill the basin with fresh water and rinse the item. Never allow water to beat directly onto a delicate garment. Once the item is thoroughly rinsed, press out excess water. Wringing the garment could do just as much damage as running it through the spin cycle. Follow drying instructions in step three.

To machine wash…

Use the delicate or gentle cycle on your washing machine (the cycle can be used on most washable silk and wool and is designed to move slowly and be less abrasive on clothes). To make sure your clothes are thoroughly protected, sort your clothes into items of the same material (say, an entire load of washable silk) and only fill the machine halfway, advises Cleanipedia. If an item has appliques, such as sequins or delicate buttons, place it in a pillowcase or mesh laundry bag to prevent them from getting stuck on other garments. Set the washer to delicate (cool or lukewarm water and a slow spin cycle).

Step. 3 Press out excess water and lay flat to dry

To squeeze excess water out of an item without wringing it (which can and will distort its shape) lay a large towel on a flat surface and place your wet garment on top. Spread another large towel on top, so the piece of clothing you’d like to dry is between the two towels. Roll both towels from the top down, folding the garment with them into a sausage shape. Press down on the roll to release excess water and unroll. Lay the garment to air dry on a flat surface away from direct sunlight.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest